Barely four months from now, the people of Abia State will decide their political future and that of their children. They will have the rare opportunity of going to the polls to choose who will be the next governor of Abia State after Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, whose second term in office as governor of the state ends on May 29, 2023.
However, in making this all-important decision, the people must painstakingly and critically look at the candidates who want to occupy that office; their antecedents and track records of performance in their previous and current positions of authority must be seriously checked and verified.
This is where the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prof. Eleazar Uchenna Ikonne, comes in as the man to beat. He towers shoulder high above other contestants in academic, administration and economics. He remains the best for the people of Abia, in terms of integrity, competence and capacity to perform, if they truly want the state to be the economic and technology hub of not only the South East region, but also the entire country.
In the estimation of those who have closely watched Ikonne’s trajectory, he is just like a good wine that needs no bush. They describe him as a trailblazer and game-changer, who is renowned for his tendency to turn bad situations into good.
It is believed in some quarters that he would replicate in Abia State when he becomes governor what he did in Abia State Polytechnic whenn he was the rector.
Recall that his journey to Abiapoly began when the polytechnic was at the nadir of collapse. The school was in such bad shape that lecturers and other workers in the institution were owed nine months’ salary in arrears; a development that forced the academic staff to embark on a strike, which almost grounded the institution.
Aside from the arrears of salary, there was a N2 billion bank debt hanging on the neck of the school with a huge monthly interest deduction of N42 million. The environment had degraded so much that the school gate was typical of a market square. The combined effect of the foregoing was the fact that the morale of the students and staff went down to its lowest ebb.
It was at this precarious situation at Abiapoly that Ikonne was invited from the state university where he was the Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) to go on a rescue mission. He was barely three months in office as the DVC when the clarion call came from the then Governor of Abia State, Chief Theodore Orji. He responded to the call and within a space of 14 months that he spent there, he brought the school back on track and restored its glory among the comity of other polytechnics in Nigeria and even beyond.
In a manner that speaks of a man with a Midas touch, he restored the dignity of students and staff by regularly interacting with them, made reasonable efforts in clearing the salary arrears and discovered that the institution was plunged into huge debt because of the status of its loan portfolio. That was addressed through restructuring of the credit facility, which eventually lessened the loan burden.
His performance was so wonderful and satisfactory that the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), during their National Convention held in Abiapoly, could not help but say that, “before this time, Polytechnic teachers in Nigeria would protest against a professor from the university system being named the rector in a polytechnic, but if professors are in the character and mould of Prof. Ikonne, they can start sending professors.” It is verifiable that his 14-month stint in Abiapoly opened the floodgate of professors being appointed as Rectors in the polytechnic.
However, there are concerns and fears in certain quarters that since he was propped up by Gov. Ikpeazu, he would not have a free hand to pilot the affairs of the state if he becomes governor.
But, for those who know Ikonne and what he stands for, such a situation would never be possible. They understand that a man of Ikonne’s standing will not be controlled by anybody. It is their considered opinion that his wealth of experience in management and administration would heavily come to bear in the governance of Abia State if he becomes governor.
Ikonne has also reassured the people of Abia that he would not be Ikpeazu’s surrogate when he becomes the governor. He admitted being encouraged by Ikpeazu to join the race so he could contribute his quota to the development of Abia State, considering his outstanding performances as Rector, Abia polytechnic, Aba, and Vice Chancellor, Abia State University, Uturu. But, he maintained that what he stands for is about integrity, and that his major task would be to give a new lease of life to all Abians and not to be anybody’s surrogate.
As an accomplished professional and administrator with proven track records of performance, Ikonne’s entrance into the Abia gubernatorial fray is a blessing to the people of Abia. Indeed, Ikonne is the Moses that will lead the people of Abia State out of their current economic and infrastructural quagmire into a glorious and prosperous Abia filled with opportunities.
The flurry of endorsements coming from notable men and women from the state, including members of the opposition political parties are also eloquent testimonies that finally, the man that would turn the fortunes and potentials of Abia into realities has arrived. The endorsements are signs of wonderful and glorious days ahead in Abia State.
*Nwabughuogu, an engineer, wrote from Umuahia