You cannot take it away from him: Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is a born humourist, a witty country boy that is groomed in the best of agrarian and cosmopolitan values. During the campaigns in 2015, he left his followers with a message: Unu ja akota sign. This message has since become a popular cliché in Abia State, transforming into a socio-political construct that re-occurs in every political discussion in the state.
For many, that message is an entry point into an understanding of the man and his politics. For others, it is the essential compass to discerning his moves, his hidden intentions, the intrigues, his priorities and his maneuvering patterns.
But, essentially, that message has been transmuted into the cardinal projects that have formed the signature of the man in his three-year strides in Abia. For the projects communicate signs and messages that are both connotative and literal.
In an attempt to interrogate the message, one begins to see a body of symbols, ideas and meanings in the footprints that have changed the narrative of Abia in a short time. Take the case of the Osisioma Overhead Bridge.
It is no more news that Governor Ikpeazu is building the first ever over-head bridge in Aba at Osisioma Junction. If you understand the science of semiotics, the Osisioma flyover in Aba must come to you with far deeper meanings that transcend value and convenience. To me, it communicates meanings that are somewhat esoteric. The first interpretation is that it is a project that will add value to the city of Aba and create convenience in transportation for motorists and other road users. Osisioma Junction is a hotspot for traffic jam, a place where madness is taken as part of the daily chore, a place where man and mermaids compete for space within a small radius. The overhead bridge will end this bad narrative.
It will add beauty and change the landscape of the entry point into the old city. The bridge will provide a warm atmosphere of reception to visitors driving into the city and for those driving across to Port Harcourt.
The bridge will improve the quality of our lives, create a whole new convenience and lift Abia to a new status. Call it dividend of democracy. It is one great thing, among others, for which Ikpeazu will be remembered.
But, beyond the aesthetics value and the structural importance, I see a message of transition from one milieu to another. I see a revolution but not of victory of arms but victory of change. Revolution is not just about taking up arms and overthrowing an existing political regime, it is also about taking drastic steps and actions that progressively expand the frontiers of our human existence. In discerning the signs embedded in the Osisioma Overhead Bridge, I see a meditated intention at social transformation. Ikpeazu is looking beyond transportation values to creating a new world order for Aba and Abia State. He is creating a new life, a new man and a new season. Indeed, it was part of his campaign promises.
A little ride of about 400 metres and you are at Brass junction. Here a sign beckons on you. The newly paved T-junction and the median that leads to the famous Faulks Road resonate beyond the message of environmental design to a sign about the destination of this all-important road – the Ariaria International Market. There is a concerted effort to turn Ariaria into a great centre of business not only for Nigeria but for the entire West African sub-region. This dream led to a synergy with the office of the Vice President which produced the Ariaria Independent Power Project financed by the Rural Electrification Agency of the Federal Govt. The power project is giving an uninterrupted power at the market to 2,000 shops, on a pilot basis. A second power station that is under construction will provide uninterrupted power to another 34,000 shops in the market.
The construction of Faulks Road and the technology employed in combating the challenge of storm water is another all-important sign. The Ifeobara artificial lake and the effort in recovering Ukwu Mango signify a sincere political will for the victory belies the long-drawn legend of buck-passing, a lazy resignation to fate and a substitute of reason with superstitious beliefs. The sign is that man is indeed the master of his fate.
The sign extends to the large-scale work of comprehensive infrastructural renewal of the commercial city of Aba which has given a new lease of life to the residents. The achievement in fulfilling the primary obligation of government which is the maintenance of law and order. The Governor has excellently fulfilled this primary obligation of government by ensuring that there is adequate security in the state. His fight against kidnapping and other violent crimes has yielded maximum result. There is also the strategic public-private partnerships with various institutional agents in the area of human capital development and skill acquisition.
Significantly, the effort in developing the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises in Abia has produced great results in developing the latent ingenuity and creativity for which Aba is celebrated. It has led to a renewed attention to the artisans of Aba and a review of the future of the fabled Aba Made Goods.
In the first year of his administration, 60 shoemakers were mobilised to Turkey to understudy modern technologies in shoe production. And later another 30 youths were also mobilised to China as the first batch of 100 ambassadors selected for the training in China.
Today, the vision of the New Enyimba City, an economic hub for entrepreneurial integration of the South East and South South regions with a free trade zone status is a landmark project that will raise the bar of development in Aba. Indeed, Ikpeazu charges his people to try to discern the signs. Today, the signs have come alive.
Adindu is Special Adviser on Media & Documentation