Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, last Saturday returned from his trip to the United States and Canada in pursuit of the good of his state. In this interview in Umuahia, he disclosed that Abia would be receiving assistance from Georgia, Atlanta on poultry farming as well as medical equipments for the state’s primary health care. Excerpts:
For some time, you have been outside the state, was your journey of any benefit to the state?
I had the privilege of attending the convention of Ndi Abia in USA and Canada and it was an opportunity for us to give them a rundown of what we have done so far in the state and also present an overview of our economic agenda going forward. I am a firm believer of the concept that even at the desired foreign investment, the best place to start is to urge or persuade Ndi Abia in Diaspora to show faith in their state by returning some of their investments to their state. Investment could be by way of cash. It could also by way of repatriating expertise and I told them clearly that for now, the first place to start is to ask your people to show faith. It is only when they do that then that they can convince the Europeans and Americans to come out. But if you continue to complain that you want them to come, they will ask you just a simple question, “Why haven’t you been able to go home and join your people in the development of your state?” So that particular effort to my mind touched their conscience and yielded what I called ‘positive fruits’, especially in the health sector where we were able to make a contact that will supply us with medical equipment for the reactivation of our healthcare delivery system starting from the primary health care units.
You may not know that an Abia today is one of the best Organ Transplant Surgeons in the USA. We also have an Abian that is a cardiologist that is doing the open heart surgery. All these people have agreed to come back. We are also expecting collaboration between Abia and state of Georgia, Atlanta in terms of agriculture, especially in the area of Green House farming and poultry because Atlanta is the poultry headquarters of the world. Soon, we will be unveiling our initiative in terms of poultry farming which we think that the technology and expertise of the Americans will be brought to bear on area. So I am now satisfied that between now and the next three months, we will begin to see the fruits of this our current visit.
While you were away, you submitted 20 names to the state house of assembly as commissioner nominees. What was the criteria used in selecting the people you are going to work with?
The names of the commissioner nominees are open and if you look at their profile, it will be clear that our direction is to make sure that we try to bring people that have vast experience in the various fields of endeavours, professionals to come and help us drive our vision for Abia going forward. The other parameter which I think is key is also to make sure that men and women of integrity, of impeccable character, those that will continue in our reform to make sure that we cut down wastages, to save cost and also to lead out in the area of prudent management of scare resources and trying to achieve maximum benefit for the people of Abia using the scarce resources as much as we can. Of course, there is no gainsaying the fact that we will not tolerate corruption or the commissioner that cut corners. That era is gone. We are going to make sure that we focus on those people of high moral standard. That is what we are trying to do.
While away, Abians commended you on the way you handled the bailout fund. What will be your advice to workers in the state?
My advice to the workers is that the story in Nigeria, not only in Abia today is that we spend 80% or more of our resources on recurrent expenditure. What it means is that 80% of what we get we spend on recurrent expenditures, pay salaries and overheads and then we are left with less than 20% to do infrastructural development and then as long as that ratio remains the way it is, we may not be in a position to develop at the speed we intend to. Having said that, to whom much is given, much is expected. I expect the workers to reciprocate by reducing the time they spend in frivolities and focus on their work. I really want them to search their conscience every day to see if they have earned an honest day pay and also pledge that I will continue to pay them regularly and make sure that salary will not go into arrears any more. (Daily Times)