Mazi Enyinnaya Appolos is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State. In this interview with CHIBUZO UKAIBE, he speaks on status of the opposition parties in the state in light of the second term endorsements enjoyed by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu ahead of 2019 governorship election.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu seems to be enjoying massive endorsements across Abia state, as his Chief Press Secretary, are these endorsements from his party and do they represent the true position of Abians?
You are very correct. The Governor is enjoying massive endorsements across the state, not just from our party-the PDP, Abia is a PDP state. So the support and endorsements asking the Governor to re-contest in 2019 is from Abians from various political and religious leaning. What Governor Ikpeazu has done so far in Abia is unheard of since the creation of Abia that is why Abians are asking for continuity. Abia for the first time since creation has seen the first flyover that will soon be completed at Osisioma junction at Aba. Since the creation of Abia, we have seen dualized Faulks Road with the perennial Ifeobara problem permanently solved. Abians are seeing the making of a 6 lane Port Harcourt road that was abandoned for more than 12 years. Why will they not ask for continuity? So the support and endorsements are real and from Abians at home and in the diaspora.
But the opposition are alluding that the endorsements were bought over by the governor and as such, they are driven by inducements. What is your take?
What do you expect from a defeated opposition? When you go round Abia on your own and interact with the people, you will draw your conclusions as to whether the endorsements are bought or not. May be I should agree with them that Governor Ikpeazu bought the endorsements with his hard work, humility, transparency and people-oriented leadership style. Abia today has a Governor that they can call their own. A Governor they can reach him when it is necessary. A Governor who lives with them in Aba and Umuahia. They see, feel and can relate with him. In fact, some people are of the opinion that Governor Ikpeazu has over simplified the office of the Governor through his humility and hard work.
Are the opposition saying that the endorsements from the people of Bende LGA were bought? Or that the endorsements from the people of Umunneochi LGA were bought? Or will they say that the endorsements by the people of Ukwa-Ngwa which makes up nine out of the 17 LGAs in the state was also bought?
The fact is that Governor Ikpeazu’s achievements in Abia has destabilised and disorganised the opposition parties in the state. They are so frustrated and disorganised that the only thing they can think of doing now is to tell lies. Again, Abians are not ready to buy or listen to their lies because Ikpeazu has opened their eyes. Those who had the opportunity to make Abia great when they served as governor and in other very highly political offices but failed to do so, what will they be telling Abians now? You can understand why Abians have constantly rejected some of them even with the endless effort to be lawmakers. Our advice to our people in the new Abia where Governor Ikpeazu is in charge is: don’t be like them. Make positive impact in any opportunity of service given to you so that more will come. So when we see failed politicians masquerading around, trying so hard to reinvent themselves by jumping from one place to another in the name of campaigning for others, we will always remind them of their past and ask them what they did with opportunities given to them in the past, whether in public service and in private sector because a lot of them have questionable integrities that no amount of image laundry can help them. Nobody should hide under President Buhari or anybody else, come to Abians with your scorecard.
If you want to get the true situation about what is happening in Abia, ask Abians on the street, as those in Ariraria market and those at various markets in Aba, whatever they tell you, verify it with what we tell you and what is on the ground, then you can draw your conclusions. But if you asked those failed opposition elements they will lie to you, and look for ways of criticizing Governor Ikpeazu. And unknown to them that they are making Ikpeazu profile more popular because they more they talk about him, they more people ask questions and they get to know about him and they things he has achieved for Abians.
What do you say to those who are concerned that opposition in the state appears to be shrinking as most key opposition figures have defected to PDP and have endorsed the governor?
The defection of key opposition leaders like Ochiagha Reagan Ufomba, Chief Damian Ozurumba, Chief Tony Onwutoebe, Chief Tony Ukasanya and many others, is an indication that there is something Governor Ikpeazu is doing very right. These were people that stood against the election of Ikpeazu in 2015, but since 2017, they have been spearheading the call for Ikpeazu to contest again in 2019. When you engage these individuals, they tell you that the only thing that attracts them to PDP is the achievements of Governor Ikpeazu. After the 2015 election, APGA had 11 out of the 24 members in the House of Assembly, but today they have only three members. Seven joined the PDP and one went to APC and PDP lost only the impeached former speaker, Martin Azubuike to APC.
Like I told you before, the achievements of Ikpeazu are attracting more members to PDP while what is left of the opposition keeps getting frustrated.
There are also claims that the governor is yet to fulfil campaign promises he made in 2015 and now he has thrown his hat into the ring for 2019. How do you react to that?
The Governor has not told anyone that he will contest again. Despite the massive calls for him to seek re election, like he said, he will respond to the calls, but he has consistently appeal to Abians to ensure they have gotten their PVCs.
If anyone says that the Governor has not fulfilled his 2015 promises to Abians, it is either the person is not in Abia, not in touch with realities in the state or the person is among the frustrated insignificant opposition elements, whose stock in trade is to tell lies always. Otherwise the question should be, what were the 2015 campaign promises of the Governor? And if anyone says he has not fulfilled the promises he made in 2015, the appropriate questions will therefore be: who took 30 Aba shoes makers to China for training in automated shoe making? Who built the Abia Investment House in Umuahia? Who built Umuola Road, Ebere Road, Ukaegbu Road, Ovom Street, Ochefu road, Weeks street, Owerenta street, Owerri road, Kamalu road, Umuatako road, Umule road, Umuehilegbu road, Umuocham road, Dr Chima Nwafo road, Omeni Drive, Adventist close, Ugwunagbo road, Ekwereazu Ngwa-Nto Edino road, Owoahiafo-Onicha Ngwa road, Umunkpeyi-Umuehim road, Umuocheala road, Egbelu Mbutu road, Abiriba Ring road, Nkporo road, Okobo bridge in Arochukwu? If you answer these questions sincerely, then you will know if Ikpeazu has fulfilled the promises of 2015 or not.
Again, who is building the first flyover in Abia at Osisioma? Who is building Port Harcourt Road after 16 years of its abandonment? Who is constructing and dualizing Faulks Road and Brass street in Aba? Who is reconstructing Aba-Owerri road? Who is reconstructing and dualizing Ururuka road? Who is rebuilding Enyimba Stadium? Who is reconstructing Aba Road in Umuahia? Who is constructing Umuode road? Who has found the permanent solution to the Ifeobara perennial flooding challenges?
He has introduced tele-health Initiative in Abia where you can dial a doctor direct from your home or office when you feel you need a Medicare. Who introduced home-care for the aged? Who introduced emergency medical service in Abia? Go and find out who did all these things I’ve mentioned. If it is Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, then you will answer whoever tells you that he has not fulfilled his 2015 promises to Abians.
In Abia of today under Ikpeazu, we don’t play politics with our development. We promised to tell our people the truth and they know we have kept our word. Ikpeazu has certainly moved Abia away from where he met her in 2015, and today Abia is on the move again.
But nonpayment of workers’ salary which seems to be a trend across the states, to what extent are Abia workers owed?
It is a trend because there seems to be a fundamental defect in the nation’s economy. Today even the private sector is finding it very hard to pay workers’ salary. As a journalist, I am aware that many of our colleagues have not been paid for years not even months. There is no justification for non-payment of salary. But to Abia workers, the story is not as bad as other states.
Apart from primary and secondary school teachers and pensioners, who have backlogs of two months for primary schools teachers and four months unpaid salary for secondary school teachers. Pensioners are above five months, workers in Abia are up to date with payment of salary.
Governor Ikpeazu is not happy about the situation, as he is doing everything to ensure that the backlog is cleared.
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