The Need For Issue – Based Campaigns In 2019 Abia Gubernatorial Election – By Okechukwu Keshj Ukegbu
Recently, electioneering in Nigeria has been bereaved of issues.Contenders now resort on negative approaches in pursuit of various political offices such as financial inducements, deployment of muscled men. These muscled men, usually hoodlums,are armed to the teeth and are willing tools in the hands of their principals who deploy them for various nefarious activities that mar the elections.
This in turn does not only affect the electoral process but has spill over effect on the society as there are situations when their principals were unable to retrieve the arms from them and what is witnessed afterwards is increase in the crime rate such as banditry, robbery, rape,kidnapping, among others.
When the contenders are done with these approaches, and with little and no results, they result to calumniation of credible candidates in the name of campaign messages. This approach is merely designed to enlist the sympathy of the unsuspecting electorate.
This situation is necessitated by the fact that these gladiators who parade themselves as standard bearers of the political parties do not have real programmes or manifestoes to present to the electorate. Like it is always said that”cannot give what you do not have”.
The most potential weapon of these gladiators is character assassination. Unfortunately, these gladiators spend more time researching into areas they feel their opponent failed than designing a road map which explains to the public what they intend to offer when they are eventually elected into office.
It is heartening to note here that one broke this jinx that bedeviled our polity prior to the 2015 general elections in the state, and the man is the current governor of the state who by the grace of God recently secured the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) gubernatorial ticket.
Gov. Ikpeazu in the manifesto that facilitated his victory in 2015, tagged “MAKING ABIA THE PREMIER BUSINESS DESTINATION IN NIGERiIA, AND WEST AFRICA”, emphasised the mission of “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”.
It is basic that a goal must be accompanied by objectives that would drive it to ensure that it is met.Thus, Gov.Ikpeazu proposed to leverage on areas where the state has comparative strength such as the people of Abia State whom he described as a vibrant people with enterprising spirit and diligence in labour. He promised to make them the core strength and pride of his administration, adding” we shall channel this resource by putting in place a competent leadership team of skilled and proven executors which will complement the energy of our population. We will also transform the businesses of our very enterprising and skilled populace to achieve scale and world class appeal. That way ‘made in Aba’ will become something to be proud of and not something shoddy; Aba made products in shoe/ leather, garments and other such sectors will be bought in global retail chains and markets. We will have wealthy Abians and residents out of these historical areas of strength. Young men and women will finish school and come to our industrial centres to make a good living knowing they will get their first car in record time”.
Again, the geographical location of a people forms their major strength. Abia State is strategically located with access to at least 7 other states across the south-East and South-South, and this natural accessibilty makes it a choice location for establishing business and accessing other surrounding markets in Nigeria and abroad. It will be recalled that in the past leading corporations such as Bata, Colgate Palmolive, among others had manufacturing concerns in Aba.
Other areas of comparative advantage are infrastructure where the state plays host to two important power generation plants-Geometric and NIPP, Alaoji. These infrastructure if optimally harnessed will make power available to industries and will form a major attraction to businesses . Another infrastructure of note is the railway infrastructure traversing the state. It is a fact that an excellent low cost transportation system presents an advantage for businesses to transact and evacuate cheaply. So, the strategic location of Abia State is further enhanced by the railway infrastructure which we will leverage to transform our cities into a logistics hub in Nigeria and neighboring African countries.
In governance, Gov. Ikpeazu proposed to institute a government structure that is private-sector friendly, accountable and transparent, which will go a long way in attracting both institutional and private investors, as well as increasing the ease of doing business in the State; while in safety, the governor promised to empower the security agencies to ensure that the vatmosphere of peace and security is sustained across the state.
It is worthy to note here that Gov. Ikpeazu’s administration is running on five pillars or thematic areas, namely AGRICULTURE, TRADE & COMMERCE, OIL & GAS, EDUCATION, and INFRASTRUCTURE.In agriculture, the governor promised the following: taking advantage of the State’s natural advantages and focus on major cash and food crops,toto empower the security agencies to ensure that the atmosphere of peace and security is sustained across the state.to empower the security agencies to ensure that the vatmosphere of peace and security is sustained across the state. empower the security agencies to ensure that the atmosphere of peace and security is sustained across the state. leveraging on the Federal Government’s existin programs covering cocoa, palm oil, cassava and grain/ rice; partnering with local and international agricultural research institutions (Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria -Ibadan, National Root Crops Research Institute – Umudike, National Cereals Research Institute amongst others) to provide advanced seedlings and extension services to small holder farmers;creation of large agro-allied zones for commercial and mechanized farming located within the State’s crop production areas, supported by irrigation, storage and transport infrastructure;facilitate increased investment in the agriculture sector through integrated farming and extending through the value chain; establishment of marketing boards to improve access to market to minimize economic shocks for small holder farmers and indeed all farmers within the state;enhance specialized/ vocational education to produce skilled workers for this industry.
The crucial question is” has Gov. Ikpeazu kept to the promises captured in his manifesto?Indeed, Gov Ikpeazu has raised the bar of governance in the state and Abians can’t be deceived by mere political rhetorics because Gov. Ikpeazu has consigned that era to the trash can.