In Leo Calvin Rosten’s work “Captain Newman M.D”, Destiny comes to an island and asks three of its inhabitants what they would do if he told them that tomorrow the island would be engulfed by a tidal wave. One man answered promptly that he would spend his remaining hours indulging himself with women and liquor. The second said he would go to his gods and pray. The third said he would quickly round up all the wise men on the island and start learning how to breathe under water. The position of the third character aptly reflects the importance of critical thinking in difficult situations and captures the current strides of Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu in Abia State.
Unarguably, the Nigerian economy has been in a very bad shape for some time, having slipped into recession mid-2016 following two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. The economy is just beginning to show signs of recovery, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). But what has baffled everyone is how Governor Ikpeazu has been able to navigate through the murky waters.
Gov. Ikpeazu’s 2018 New Year broadcast has raised more hopes for Abians as the governor promised that the state government’s comprehensive, integrated Healthcare Delivery Framework would take more shape in 2018.
“We will strengthen our Secondary Healthcare Centres by ensuring that every local government area has a functional and better-staffed General Hospital, which will serve as outreach base to our Primary Health Centres and minimize the distance and stress involved in accessing Tertiary Hospitals,” the governor said.
“We recently launched our Healthcare Outreach to the aged and vulnerable groups in our society, a novel programme, which will be strengthened and positioned to touch more lives in 2018. We shall also commission our Specialist Hospital for child and maternal care, which is designed to ensure that no child is lost at birth in Abia State from 2018,” he said.
Worthy of mention here is the Healthcare Outreach to the aged and vulnerable groups. Abia State government, in its bid to accord special attention to vulnerable groups, recently created the Ministry for Special Duties, Vulnerable Groups/Women, headed by Mrs. Precious Achumba, alongside other six new ministries.
The importance of this health-care outreach cannot be over-emphasised because of the special place vulnerable groups occupy in our society. Vulnerable groups are groups who, for some reasons, are weak and vulnerable to human rights abuses. These groups are structurally discriminated against. And for this reason, the groups require special protection for the equal and effective enjoyment of their human rights. The groups are women and girls; children; refugees; internally displaced persons; stateless persons; national minorities; indigenous peoples; migrant workers; disabled persons; elderly persons; HIV positive persons and AIDS victims, among others.
Barring any unforeseen situation, Abia State Automated Shoe Factory in Aba will be commissioned before June this year, and by now the first batch of 30 shoemakers out of a proposed 100 from Abia State must have departed for China to undergo intensive training in automated shoemaking technology. These youths will form the nucleus of the workforce in the factory. The factory shall enable Abia State consolidate its status as the pre-eminent destination for leatherworks in Nigeria and shall serve as an enabler of the diligent work the manual producers have been doing over the years.
To demonstrate the commitment of Abia State government to ensure a fair deal for every resident and taxpayer of Abia State irrespective of state of origin, three of the youths travelling are not from Abia State but are resident in Aba and are fully involved in shoemaking. It will be recalled that one of the recently inaugurated commissioners in the state, Thaddeus Izuogu, is from Imo State. Part of Izuogu’s mandate is to coordinate the interests and participation of other Nigerians that are resident or doing business in Abia State.
From all indications, 2018 promises a better deal for Abians than 2017. The state strives to take full advantage of the Federal Government Executive Order No.3 which underscores the need to patronize made-in-Nigeria goods as a priority. Already, the made-in-Aba campaign has garnered large scale momentum with Gov. Ikpeazu as the brand ambassador.
Also, the strides of Gov. Ikpeazu on roads infrastructure will receive fresh boost in 2018 as it is projected that the recently flagged-off constructions on the all-important Port Harcourt Road will be completed in the next 18 months. The road is designed to have six lanes with a dedicated BRT lane for Bus Rapid Transit on the stretch of the road.
The governor’s commitment to capture the rural population in his programmes and policies has manifested in the Rural Roads Project. The project involves the construction of 10 kilometres of roads in each of the 17 LGAs in Abia State. While the project is currently active in six local government areas, it is also projected that in the next 18 months the roads will be ready for commissioning.
The One-Ward-One-Project Initiative recently flagged off at Amakama, Umuahia South Local Government Area will commit N10 million-N15 million on a project of high impact in each electoral ward in Abia State. The target is to enhance trade and commerce through installation of streetlights in our rural markets to extend trading hours and put more funds in the hands of the rural dwellers. Through these efforts each ward will realize a project of specific importance to them. It is an effort committed to ensuring that every community in Abia State feels the touch of government in the course of Gov. Ikpeazu’s tenure.
Capturing the rural population in government’s policies and programmes is apt because they are a critical component of a nation’s population. This is because in most countries of the world, especially the developing world, the greater percentage of the nation’s population lives in the rural areas. In Nigeria, it is projected that about 70 percent of the nation’s population lives in the rural areas.
Gov. Ikpeazu has immensely demonstrated the position of the third man in Leo Calvin Rosten’s work “Captain Newman M.D” – that in critical situations, the reasonable thing to do is to consult the wisest men and learn how to breathe under water.
Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
Ukegbu contributed this piece from Umuahia, Abia State.