From coruscating, Abia State has become nondescript. It is not profane to say that she has lost her distinctive attributes since the demise to eternity, her totemic founding father, the late premier of the eastern region, Dr Michael Okpara. No thanks to her antipathetic leaders.
Okpara had no equal. He was such an outlier that Thisday newspaper of May 17, 2008, in a report under the headline “Nigeria’s harvest of failed industries”, deservedly awarded him the epithet development.
“In the Eastern Region, Dr Michael Okpara was another great nation builder who had equally great ideas transformed into action from his palm produce earnings. The agrarian revolution saw the building of farm settlements across towns and villages. The Ulonna Farm Settlement, the Obudu Cattle Ranch and industrial villages in Port Harcourt, Aba, Enugu and Umuahia, made Eastern Nigeria a region with great promise. His idea was to route development from Port Harcourt to Enugu as one huge urban area back to back…”
Aside from the industrial revolution, Okpara was also a strong advocate of “pragmatic socialism” who championed the educational and infrastructural development of Eastern Nigeria. Sadly, these standards have plummeted under the watch of our present crop of leaders who have style but offer no substance.
Their inability to reach Okpara-esque levels made it blasphemous to mention them in the same breath as the late Okpara. However, that has ceased being the case since the emergence of Professor Greg Ibeh OFR. His impact is just as transformative as Okpara’s.
Like a cricket captain picking two spinners on a turning pitch or an extra swing bowler on a green top, Prof Greg Ibeh, from the onset, got his priorities right. From entrepreneurship to offering training in skills to over 2000 youth and scholarships to 165 undergraduates, he has no known living rival in Abia State in human capacity, community and infrastructural development.
He is not only changing the narrative in our education sector but also eliminating epistemic deficiency. His ideas gathered from years of toilsome lecturing is the catalyst for the utopian Abia State we anticipate.
“As a lecturer in Abia State University and Townsend University, I can tell you that things are not done properly. I am working with 73 federal and state universities as well as 62 polytechnics and monotechnics.
“I can tell you that 104 unity colleges are adoring my equipment and science laboratories. I have worked with Israeli partners to develop science and mathematics kits that are in use across Nigeria,” Prof Greg Ibeh said.
He added, “I was not pleased with the way our higher education was managed. But I didn’t sit down to complain. I acted. I decided to open a university to teach people how things can be improved.”
Now, pause a while and allow these words resonate through your head for some minutes. I am sure what you are fantasising is too real to be true. I am so excited. I am sure you are as well, but before your chorus of delirium, hear him further.
“To some extent, I have helped governments improve the way things are done. But there remains a lacuna. So, I decided to go into politics to show the world that good governance can be achieved. I want all Abians and Nigerians to know that we can truly have a government of the people, by the people and for the people; a government that works for the people and not just for a privileged few.
“The government is meant for the people but there is a disconnect. Good governance is possible. We can enjoy the dividends of democracy. We only need to elect the right people into the right offices, let them do their job and hold them accountable if they don’t.
“You must practice governance in a way that makes you answerable to the people. The people are the boss, not you. That is what is bringing me into governance.”
It is now clear that in Prof Greg Ibeh, we see the reincarnated Okpara. No wonder one of the prominent Abia statesmen who passed on recently, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kalu, said this about him in his last interview with me:
“After touring his facilities and taking note of his achievements, I can say that Greg Ibeh stands shoulder above his contemporaries. I do not doubt that the future is bright. There is no better exclamation to describe the transformation I saw than wow.”
Wow! I call it the true definition of “tested and trusted”. To question his competence after reading this is an ominous harbinger of how serious we are about a new Abia in 2023.
If you shoot for the moon, you’ll land among the stars, they say. Prof Greg Ibeh has done this through his robust credentials. Except for the contrarians, no right-thinking and progressive Abian will see the clamour for his emergence as a classic whiff of desperation. He ticked all the boxes to lead Abia in 2023.