Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who is known for his persistency in the promotion of Made in Aba, has explained why he took Made in Aba campaign to New York City.
Ikpeazu in an interview with Iheanacho Nwosu of The Sun, explained that the success of the Abuja fashion show which was attended by 30 delegates sent by the American embassy amongst many other reasons, contributed to his decision to take his campaign for Made in Aba global.
While responding to the q
uestion of Why he decided to take the made-in-Aba products campaign abroad when some people feel that the government is yet to do what is expected of it in Aba to make the city a business hub, the Governor said:
”I don’t think the issue is to make Aba a business hub. Aba is a business hub naturally and nobody can dispute that. The only thing we are saddled with is to enhance the business environment, open up access, do something about security and ensure that there is steady electricity supply. One has to think about strategy. When I became governor two years ago, the greatest challenge, by my analysis, was putting made-in- Japan, made-in-Taiwan, made -in-Dubai on the articles they produced at Aba and I felt that it was a fallout of some complex; inferiority complex. So you see along the spectrum of economic development, industrialization, promotion of small and medium scale enterprises, you have issues with the manufacturers themselves and you also have issues of infrastructure.
“But the most difficult is the social issue which is the psyche of the manufacturer. It doesn’t matter what you do, if somebody is not motivated, if somebody feels he is inferior, the person will hardly be able to market his article. So we decided, strategically, to begin to carry development from two fronts: one, do something about the basic infrastructure in Aba. We have done 23 completed roads in Aba as I speak today. We are doing the first ever interchange or what they call flyover in Aba today and as I speak, fallout of our efforts in terms of the campaign for the made-in-Aba brands has attracted direct sales of about N1.3billion.
“Remember the 50,000 pairs of shoes for the military, remember our campaign to the customs, NYSC and all that; the direct impact on the Aba economy is that those shoe makers, those leather makers, those bag makers have seen an inflow of about N1.3billion directly to them. Beyond that we are building an industrial cluster which is purpose built for leather and garments.
“Once again I am excited that the federal government and almost every Nigerian today are listening. The perception about Aba today is no longer that of “a no go area”. People are better known today for their creativity and what they can do with their hands and that is the façade I crave for when it comes to our youths. I don’t want people to see our youths as criminals and bandits.
“If I want to be a little more specific or so, we have been able to bring the Vice President on two separate occasions as he launched the first MSME clinic, an interface with licensing agents, standardisation agents, all agents that are concerned with the growth and promotion of MSME in Nigeria. They came first time face to face with each other and today, the average Aba business man knows that NAFDAC should be an enabler, a promoter of business, not a stumbling block or a barricade.
“Now if I want to answer your question directly on why we decided to take this made in Aba fashion show to New York; first of all we started in Abuja, the first made in Aba fashion show was held in Abuja and on that day I remembered vividly the American embassy sent 30 delegates to come and see the kind of leather works, the kind of garments, the kind of bags that Abia people have produced and had on exhibition and it was very successful.
“Some people asked me, also that day, why not hold made in Aba fashion show in Abia state? Abuja is the melting pot that brings both the licensing agencies, the controlling agencies, the funding agencies, government, the diplomatic family and everybody together; so rather than wait for them to move to Abia as they say, let Mohammed go to the mountain and that announcement led to our seizing the opportunity of the Abia family meeting in New York where the entire Abia people in New York come annually for a convention and we decided to begin to also make that statement there.”