MY GOOD PEOPLE OF ABIA STATE
It gives me great pleasure to address you today on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the creation of our dearly beloved Abia State.
You will agree with me that 30 is a landmark age for a State and it is for this reason that we have rolled out the drums with a series of activities to mark the anniversary of the creation of our State.
Our founding fathers had lofty ambitions for us; from the push for the creation of our state even up until this day. I make bold to state that we have surpassed even their own expectations in a lot of areas.
Against all odds, we have remained a strong, united people. At creation, we assumed the sobriquet of God’s own State and it is very obvious that the hand of God has been upon our State at every turn. We have faced multiple challenges but at every critical moment, God has intervened to steady the ship of state and for that, we return all the glory to God.
I am saddened that within the period we were gearing up to celebrate our anniversary, we lost 2 very important amazons from the state within a 24 hour window. First, we lost Lady Adanma Okpara, the wife of the former Premier of the Eastern Region and our venerated founding father, Chief Michael Iheonukara Opkara.
Lady Adanma Okpara, together with her iconic late husband, served the people of the old Eastern Region from 1959 to 1966 and together, they gave us a first class government whose achievements continue to reverberate even till this day.
24 hours after the news of the demise of Lady Adanma Okpara, we were again, hit with the news of the passage of Noble Lady Victoria Aguiyi Ironsi, wife of the late first military Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Gen. Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi.
General Aguiyi-Ironsi was a man of many firsts who took up the leadership of Nigeria at a very challenging time and paid the ultimate price in the service of his country. Since his death in 1966, his widow, the now late Noble Lady Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi, bore her fate with equanimity and continued to be a strong voice for the entrenchment of an egalitarian society.
The death of both Lady Adanma Okpara and Lady Victoria Aguiyi Ironsi has become for us, in this period, a clarion call for the rededication of our pursuits to memorable causes for which we will continue to be remembered fondly long after we have completed our tours of duty in service to our state and humanity.
The work done by the duo of General Aguiyi Ironsi and Dr M I Okpara in the areas of peace, unity and the use of agriculture as a tool for economic development continue to serve as guiding lights to our administration. As at today, we remain the most peaceful state in Nigeria in terms of sociopolitical stability and security of lives and property. We remain fully committed to the pursuit of the ideals of peaceful coexistence as a key component of a strong sociopolitical environment.
In the area of agriculture, with revered reference to the memories of those great amazons and their spouses, permit me to inform us that Abia State under our noble watch has embarked on the proliferation of Cottage industries in the local government areas of our state. Today, we have completed palm kernel oil processing plants in Obingwa, Ugwunagbo, Umuahia North and Isiala Ngwa North. Two more will be ready before the end of November 2021. These 6 plants will be commissioned in December 2021.
By the time we establish these in all the 17 LGAs, and in addition to what we had done with the planting of over 4 million tenera seedlings of oil palm, we would have further deepened the legacies of M I POWER as an icon of agricultural revolution in Nigeria.
I join all Abians to pray that the noble souls of these two great Abia women find rest in the bosom of our creator.
My Beloved Abians, I had earlier stated that we have remained firmly on course to place the State on the map of positive reckoning. Our administration, since we came on board in 2015, have built upon the foundations laid for us by our predecessors and we have taken great steps to continue to move the state towards its destined path of greatness.
Let me at this juncture pay special tribute to all our founding fathers both departed and still with us. I pay special homage to the Abia State Advisory Council led by one of our founding fathers and living legends, Ezeogo Dr. Anaga Ezikpe and his ebullient team of revered elder statesmen for their tireless efforts in guiding us on the path of sustainable development and reminding us of the ethos upon which our state was founded.
This anniversary celebration therefore presents us with another opportunity to remind ourselves of who we are and the values that have brought us thus far. This anniversary is another opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the unity, peace, prosperity and greatness of our state. This anniversary presents us with the imperative to eschew such tendencies that tear at the seams of our unity and invites us to commit that in all we do, the greatness of Abia State will continue to be paramount in our objectives.
Ndi Abia Ndi Nwem, as you are all aware, our administration embarked on an aggressive rebranding effort to reposition our state as the undisputed MSME centre of excellence in the country and beyond and that drive, propelled by our Made in Aba Campaign, have been a roaring success.
Aside from the already well-established growth in the available opportunities to our producers as a direct result of the campaign, I am glad to announce to you that Abia State has become a net exporter of labour and manpower in the productive sector. Abia youths are now being directly engaged by footwear and garment industries all over the world to come over and strengthen their workforce. We have reports of young Abians getting recruited from Abia State to work in shoe companies in the United Arab Emirates and Liberia while Emmanuel Paul, an Abia Tailor based in Aba has been recruited by a garment factory based in Qatar to come over and work in their factory diagnosing issues with their equipment and fixing same. Our ‘Abia to the world Campaign’ has recorded positive gains not just in terms of goods produced in Abia State and exported to the world but now, we are also the destination for the recruitment of critical skilled labour for the global productive ecosystem.
This feat did not come about by happenstance. It is a result of a deliberate, painstaking roadmap which we outlined at the beginning of our administration which we have diligently pursued to visible impacts.
We are applying the same methods and processes to other sectors of our State economy. From education to healthcare, agriculture, industrialization, youth and sports development to critical infrastructural development and even social development, we have all hands on deck working to build the Abia we want.
PEACE AND SECURITY
Like I noted earlier, let me reaffirm at this juncture that the peace, security, unity and progress of Abia State will continue to serve as the watchword of this administration and we are committed, more than ever, to bequeath an Abia State that we will all be proud of.
Beloved Abians, we are all witnesses to the times we are in as regards the security situation in the country. While the challenge has seemed intractable nationwide leading to wanton deaths and destruction, I must give glory to God that we have been able to keep crises and challenges under control in Abia State. A recent well-researched index of safety among states in Nigeria, placed Abia State as the state with the second least reports of violent insecurity incidences in the first half of 2021. We are mindful of our challenges and we have brought all hands on deck to work with us to continue to keep the state and its citizens and residents safe.
We are all also aware of the attempts by certain elements in Abia State to affect our commercial activities and other endeavours on a weekly basis. As your leader and Governor, I am making a passionate appeal to Abians to eschew these self-harming tendencies and resume normal activities on a regular basis. The Abia State Government have put all modalities in place to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of all Abians and residents of Abia State on a daily basis and it is imperative that we do not cut our noses to spite our faces. While we do not begrudge any group their right to engage in lawful activities to press their claims, we would like to appeal to Abians not to fall for actions and activities that hurt their own economic aspirations. We are the greatest losers in any activity designed to deprive our people of economic and social freedom and we must rise above tendencies that seek to hurt our legitimate pursuits.
Once again, I implore us all to resume our normal economic and social activities without fear of victimization while assuring us all that the Abia State Government have put modalities in place in conjunction with security agencies to ensure the safety and security of everyone going about their legitimate endeavours.
ROADS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
As is often the case with developmental pursuits, we have certain areas where we are aware that more work needs to be done and we are dedicated to the task before us. We are faced with a huge deficit of critical infrastructure in Abia State and we are leaving no stone unturned to close those deficits.
It is for this reason that our administration has completed and delivered 128 roads across Abia State while remaining active on another 51 roads. As I have assured at different fora, we are committed to completing all the projects begun by this administration and we will endeavour not to leave any uncompleted project for the next administration. We will remain on site, working for Abians to the very last day of our administration and we will bequeath a State that you will all be proud of. Our insistence on delivering roads that will stand the test of time and with sustainable drainage systems remain irrevocable.
We have continued to make progress in the education sector by way of a constant and well structured system of retraining of our teachers. This has produced huge effects on the productivity of our teachers. Coupled with our deployment of digital learning platforms, construction of over 600 classroom blocks, introduction of vocational educational programs like Education For Employment, our home grown school feeding program, the results have been outstanding.
Our public schools enrolment has moved from 150,000 in 2015 to 650,000 in 2020. We are looking forward to an increase in this number by the time we conclude our enumeration for this academic session. As at today, Abia is the second best in school enrolment in Nigeria. We have consistently taken the lead in WAEC examinations for the last four years while our State University has moved up in ranking from No. 99 to No. 26 and is now the second best State University in Nigeria.
Let me therefore, as the leader and the one on whose desk all the buck stops, convey my empathies to all Abians who have suffered and are suffering any form of discomfort as a result of our not yet having addressed the challenges in your sector. I pledge my dedication to working assiduously to ensure that all challenges affecting your sector is addressed and resolved. I have remained an open and transparent leader, acknowledging grievances and working with all concerned to resolve them. Our administration will continue to engage in collective approach to problem-solving and I call on all concerned to continue to work with us as we build the Abia of our collective aspirations.
I will shortly be convening a Summit of the youths of Abia State from all over the world where we will hold a retreat with them to hear from them, their aspirations for Abia State for inclusion in our plans and policy formulations. It is my view that the youths are a critical component in the shaping of the Abia we want and I am therefore creating this opportunity to brainstorm with the youths and incorporate their aspirations in our plans going forward.
As you all know, Abia State recently concluded work on her 30-year development plan to guide our actions and objectives for the state for the next 30 years. The plan document, which I shall be unveiling later in the day at the Michael Okpara Auditorium, is a product of dedicated research and consultation, guided by development experts and encapsulating the wishes of Abians as gleaned from town hall meetings held across demographics all around the state.
While building today, we are deliberate about proper planning and working towards a set goal and it is for that reason that I invite all policy-makers and officials of government to thoroughly study that document and tailor their workplans along the lines of the objectives set out in the document.
My dear Abians, as we mark 30years of our journey into statehood, let me once again invite us to rededicate ourselves to the aspirations of our founding fathers. As has been boldly proclaimed in our State anthem and official logo, we are the land of grace and faith. We are a people, dedicated to prosperity through enterprise. We are a people, created on equity and together, we must continue to stand united and collectively build the state of our vision.
It is on this note that I will like to once again, sound a note of warning to the diverse groups that have been promoting ethnic divisions and confrontational rhetorics in the name of positioning to take over power during the next election cycle. I remain firmly in charge of the governance of Abia State until May 29, 2023 according to the dictates of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which I swore to uphold. I therefore once again, wish to sound a note of warning that our administration will not condone statements and activities that are inimical to the unity and cohesion of Abia State.
While we understand that agitations and positioning are the usual processes of politicking, especially leading up to a general election, we insist that such activities be carried out under the atmosphere of unity and inclusion. Power belongs to God and when the time comes, God will choose leaders he has predestined for Abia State. No individual or group aspiration is worth more than the unity of Abia State and we will henceforth, decisively deal with any individual or group fanning the embers of disunity and disharmony in Abia State.
I call on Abians to continue to uphold their leaders in prayers for God’s guidance and strengthening. I invite Abians to join us on a journey of assured shared prosperity. I assure Abians that we are firmly on course towards the building of the Abia we want. God has been faithful to us. We have a lot to be thankful to God for and we will continue to work to give you more reasons to celebrate.
Our interventions in various critical sectors are yielding positive fruits. We are building on the legacies of our illustrious founding fathers and we are making steady progress. The future of Abia State is secured in the pantheon of economically and socially progressive states and I am once again, grateful to you all for the privilege of steering the ship of Abia State at this memorable epoch.
I therefore invite you to join me as we toast to 30 years of Abia State with a firm belief that the next 30 years of Abia State will be a journey in progress, development and collective upliftment.
ONYE KWE, CHI YA EKWE!
God bless our founding fathers
God bless Abia State
Happy 30th Anniversary Ndi nwem.
Okezie Ikpeazu, PhD
Governor of Abia State.