Ikpeazu: ‘Bakin Zuwo’ Of The East


Okezie Ikpeazu image via The Guardian

UMUAHIA, ABIA (THE GUARDIAN)--Governor Victor Okezie Ikpeazu, has been trending on social media for some time now. The record shows that the governor, who until March 2014, was in charge of sanitation and urban planning in Abia, holds a doctorate in Biochemical Pharmacology from the University of Calabar.

But, before the doctorate, Ikpeazu graduated from the University of Maiduguri, where he studied Clinical Biochemistry in 1984. He was in love with Maiduguri because it was reported that he went back to the university for his Master of Science (M.Sc) degree in Biochemical Toxicology in 1990.

For the length of time he spent in Maiduguri, especially in his formative years, Ikpeazu qualifies to be called, Aboki na (my friend, in Hausa tongue), because apart from his days in UNICAL for his doctorate, and during his youth service programme at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), the North got the better of youth.

From the foregoing, it could be rightly said that the governor of Abia State is a learned man. He is not an itibolibo (numskull).

However, as he trended on various media platforms for the greater part of the last two months, the 57-year-old was made up as a reincarnation of a former Kano State governor, Aliyu Sabo Bakin Zuwo, who was born 30 years before Ikpeazu was born in 1964.

Although Zuwo’s roots could be traced to the Kanem Bornu Empire in the present day Borno State, he grew up in Kano. But, there is nothing to show that Ikpeazu’s similarity with Zuwo is based on the fact that both men have had much to do with Bornu State.

Those who knew Zuwo could attest to the fact that there is a slight facial resemblance between him and Ikpeazu. However, while Zuwo did not have any formal education until age 16 when he decided to help himself, Ikpeazu reached the apogee of academic work, having attained a doctorate.

Nonetheless, another striking resemblance between Zuwo and Ikpeazu is both men’s love for radio and television. It is on record that to defeat the charismatic Abubakar Rimi in the 1983 governorship election in Kano, Zuwo made effective use of the radio as a campaign tool.

On the part of Governor Ikpeazu, two spectacular video clips, which made the rounds as his name trended, were excerpts from his participation in two programmes on Channels Television.

One was when he featured on Seun Okinbaloye’s Politics Today, while the other was a Day Break interaction with Maupe Ogun-Yusuf.

In the conversation with Okinbaloye, when told that a lot of people have complained that his government has failed to deliver the goods in the last six years, especially in Aba, Governor Ikpeazu queried: “Who said Aba is not working? Today in Aba, you have Dominos, Chicken Republic, er er er Market Place (Supermarket). You have everything in Aba, you even have a cinema in Aba!”

Those who know Kano State from October 1, 1983, would remember how closely Ikpeazu sounded like the then Governor Zuwo, who listed Mirinda, Fanta and Coke as some of the mineral deposits in his state.

Maybe Ikpeazu is saving Abia State’s money in the Government House, just as Zuwo claimed when his administration was toppled by the military junta on December 31, 1983, when N3.4m was discovered in his lodge. That also came to mind when Ogun-Yusuf took Ikpeazu up on the issue of maternal care in Abia State.

Governor Ikpeazu stated, to the amusement of Nigerians, that his administration gives N500 to nursing mothers immediately after their safe delivery, in addition to backpacks, which contents he did not disclose.

Ever since his serial appearances on national television, most commentators have been wondering how Ikpeazu, with his doctorate degree, differs from Bakin Zuwo, who struggled in his adolescent years to acquire western education.

It should be noted that before his being drafted into politics by his benefactor, Chief Theodore. A. Orji, Ikpeazu lectured in some tertiary institutions. But, it is as if his stay in Maiduguri did not avail him the opportunity to know much about his state.

However, some Abia State indigenes insist that nobody should blame Ikpeazu, but the political circumstances that threw him up as an accidental leader. They alleged that the offices he has occupied in public service, that is, after leaving the classroom may have affected his comportment and governance style.

The Guardian learnt that Ikpeazu was local government chairman of Obingwa Local Council from 2007 through 2009, from where he went on to become General Manager, Abia State Passenger Integrated Manifest Scheme (ASPIMS) from 2010 to May 29, 2011.

Senator Orji perhaps knew that Ikpeazu would succeed him as governor upon the completion of his tenure. That perhaps explained why the former governor appointed Ikpeazu as Chairman, Governing Council of Abia State College of Health Technology. From there, he served as the first Deputy General Manager of the state Environmental Protection Agency, from May 5, 2013 to October 10, 2014.

While some supporters of Governor Ikpeazu still allege that former governor Orji and his allies do not allow Ikpeazu the freedom to exhibit his governance style, many worried indigenes of the state citizens insist that just as success does not demand an explanation, failure should not admit alibis.

Ikpeazu’s efforts at promoting made-in-Aba products helped him to win a second term in office, but Aba people, especially those from Oha Ngwa said they are troubled that their brother is yet to truly deliver the goods as governor.

Without talking about the backlog of pension and salary arrears, Ngwa people point to the governor’s failure to do the following roads in Aba as evidence of absentee leadership: Port Court Road, Obohia, Ohanku, Ngwa, Azikiwe, East By Ngwa and Faulks Roads.

As if the complaints of his people were not enough facts to contradict Ikpeazu’s offering on Channels Television, his former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of the state, Ume Kalu (SAN) penned, what he titled, “State of Abia: Wake Up Call on Okezie Ikpeazu (Part 1).”

Part of the 13-page epistle read: “I have been under intense pressure to share my thoughts with you on the real and general public perception of the poor state of affairs in our state, and, possibly proffer solutions towards ameliorating the situation.

“I am aware that most of the sordid and unfavourable things trending in public discourse about our state do not get to your knowledge, as those whose duty it is to draw your attention to them will, for fear or inability to handle the backlash, keep that information away from you…

“Since I left office as Attorney – General of our state in May 2019, I have variously been confronted in both private and public, with the poor and pitiable state of affairs in our state. Attempts to put up some defence often fail as I come out of the exercise looking stupid due to want of justification for the parlous/pitiable state of affairs in our state.

“As one who had been in government before your emergence as Governor in May 2015, I can attest to the fact that you inherited a state that was in distress and dire need of emergency attention.

“Those who are objective and truthful know too well that you did not originate the prevalent rot, but accepted it gleefully, and, instead of halting the drift, you have sustained it. This in a nutshell is the true state of affairs in our state at the moment.

“The rain started to beat us torrentially somewhere within the eight (8) years of your immediate predecessor’s tenure. Each time I ponder over your reluctance and/or refusal to make the expected positive impact on the governance of our state.”

Apart from verbal reproofs, infrastructure developments in their two neighbouring states –Ebonyi and Rivers-continue to challenge Abians to ask, in the voice of Mr. Peter Obi: “Are we cursed or are we the cause?”

Governor Nyesom Wike, in what many considered as poetic irony, invited Ikpeazu to Port Harcourt to commission a portion of that strategic road that connects Rivers to Abia State.

Also, while explaining the cost of many flyover bridges he constructed in Ebonyi State, Governor Dave Umahi stated that it was fair enough to spend N1.2b on each compared to the humongous N4b that some states post as cost of never-ending projects of similar magnitude.

Legendary Igbo Ogene music exponent, the late Oliver De Coque, in one of his songs noted that it is that which a man desires that he asks God. So, for those who blame Ikpeazu for mentioning the siting of Domino Pizza and cinema as part of his government’s achievement, how would you know if those are his signature projects? After all, Abia State is God’s Own State, and everything is vanity upon vanity.