OKEZIE IKPEAZU: Visage of an Unsung Achiever

OKEZIE IKPEAZU – Portrait of a Silent Achiever

Barack Obama has achieved things that most people can only dream of. He was the first African American president to assume office and served two terms. From humble beginnings, he rose to become one of the most powerful men in the world. As a young person, he was a skilled writer and a hard worker, he recognized he could be a successful journalist if he worked his way up the ladder, he however also knew he could make more of a difference through politics, so he set his eyes on the White House for years. We all know how that ended.

For Okezie Ikpeazu, he began his career as a clinical biochemist while serving under the mandatory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) between 1984 and 1985 with the medical laboratory of Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUT) Port Harcourt. He returned to the University of Maiduguri for a Masters Degree in Biochemical Toxicology and graduated in 1990. While with the university, he served as Graduate Assistant at the department of Science Laboratory Technology, University of Maiduguri between 1986 and 1987. He proceeded to the University of Calabar where he lectured while pursuing a doctorate degree (PhD) in Biochemical Pharmacology. At the age of 30, he obtained a Doctorate Degree in 1994.

Between 1994 and 1996, he served as Administrative Manager with Cash Bond Investments and Credits Ltd, Lagos. In 1998, he joined the services of Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) as Lecturer 1 in the Department of Applied Biochemistry, Faculty of Applied Natural Sciences, and rose to Head of Department by 2001. He was also an Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Department of Biochemistry, Ebonyi State University College of Basic Medical Sciences, between 2000 and 2002. Between 2003 and 2004, he served as a Masters’ Degree External Examiner, to the Department of Biochemistry, University of Nigeria.

One thing is obvious when going through Dr. Ikpeazu’s career; he is a hard worker who will not stop until he achieves his goals. PhD holder at the age of 30 is no easy feat especially in a society like ours. But Okezie Ikpeazu set his eyes on the goals, ensured he kept his head high until he accomplished those goals.

But he was not done, he has always been passionate about public service. From what we know now, one thing is clear, no matter his profession Okezie would have made a success of it.

In 2002, Dr. Ikpeazu started his political career as Chairman Transition Committee (TC) for Obingwa Local Government Area. He also served as Special Adviser to the Governor of Abia State. After these were several political appointments including: General Manager, Abia State Passengers Integrated Manifest and Safety Scheme (ASPIMSS) (2007-2009), Chairman, Governing Council of Abia State College of Health Technology, Aba (2010), General Manager, Abia State Passengers Integrated Manifest and Safety Scheme (ASPIMSS) (2011-2013) and first Deputy General Manager, Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) Aba (2013-2014).

Dr. Ikpeazu belongs to many prestigious member clubs including Biochemical Society of Nigeria, the Nigeria Environmental Society and Rotary Club of Eziukwu Aba, Trustee and the President of Eastern Ngwa Country Sports Club of Nigeria.

He contested for the 2015 gubernatorial election under the umbrella of the People Democratic Party (PDP) and was sworn in as Governor on May 29, 2015.

Ikpeazu’s Legacy

Let us look at his achievements; about the performance of an administration in seven and a half years. And what better place to begin than with the investment in education? Any government’s investment in education says a lot about its priorities, and not just in the building of schools but in building human capital. For a country that often underrated the importance and training of teachers, Dr. Ikpeazu set a standard by being the first in the history of Abia State to introduce a structured retraining of teachers by engaging foreign education service providers, and by so doing, facilitated a training programme that in relative terms, can be compared with the best obtained anywhere. The seeds of this investment are not for today, but would no doubt, bear significantly on the future of the state. Under his stewardship, the enrollment in public schools has improved from 142,000 in 2015 to over 650,000 in 2022. This result is against the backdrop of incentives such as the school feeding programme which his administration championed as a first in the history of the state.

After the intervention of the federal government through its Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, Abia State was the first in the South East where pupils from Primary 1 – 6 were being fed in school. It was his administration’s initiative to launch the Education For Employment (E4E) programme in all three senatorial districts of the state, designed to improve the availability of mid-level skilled manpower to drive the industrial ambitions of the state. Again, with respect to results in international examinations, it is no fluke that Abia state students, for four consecutive years, ranked first in West African School Certificate Examinations.

Before we are often disposed to thinking of governance in terms of brick and mortar, one is tempted to add that Dr. Ikpeazu has contributed significantly in this respect with the more than 600 blocks of classrooms and four new model schools in the state. Tertiary education, under his leadership, wears a new face. Perhaps, for a man of academic excellence and with a PhD, one cannot be surprised. Under his stewardship, the ranking of Abia State University, moved up to second position among state-owned tertiary institutions, and to 26th position in the ranking of all universities in Nigeria. In a strategic effort to deepen value, the governor established the Umuahia campus of the university, while the Osisioma campus, which will house the faculty of engineering, would be commissioned before the end of his tenure.

It is important to add that the Umuobiakwa-Obingwa permanent site of the School of Health Sciences and Management Technology, is ready for commissioning. With respect to providing international exposure to Abians, it should be noted that Dr. Ikpeazu is the first Governor of Abia State to sponsor students on foreign scholarships. 30 of these enterprising young people are currently in Australia and India. It is a major highlight that in order to bolster the economic and industrial drive in the state, the governor sponsored 30 young Abians to understudy automated shoe-making in China. The establishment of the Enyimba Automated Shoe Company, Aba, as a consequence of investment in those young Abians, is to his credit.

The governor’s achievements in office speak to a record of firsts in various sectors of the state. In the agriculture sector, for example, his administration initiated and developed the Abia Poultry Cluster in Nsulu, Isiala Ngwa North LGA – the first in the history of the state. It is also in the administration that the state witnessed the establishment of the Abia SME Bank, which was established to allow the state’s small and medium scale enterprises easy access to credit to grow their businesses. With the same zeal, he also established the Abia Investment House – another first in the history of the state – to improve the ease of doing business. He drove the initiative to digitise the operations of the Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State (BCA) through the deployment of modern broadcast equipment, and also connected the station to the national grid – a feat that has never happened in the state.

In the drive to improve the business environment, it must be on record that for the first time in more than 40 years, the Ariaria International Market is wearing a new face with good roads, drainages and culverts to channel water. Under his stewardship so far, more than 156 road projects have been completed.

It is on record that the overall security situation in the state was significantly improved during his administration. In this connection, his administration created the first-ever crime prevention and monitoring centre in Abia State. He also embarked on the project to light up the streets of Aba, Umuahia and other semi-urban areas in order to boost the nightlife of the state, as well as improve security. His is also the first administration to traffic lights across the major cities of the state with cameras for remote monitoring. 

In the health sector, he also recorded a series of firsts such as: the establishment of the Abia State Children’s Specialist Hospital, Umuahia, the Abia Telehealth facility which connects the over 292 primary healthcare centres in the state with secondary medicare resources.

Someone once said ‘the biggest challenge after success is shutting up about it.’  In today’s Nigeria, it is even more of a rarity considering the extra privileges mundane or otherwise that come with being considered one of the high and mighty yet Okezie Ikpeazu prefers to quietly impact humanity. After all, as another famous person said: Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *