By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
The call for Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu to return for the second term in 2019 has graduated into a consciousness pervading the nooks and crannies of the state and individuals are groups are keying into this in droves.One of the key groups championing this cause is “Reliable Friends”, coordinated by one astute politician from Obingwa Local Government Area, Hon. Godstime Ikeoma Nwaigwe. Recently I engagedd the coordinator and some chieftains of the group in a no holds barred chat on their approach to actualise this ambition.
What the group highlighted as their strategies were not only pragmatic but convincing. First, the group which started with few persons has now grown into a huge crowd. This is courtesy of an intensive membership drive that has penetrated major markets in Aba, the commercial hub of the state. This strategy is very effective because politics, like is always posited, is a game of number and requires huge following. This approach is widely believed to be very cardinal in achieving this ambition. But Reliabe Friends are not stopping at this. They have gone a step ahead by reconciling their members with relations and friends who they have differences with.
This method will go a long to swell the membership of the group. Politics is much liken to church gospel and the central theme is love which is practical. The Vote Ikpeazu Again will be highly inhibited if proponents of the gospel are not in talking terms with their neighbours, friends kiths and kins. Like the scriptures admonished to abandon our sacrifice and reconcile with our brother if at the point of offering the sacrifice we realised that we had differences with our brother.
It will be recalled that the greatest tool at the disposal of the voter in an electoral process is the voter’s card. The group is acutely- aware of this assertion and has worked to ensure that the electorate are armed with this tool. They have mobilised at a large scale to ensure that people are registered since the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) commenced the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) nationwide.
The above strategies would amount to nothing if the group does not have a good and captivating message. In this direction, the group has critically appraised the manifesto of Gov. Ikpeazu and how he has fared in the last two years.Gov. Ikpeazu in his manifesto promised to “MAKING ABIA THE PREMIER BUSINESS DESTINATION IN NIGERIA, AND WEST AFRICA”. The mission was anchored on “elevating the quality of life of Abians”, and vision of ” making Abia State the premier destination in Nigeria, West and Central Africa; for investors, shoppers, workers and tourists’’. The basic philosophy driving this objective was captured thus” As a natural progression, it is critical that over the next 5 to 10 years, we make the ‘leap’ to realize the potential in Abia State and enable it take its natural place as a key growth pillar for Nigeria in particular, and the entire West African sub region in general”.
The question is has Gov. Ikpeazu delivered on his thematic areas of AGRICULTURE, TRADE & COMMERCE, OIL & GAS, EDUCATION, and INFRASTRUCTURE.In the days ahead, the message of Reliable Friends to Abians to woo their votes to install Gov. Ikpeazu for the second term is that:”It has been magnificent in the agricultural sector because Abia’s economy in few years ahead would be substantially driven by oil palm.The state targets to develop 7.5million palm seedlings occupying 10,000 of oil palm plantation across the state.The project will come in phases. The first phase will produce 2 million seedlings. The second phase is projected to record 3 million seedlings, while the last lap will produce the rest 2.5 million seedlings. The state is as well embarking on massive plantation of other economic crops such as ginger, pineapple and cassava, and Ohambele in Ukwa East Local Government Area of the state has mapped for the production of ginger and pineapple. Worthy of note here is that close to 2 million palm oil seeds have already been planted at Ayaba Umueze in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area. The state has also deployed latest specie of oil seedling called tenera which was bred by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).Tenera, which is a hybrid variety obtained by crossing Dura and Pisifera, is a much better variety for industrial and economic purposes”.
The message would also capture the several metaphors competing for space to qualify the unprecedented revolution the state has witnessed in road infrastructure. The state is now described as “caterpillar revolution”, infrastructure revolution”. These metaphors reflect the unequalled transformation road infrastructure has undergone in two years since the current democratic dispensation in the state.Scores of roads have either being reconstructed, rehabilitated or constructed with scores ongoing and some have just been flagged-off; bridges have been built- this time around not where there is no existence of water but where there is physical presence of water; the historic “Osisioma Interchange” is on course.
The message, just like the Pauline epistle to the churches, would be voluminous and inexhaustible. It will not spare the “Education for Employment” ,E4E, programme. The concept of this programme is to that education leads to employment by imbuing the youths with the technical skills that would enable them become either self-employed or sought after by others.The Programme is to boost the current status as a Small and Medium Scale Entrepresises(SME) capital of the country where all kinds of equipment and devices will be imported to boost shoes and garments production.Another essence of the programme is to launch Abia to technical education.The Programme would be replicated in primary schools across the produce primary school pupils that are ready and prepared to go into technical education and eventually end up servicing the technical needs of Abia people.
The Reliable Friends model strongly demonstrates that friends should truly be reliable.