By Brown Chimezie
Ichie Emeka Okpara, Onwa Isuochi is gradually becoming a household name in Abia State and in fact the entire South East, thanks to Ihe Abia, the grassroots organization he floated to impact on the lives of youths and the masses of the region. Daily Sun caught up with Okpara who will be 45 on April 20, 2021 and he spoke about governance in Abia State and sundry issues.
You have recently been identified with Ihe-Abia organization in many public fora, what is Ihe Abia all about?
Ihe Abia organization which I currently serve as the Director General is a socio-political organization which advocates good governance, peace, unity, equality, justice freedom and progress of every Nigerian citizen especially in Abia State. It is an organization that works to increase participation of the grassroots in political activities and erase apathy by organizing political symposia where top notch and highly respected politicians are invited to educate the people on how to move the country forward through participation. Beyond advocacy and mass mobilization, Ihe Abia empowers youths and the less-privileged in the society to become self-sustaining and in the process make them unavailable to those elements that could take advantage of their economic situations to recruit them into political brigandage and in the process derail the gains we have made so far in our hard won democracy.
As the Director General of Ihe Abia, tell us in details what it has done since its formation and what are the expectations for the future?
Ihe Abia is barely one year old but we have made impacts by organizing political symposium within our catchment area. We are currently sponsoring some youths in their local football tournament just to foster peace and unity, we have empowered a lot of indigent people, we have sponsored individuals to achieve their dreams, we have some young people in our scholarship scheme, etc, and we are hoping to do more by God’s grace. The future is so bright and we are very confident about it. We hope in the future to affect the lives of ordinary Nigerians, become a route through which ‘something fresh’ would happen to their lives.
How do you assess the performance of the present and previous regimes in Abia State especially as they concern development in infrastructure and human capital?
I am not the one to score their performance; the citizens are, but I have to lend my voice too. When you compare the development especially in infrastructure and human capital development in the state with other states, you will agree with me that Abia State has a lot to catch up with as a state especially now the world has gone global. When you visit Abia State, you’ll notice a lot of decay, dilapidated infrastructure and the less concerned attitude of our political leaders in the state is quite evident. Once they are okay, to hell with an ordinary man; which ought not to be so. There’s a maxim that says, “One cannot give what one doesn’t have”. The previous regimes did their best by their own standards, but in truth, their best is not good enough because there’s much room for improvement.
What are the things you expect should have been done differently in Abia State?
Abia is known as God’s Own State, blessed with intelligent people. We have the best brains in any field you can think of in the world. But the state itself doesn’t measure up with the speed of development expected from our political leaders; what a paradox? What should be done differently is to create an enabling environment for young people to thrive, develop infrastructure in the state, create jobs, fix our hospitals, schools and roads, pay salaries and pensions, and make life easier for the common man. Do you know that the latent capacity of Aba alone, if harnessed and properly managed can change the entire state? Look at Abia State today, it seems like we are in stagnation when it comes to infrastructural development, while we have the capacity to be if not the best state in Africa, but we are not told the truth. I want to see Aba become the Taiwan of Africa, an Aba where the talents of the young people are allowed to blossom, unfettered by the unavailability of critical infrastructure like roads, power, and funds.
Let’s talk about the Igbo nation. Ndi Igbo have been clamouring to produce Nigeria’s President come 2023, do you support the idea and are you ready to work for the realization of that ambition?
I support the idea 100 per cent and I’m working with other South East stakeholders to ensure that that ambition is realized come 2023. The demand for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction is not an extravagant demand. It’s an idea whose time has come. Every other zone in the country has produced a president except the South East. If we want to treat every section with justice and fairness, then it’s the turn of the South East to produce the next president.
Some people believe that the agitation for Biafra is as a result of marginalization of the Igbo nation, what are your thoughts about that?
Well, the issue of Biafra has lingered so much and the Federal Government should as a matter of urgency address the agitation before it turns into something that one can’t control any more. When someone sustains a wound, what you do is to administer a first aid and then take the person to where he can receive an appropriate medical treatment, but if allowed with the wound without any attention, it can bleed to cause pains, even death. That is the allegory of Biafra. Biafra is bleeding and the wounds should be given attention, addressed and not threatened.
There are myriads of security challenges facing the South East and other parts of the country, what in your opinion is the solution to the challenges?
Currently, the entire nation is having security challenges and not just the South East. The issue that causes the myriad of security challenges need to be addressed by the appropriate authourity, and they know what to do rather than politicizing them.
Are we going to hear anything about your ambition for any elective post anytime soon?
Everybody is a political animal; everybody has one ambition or the other. For now, I’m putting myself in check but events in the near future would determine any position I’ll take and believe me, if it happens that I would take a shot at any post, you’ll be one of the first people to know about that.
What advice do you have for the present crop of leaders in Abia State and Nigeria?
Let them practise inclusive governance. Once everyone is carried along in their day to day government activities and salaries paid as at when due to civil servants, infrastructure developed, Abia State will become better again and the same goes for Nigeria.