Two Faces of Leadership: Ikpeazu v Umahi

* Umahi and Ikpeazu, r

By Tony Icheku

MY  last article on misadventures of Abia's clueless governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, titled: ''...'' provoked one of his attack dogs. ''You are a paid hack, an APC apologist, Otti's propagandist.  Your views are jaundiced, partisan and of no substance....'', he came snarling at me.  For him, am writing this piece. It compares and constrasts few actions/inactions in Abia's failed leadership,  and Ebonyi's result oriented governor.

It is a fact that political observers in measuring capacity and capabilities of current governors, mark up Gov Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State as a quentessiential model of pragmatic political leadership. Comparing Abia to Ebonyi invokes an absurdity of sorts. In terms of socio-economic potentials,  Abia's collosus-like  dominance  dwarfs  Ebonyi in all respects. What could possibly make bronze start to sparkle brighter than gold?  Leadership.

In Ebonyi, Umahi came to work with admirable messianic zeal and mission, whereas Abia grapples with a visionless and befuddled leadership. The Bible beautifully captures it thus: ''When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked rule, the people mourn''... Are Abians not mourning? see picture.

Indeed, leaders rise powered by the strength of vision as Gov  Umahi typifies in Ebonyi; Or fail enfeebled by the paucity of vision as seen in Gov Ikpeazu. Its simple, vision magnetise and power iconic leaders, while self-aggrandisement and self-absorption create  inept  leadership. Thus, Nigeria, nay Abia totters on the precipice today, because men who  see no farther than their nose and equally bent on self-aggrandisement have risen to power.

For Ikpeazu, the stage was laid to catapult him to a hero, but there was neither vision nor will for him to sieze the moment. Sad.  Abia's comparative advantage  in the Textile, Apparel and Footwear sub-sector of Nigerian economy offered him a low hanging fruit. Availability of cow leather in the North, availability of petroleum products in nearby South-South states,  Aba's unique geographical location, abundant pool of skilled human resources plus a vision-driven leadership could have allotted to Abia a lion share of this sub-sector's estimated N2.2 trillion. It is an MSME sub-sector which Ikpeazu claims as part of his 5-point agenda. How did he fare here?

Two years ago, we heard of $1.8 billion investment coming from China. Later 30 shoemakers were taken to China for training. What happened after?

 Worldwide trade in footwear is estimated at $371.8 billion by 2020, and the sub-sector is still labour intensive. Vietnam presently exports shoes valued at $13 billion to the USA and Europe. In terms of job creation and revenue earnings, it was a ripe field for Abia.

We must ask Gov Ikpeazu why we should sit by the river bank and continue washing our hands with spittle.

In Ebonyi, Abakiliki rice witnessed a major resurgence with the coming of Umahi to office. From 120 metric tons of rice processed daily, output today stands at 180 metric tons, and still rising

How does Ikpeazu and Umahi reflect two sides of the leadership coin? Both were sworn in as governors in 2015. Ikpeazu promptly took to revelry and  banqueting.  Philandering has also been widely reportedly as the norm in Government House under him. Not only did Ikpeazu  thumb his nose at his Ngwa people's  hopes and expectations, he equally shut his ears and eyes to Aba's  zero road network, plus its decaying and collapsing infrastructral provisions.

Umahi on the other hand, inheriting a poor, agrarian state took several radical revolutionary steps which within fours years transformed Ebonyi into a model of possibilities even with minimal resources.

Lets get to specifics, Is it not a wonder that Abia claims number one in education, yet, its only College of Education, Arochukwu  twinkles on and off like a wind blown candlelight, with its staff owed over 15 months salary arrears.  Ebonyi, bottom of the educational ladder has had its College of Education  upgraded to a degree awarding insitution. Abia Poly owes staff 13 months salary arrears, ABSU 12 months and College of Health Technology, 13 months.

Ebonyi's rustic capital, Abakiliki is on 24 hours refuse survelliance and evacuation; And Umahi is constructing the largest waste recycling plant in Nigeria that would create over 3,000 skilled and unskilled jobs.

On the other hand, Abia's rapidily growing capital, Umuahia and its sprawling commercial city Aba are nearly drowned by refuse dumps.

One could go on and on. Yet pro-Ikpeazu apologists would berate critics as being overly harsh and partisan. ''Gov Ikpeazu's transformative vision is on course, take the Enyimba Economic City he is building....''

Ikpeazu's wobbly performance in office so far lends no credence to the arguement that he could deliver anything tangible to Abians before his 2023 exit. Lets go specific again: In his first term, Gov Ikpeazu awarded contract for the reconstruction of 4.8km Faulks Road, plus rehabilitaiion and expansion of Ifeobara Pond to check flooding. The contract was awarded at N6.9bn, and N4.5bn has been paid to the contractors. Almost three years later, that contract is yet to be delivered

Another project is the Ossisioma flyover valued at N5bn and conceptualised to check the perennial traffic jam on that junction.  80% of the contract sum has been reportedly paid, but over two years later, the project has been abandoned.  The road network in Aba today remains still,  a total eyesore prompting a protest march by some residents recently.

Gov Umahi on the other hand, within three years into his first tenure renewed interest in the Abakiliki Capital Territory Masterplan resulting in having all the internal road network either reconstructed,  recoated with asphalt or outrightly constructed with rigid pavement with the capacity to last for half a century. He delivered to Ebonyi people amongst others, the 23.7km Hilltop-Nwofe Road with rigid concrete pavement; 18.5km Nkwegu-Ndufu Echara with a combination of rigid concrete pavement and asphalt;  the 25 span International Market flyover. The list goes on and on.

Thus far, how does both weigh in the scale? Ikpeazu is the face of the typical officer who has been promoted to the level of his incompetence. He is an absentee leader: A leader that is  so only  in title, but psychologically absent from the leadership role. He enjoys the rewards and privileges of leadership, soaking in value, but providing none

On Umahi are imprints of pragmatism, focus, a realist who sits at the helm of the boat, not necesssarily with his oar in the water, but advancing towards his grand vision nonetheless.

Under Ikpeazu, the standard of living in Abia continues retrogressing, even as the misery index rises, but as Chidi Ajaegbu, former President of Institute of Chartered Accountans of Nigeria, ICAN noted Gov Ikpeazu can still rise to the game with a burst of purposefulness. It is still his game.

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