Ikpeazu’s Signs in the LGA Elections
By Godwin Adindu
In the picture of the ongoing local government elections in Abia State are the signs of the times. But, not many are able to discern the signs. Not many are able to interpret the writing on the wall. For many, the ongoing local government elections are just an exercise meant to produce the next set of Local Government executive structure with chairmen, deputies and councilors. Yes! But, there is more to it. There is a premeditated angle to the profile of the candidates. There is a deliberate and conscious effort to shift the paradigm. Majority of them are youths.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu as the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia State is working with the party to drive a new narrative. He is obviously and deliberately responding to the times, responding to the new national agenda as being set by the youths. The nation-wide, #ENDSARS# protest that grounded the nation a couple of weeks ago is the accumulation of bottled-up frustrations of the youth segment of the country. The #ENDSARS# was what was needed for the grievances to explode. So in this season of Youth O’clock, Governor Ikpeazu has risen to the occasion with so many mechanisms for harnessing youthful energy and advancing his youth engagement initiatives. “Our Governor drives a policy thrust that engages the youth in human capital development and skill acquisition. So we are also following his directives to integrate this into the political arena by encouraging youths to participate in all strata of the election, through the councillorship and chairmanship elections. We are also going to reflect this during the national elections,” declared Allwell Asiforo Okere, State Chairman of the PDP in Abia.
Governor Ikpeazu’s government is youth-centered. Right from inception, he has run an inclusive government that has involved youths in leadership. Sixty percent of his cabinet has been drawn from the youth. The 2016 LGA elections had a great number of youths in leadership. “The Governor is also reflecting the youth engagement policy in his appointments. Most of his Advisers and Aides are youths below the age of 40 and 30. The youth are the future of the country and there is no way they can take over if they are not engaged to acquire experience. So what the PDP and the Governor are doing is a sort of leadership training, a process of leadership experience,” affirmed Okere.
Today, the 293 councilors from the seventeen local government areas of the state are mostly youths. Out of the seventeen chairmen, twelve are youths. Out of the seventeen deputy chairmen, 12 are also youths. Chairman of Aba North, Ikonne Chimehilura, was born on April 24, 1985. He is just 35 years. Emmanuel Clinton Ebere for Aba South is 41 years, ditto for Ibe Micheal Nwoke of Obingwa. The deputy chairman for Ikwuano, Cokey Lordson was born on September 30, 1986. He is 34 years. A strong #ENDSARS# campaigner who protested vigorously through the streets of Abia emerged as the Deputy Chairman for Umunneochie. He is Eze Chikamnayo Jubilee. Abia PDP also gave a chance to a young blogger, Promise Uzoma Okoror, to serve as the deputy chairman for Bende.
There are one woman chairman and four women deputies –Joy Nnata, chairman for Ugwunagbo, Joy Iwuchukwu, deputy Chairman for Aba North, Lady Mercy Adanma Umesi, Umuahia South, Peace Nwaobilor, Aba South and Uloma Nwaogu for Obingwa.
For Barrister David Iro, Secretary of the State PDP in Abia, the incorporation of the youths in the local government leadership is the strategy of the Governor and the party to expose Abia youths to political leadership. He said the party considered it necessary to change the narrative of parading the old horses at all times in election. “So Abia PDP took it upon itself to campaign within the youths to encourage them and eventually they responded. Today, 85 percent of the candidates are youths. Our party is happy that youths are coming out and participating in politics,” he said.
From inception, the challenge of harnessing the talent of the Abia Youths has remained a major preoccupation of the Governor. In the first 100 days of his administration in 2015, he launched the Youth for Agriculture Programme which saw 40 youths trained at the Songhai Farms in Porto-Novo, Republic of Benin. It was a train-the-trainer initiative in the entire agricultural value-chain. Within the 100 days also, he launched the Made in Aba Promotion Campaign aimed at developing and projecting the creative talent of the Aba artisans and also embarked on the aggressive promotion of their products.
The Homeland Security Ministry was created with the aim of engaging the youths. The 300 security guards in the ministry are drawn from the youths. The Governor also established the the Education for Employment (E4E) programme with the youths in mind. The 3,400 youths on the data base of the Agency are all Abia youths. His government has also made efforts to link Abia youths to the Federal Government social investment programme. The government has also executed many skill acquisition programme for the youths. All the staff and workers employed by TIMASS are all youths.
Governor Ikpeazu has deployed both the 2016 LGA elections and the current election as a strategy to further embrace the youth. He is, perhaps, setting the agenda for the country that youth inclusion is the necessary panacea for youth restiveness in the country.
Adindu is the Director-General of the Abia State Orientation Agency (ABSOA)
To be continued.