OPINION: Okezie Ikpeazu and The Burden of Truth
By Peter Agba Kalu
There comes a time in one’s life when after having sleepless nights over an issue, you wake up one day, search deep into your conscience and face that moment of truth.
After battling deep down my conscience for so long, that moment of truth came to me today. But before I step out of the cave where l have been hiding reality to enable me not to see it, l must first of all thank critics. The greatest heroes of my today’s story are the social critics who have been on their toes criticizing the leadership of Okezie Ikpeazu, they kept him on his toes, they made him uncomfortable, they gave John Okiyi Kalu and Onyebuchi Ememanka sleepless nights, they sacked commissioners, personal and special assistants, they removed press secretaries to the governor, they made expensive foods and wines bitter in the mouth of those in government. They’re truly the government’s best friends for they force them to look deep and start digging out their best.
This is what government and opposition should be. Please, don’t stop criticizing this Okezie Ikpeazu government. Hit them more, hit them with facts and statistics not lies, but while taking it out on Okezie Ikpeazu and his team, let’s not destroy Abia State, let’s separate the individual from the state, let’s do it in such a way that investors will still locate Abia State and find our beloved state worthy for investment. Let’s be civil about it.
Heading the media unit of one the most popular governorship candidates in 2015, l was equally harder harassing or pointing fault fingers at Okezie Ikpeazu throughout his first tenure, which till date, l still believe was nothing to write home about. It was all about litigations and l contributed my quota in making sure he remained distracted, l was hurting my state, thinking l was hurting an individual. Will you really blame me? It was the politics of the day. l just couldn’t rise above primitive thinking, my selfishness for my mentor to go into office was all that blinded me. Some people are still making that mistake today, so as you can see, l have advanced.
Then came the 2019 election, I didn’t spear him either for l saw no reason why he should be given a second chance. Well, the second chance he got and at the initial stage it was like it was going to be the same lame duck governor especially since our governors hardly perform well in their second tenure.
Nwa Aba who inherited Aba in total ruins doesn’t want to do something about Aba, as he promised. I was boiling with madness inside me. Aba started collapsing as a result of poor road network; all the entrances to Aba were unmotorable. Invite a friend to Aba, he/she would complain about the road and the environment, Ol boy, guys have to book flights, book hotels and spend triple the usual sum just to ensure their invited friends make the trip.
All these maddened the hearts of many and they fearlessly stormed the social media space and started tearing this government apart. Everyday you get stories tagging the Osisioma flyover a center table. Funny, funny theories were made out of it. And, you won’t fault them.
Then COVID-19 came and l though it was all over.
But, alas, gradually, the roads started to spring up! But initially when they were announced after executive council meetings, it sounded like a fairy tale. 2 face Baba will say they want to tell us another story.
But right before our eyes, Faulks Road, one of the most important roads in Aba that remained impossible to navigate for over 20 years was dualized. Right before our eyes, Okezie dazzled us with street lights added to the road. Right before our eyes, after being abandoned for over 30 years, work eventually started at Port Harcourt Road. Right before our eyes, the massive refuse dumps that littered all across the Enyimba City started disappearing. Right before our eyes, the waterways were cleared and instead of the culture of abandoning and allowing refuse to grow so high as we were used to, they clear them as soon as they appear, with immediate effect.
At first, since we still had to criticise no matter how well Ikpeazu was doing, we tagged all these as projects devised to siphon money into private pockets, projects we thought would not be completed.
But the completion of the projects, one after the other, wasn’t just a reality, it came delivered with top quality infrastructure that will last.
Then he went back to the abandoned Osisioma Interchange (Flyover), that was even tagged “one year one pillar” project. The work went into full speed, then the criticism changed. It wasn’t a center table anymore, it was about Wike and Ebonyi constructing more flyovers. Well, that’s undebatable. That to me simply means Okezie needs to do more. But before then, let’s acknowledge this one he has done, which no one thought was possible before now. You need to visit the site, you will marvel.
Then the reconstruction of Aba-Owerri Road, Aba (Segment 2) started in earnest. Please don’t blame those who were hard on him over that road, the Okezie administration has no excuse to take this long in working on that road. No excuse at all. Forget what this ‘penny penny’ social media jesters will tell you.
Then like a miracle out of the blues after being abandoned for over 20 years, the reconstruction of Osusu Road, Aba, started and was completed and delivered. Top quality.
Then the reconstruction of Milverton Road, Aba, one of the busiest park zones in the country, started. That’s where all the luxury buses and other commercial vehicles that ply the Lagos, Abuja and other routes are stationed. The road was horrible to say the least. But then Okezie Ikpeazu delivered it. Top quality too!
Then palliative maintenance work along Ikot-Ekpene Road, Aba, started and it helped to widen the road, and since then the persistent accidents that happened there, which many attributed to the incessant thirst for blood by a certain ‘mammy water of Aba River’, stopped. That ‘mammy water’ must be dying out of thirst for by now (I can’t even stop laughing at all such theories).
Then, like a thunderbolt from the blues, came the reconstruction of Ohanku Road, Aba, that has been abandoned for as long as generations can remember. Then, even more unbelievable, was the commencement of reconstruction of Obohia Road (Aba South/Ukwa East).
As if those were not amazing enough, the reconstruction of the famous Ngwa Road, Aba, started, too.
Just visit Ururuka Road, Aba, you will marvel at the beauty of the road, the street lights and the beautification of the road with flowers and trees. Remind me that the road leads to Okezie Ikpeazu’s home town, l will remind you that his home town is in Abia.
When you think the list is exhausted, then you are hit with the construction of Umuene-Obikabia Road, Isiala Ngwa South, started and delivered already.
Again the Reconstruction of Mgboko – Okpu Umuobo Road, Aba, started and is still on going. From there, they went to Immaculate Avenue, Aba, and continued with their road miracle. The reconstruction of Umuojima – Ekeakpara Express Road, Osisioma, took off too. They equally started the reconstruction of Osisioma –Ekeakpara Federal Road, Aba. But here the work has stopped at the Adielu junction and l thought it needs rapid attention because that’s where you have the NNPC Depot in Aba that feeds most Eastern states. Oil tankers were falling on the roads last year. It will be disastrous if petroleum tankers erupt in flames in that axis again, because it’s an area of high population density.
As write, serious work is ongoing at the Ahaba-Umueze (ABSUTH) Road, Aba.
By this time, the criticisms have started to fade gradually, critics started looking for new fault lines instead of being courageous enough to, at least, acknowledge what is on ground and demand for more. They started circulating videos and pictures of Umahi’s works at Ebonyi State and Wike’s spectacular flyovers. These are all true, only the governor’s praise singers will try to excuse that. But what it simply means is that Okezie needs to do more.
Again, thanks to critics, Okezie embarked on the reconstruction of Ikputu-Nbawsi Road, Isiala Ngwa South, reconstruction of Mbubo – Azuiyi Oloko – Umuakwu Road, Isiala Ngwa North/Ikwuano, reconstruction of cluster of Umuobiakwa internal roads, construction of Ntalakwu – Ikwuano Road, Ikwuano LGA, re-asphalting of segments of Aba Road, Umuahia, construction of internal roads at Federal Medical Center, Umuahia, construction of Umuopara Ring Road, construction of Agbama Housing Estate Ring Road, Umuahia, construction of Isuochi Nneato Road, Completion of Eze Kanu Road Spur, Afara Ukwu, Umuahia, construction of Afara Nta Road, Umuahia, Construction of Mgbarakuma Road, Umuahia, reconstruction of selected internal roads in Amuzukwu, Umuahia, and Uratta-Obingwu-Umuezeke-Umuekechi-Obokwe Ugwatti Road, Ukwa West.
Now, these are to mention but just some of the roads he did within his second tenure. Though l tagged his first tenure a failure and justified the criticism that followed, which l spearheaded, truth be told, he did a lot of roads too, then.
So, l encourage our critics not to give up because their voices are gradually being suppressed with factual evidence of works going on in Aba especially. Don’t let Okezie Ikpeazu turning Aba into one giant construction site like the time of Dee Mbakwe stop you from criticizing him. Biko, criticism is good for every society, it helps to keep the leaders on their toes.
Okezie may have tried, but we want him not to relax, he must keep on trying. So, dust your pen from where his achievements made you to throw them, let’s keep on criticising him.
For me, having been so hard on him, l have this burden to let the world know that my criticism of my governor brought a positive change to my state.
Most importantly, our criticisms which brought these positive developments have in turn started attracting positive economic dividends to the state. We are now third on the investment index. By August, Geometrics will take off and power will be steady in Aba, at least. You see why investors are rushing to town. Kilimanjaro, Chicken Republic, Dominos Pizza, Crunchies are opening branches like it’s going out of fashion. Queens Pot has opened her first branch in Aba. Then the icing on the cake. My friend, Chiedozie Njoku is rounding off a mini ‘Dubai Shopping Mall’ at the old Etche Road field. Rush and get your space now. The lost glory of Enyimba City is back.
Uzoamaka Ezerioha- Anyansi, rush, tell your husband, Ayansi Agwu, the Enyimba Chairman, that we will once more fill the stadium after the COVID-19 pandemic is finally defeated. Let him continue to bring us glory!
Umu Igbo Worldwide, join me to chant
‘Nzogbu! Nzogbu!! Enyimba Enyi!!!
Peter Agba Kalu, a social critic and public affairs analyst, sent in this piece from Abiriba in Abia State