Abia was once a boisterous province with a cornucopia of activities and crème de la crème of society, ranking among the elite states not only in Nigeria but West Africa thanks to the totemic Ariaria International market.
Regrettably, for two decades and counting, the once celebrated bride has slid into dystopia to a deriding extremity where the stigmatising phrase “can anything good come from Abia?” is used to exemplify the dilapidation in socio-political debates.
It is very contentious if 70 per cent of Abians would proudly acknowledge their origin publicly because of the demeaning human and infrastructural deterioration. Not a single sector is devoid of the rot.
For decades, Abians have been on tenterhooks hoping against hope for a solution. There exists ecoanxity because those touted as solutions discommoded us. They dumped the state in the chasm to our consternation.
In that state of despair, however, a discrete and humble royalty is blending the nondescript features into one delicious compound just as the bee hovers from flower to flower, taking nectar from each blossom to make its mysterious, mellifluous transformation.
He is no other than Professor Gregory Ikechukwu Charles Ibeh, OFR. He is an academician, a businessman, a United Nations insider and also an expert in diplomacy. His exploits in education, entrepreneurship, health, and finance have earned him several accolades including, awards.
He is an outlier so precocious that the Federal Government engaged his services during the development of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja when his contemporaries were still playing in their birthday suits under the moonlight at village squares.
“I was transferred to Abuja at the age of 23 to build the Federal Secretariat in Garki and the formal Foreign Affairs building where the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) is,” Prof. Ibeh said.
Now, that is the best description of the word “phenomenon”. It is clearer now why Prof. Ibeh served all the Nigerian presidents. However, other of Prof. Ibeh’s expeditions will discombobulate pessimist and have optimist fantasising about the proverbial Eldorado.
He said, “I have deepened development in several places, including the town I come from. I can go to any village in Abia State and develop it into a city, and an economic area that can compete with what we have in Abuja. That is my thought.”
He added, “I came to replicate the same in my community, and I will do the same in other Abia State communities. I am committed to ensuring that everything that comes to Abia and everything that we can attract from different parts of the world, with my connection and influence, will be brought to bear to have better local governments and a better state.”
Anyways, I won’t be surprised if some naysayers see everything stated here as a mind-constructed fairy tale to pull the wool over their eyes. They are not to blame considering the deceptive demagoguery often displayed by political buccaneers to woo the electorate. However, a visit to Amaokwe Achara Uturu Autonomous Community (Prof. Ibeh’s village) will suffice.
A relatively unknown village suddenly became a cynosure in 2012 with the establishment of a world-class citadel of learning — Gregory University — that occupies over a hundred hectares of land. Under the space of eight years, the university that started with three colleges — Social and Management Sciences, Humanities and Natural and Applied Sciences — now boasts of 10 colleges including a post-graduate school.
These are colleges of pharmacy, engineering, environmental sciences, law, medicine, agriculture and education. In all, it has graduated about 200 students and currently has about 1500 undergraduates studying various disciplines.
Speaking about the sophistication of the colleges, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Augustin A. Uwakwe, said thus:
“We did not set these up for the setting up sake. We set these up with the relevant facilities needed to compete with colleges worldwide. Our College of Engineering is the best in the country. People from other engineering colleges come here for training through an agreement between TETFund and the National Universities Commission (NUC).
“Last time, we had about 45 universities come here for training. Before then, we had 195 universities that came for training in various areas of engineering. Our engineering college has several departments such as electrical, mechanical, civil, petroleum, computer and chemical engineering. We are planning to add aviation and marine. In a nutshell, our vision is to raise a generation that will alter the status quo.”
These conspicuous achievements which I will outline subsequently mean that Prof. Ibeh has no known living rival in Abia State in human capacity, community and infrastructural development. You now know the reasons for his many chieftaincy titles. The most admired is the revered “Enyi Abia” (the Elephant of Abia), the chieftaincy title that befits his giant stride in the state.
E shock you? You never read anything yet. Wait until next week. But before then, if you heard mockers use the deriding phrase “can anything good come from Abia?”, please, show them Prof. Greg Ibeh.