Ikpeazu: Combining Physical and Stomach Infrastructure.
By Godwin Adindu
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State may have drawn from recent history to drive the two concepts of physical infrastructure and stomach infrastructure simultaneously. He is running on the two lanes;building the badly dilapidated roads of Abia and particularly renewing the city of Aba and at the same time building human capacity by attending to the peopleâ€™s immediate needs. Two of his pet projects â€“ the Friends of Abia Schools Adoption Initiative (FASAI) and Feeding of School Pupils obviously fall in the line of stomach infrastructure.
Indeed, until Governor Ayodele Fasose of Ekiti State popularized the concept of stomach infrastructure and drove on that plank to oust an incumbent governor out of power, Nigerians never knew the dangers ofignoring the concept and the inherent power and goodwill derivable from the practice for a leader. It is today a proven theory that upholding the practice of stomach infrastructure must be an essential character of a political leader and political leadership in Nigerian of today. It has since entered into our political books that the victory of Fayose over the incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi in the June 21 , 2014, was the vindication of the wisdom in Stomach Infrastructure.
The lesson that emerged thereafter from the Ekiti scenario was that, for effective and impactful political leadership, both physical and stomach infrastructure must be given due consideration by any leader who wants to remain a legend in the hearts of the citizenry. The two are meaningful goals of democracy and therefore none must be emphasized above the order. The two must run concurrently. Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu got this message, loud and clear.
What then is physical infrastructure as against stomachinfrastructure? Physical infrastructure relates to thebuilding of physical projects â€“ roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, monumental buildings, etc. Today, Ikpeazu is constructing forty-five Roads and two bridges in Abia and these cut across the three geopolitical zones of the state. It is no more news, also, that he is constructing four roads in Aba with cement technology or what experts call, rigid pavement technology thereby blazing a trail as far as this technology is concerned in Nigeria. This is because apart from the airport tarmacs and factory platforms where big engines and machines are installed, cement technology is not yet a common experience in Nigeria, especially in road construction. He is daring the nationwide economic crunch to execute this high cost intensive project at this straightened time.
On the contrary, stomach infrastructure looks down to the peopleâ€™s immediate needs: empowerment programme for unemployed youths and widows; maintenance assistance to the aged; health foundation to assist the poor; agric facilities for the rural poor farmers; skill acquizition centres for poor unskilled men and women; loan grants to enable them take off in little measure; direct food relief to the poorest of the poor; borehole in rural communities to solve water scarcity problems; establishment of small-scale cottage industries in the villages where the rural community can work and also acquire experience on how to produce minor things and many more.
Indeed, it is from this perspective that Governor has launched his pet project of Feeding School Pupils in 170 primary schools in the state, three times a week. Under the Universal Basic Education Provisions, the governor is driving a pilot arrangement of feeding primary school pupils three in ten schools in the 17 local councils of the state. The pupils are to be feed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This action will have to be executed in schools in the rural areas with high indigent population. The target public are the poorest of the poor, pupils from indigent homes who study under very unhealthy situations. The governor wants to create an enabling environment for them and share his little milk of human kindness.
Also, as part of his 51st birthday celebration, the governor also launched the school adoption initiative and invited the friends of Abia to come and rediscover their roots and give back to the communities that made them by adopting indigent pupils and volunteering to renovate the dilapidated structures of the schools. This project is a novel idea which is a bit different from government tradition of renovating and equipping primary schools in rural, urban and semi urban areas. The approach is to identify the worst primary schools in each of the local councils and give them a face lift with the hope that when the worst of these schools are upgraded, the effect on the entire primary school system will be enormous.
The governor regretted that the primary schools which form the base of the entire school system have long been neglectted for long due to a number of factors, which include lack of Old Boys Association, Parents Teachers Association etc. He noted that pupils in these schools are exposed to extreme weather conditions including seating on bare floors. Thus, the aim is to use the project to turn around the poorest primary schools across the state. The project is designed to give hope to pupils from poor schools by getting well-to-do individuals within and outside the state to adopt such schools and in the process enhance their fortunes and by extension the intellectual horizon of the benefiting pupils. Most of the influential members of the public are products of these schools which in their heydays were glorious institutions. Ikpeazuâ€™s motive in this project is to provide an opportunity for these notable citizens to give back to the society, in this case, the schools that produced them.
In the same vein, the governor also announced a N20 thousand Naira monthly stipend for the first 125 intakes of the newly commissioned Skill Acquizition Centre built by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) at Otueke in Ugwunagbo Local Council of the state. His wife is also running another pet project, Vicar Hope Foundation, through which she is attending to the immediate needs of widows, the handicapped and the and less priviledge in the society.
Stomach infrastructure, indeed, is a moral suasion which is about giving governance a human face. It is about understanding the bottom-top, gradual approaches in developmental strides. It is about carrying everybody along, everyone in his own pace. By identifying the need for a convergence between physical and stomach infrastructure in Abia State,Governor Ikpeazu is interspersing power with remorse. Remember Shakespeare? â€œThe abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.â€
Adindu is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor.