Ikpeazu; The Story Of A Street Sweeper
“He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifted up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes and to make them inherit the throne of glory.” Samuel, Chapter 2: 8
The story of the gubernatorial flag-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, is a very unusual story. Call it the fulfillment of the holy book. Thousands of years after the bible was inspired and written, one Ngwa man of humble parentage, is marching from the dust and dunghill of Aba to a life of chivalry and ceremony, to the majestic heights of power as the number one citizen of the state. No one is going to stop him.
Ikpeazu is indeed a classical story of trails and triumph. Still, more importantly, he is an inspiring exemplar of the certainty of destiny. His is a story of two extremes and two irreconcilable poles – the story of an egghead academic romancing with the putrefying dirt and waste of a congested city. If this story excites a scriptwriter and he goes on to create a movie out it, he would surely face the mental challenge of reconciling the personality portrait of the erudite scholar of the academia who traverses several bureaucratic roles to end as a street sweeper and waste evacuator and yet acts well his parts perfectly well. The story of the academic gown and the man of the ivory tower scavenging in the wasteland of a city dunghill and yet gains a recognition that has turned him into an iconoclast.
But, again, the real test of the power of creativity of the scriptwriter would lie not in the unity of the plots and the episodes but in his ability to capture the man's extraordinary capacity to blend with each of the roles. For Okezie has been an exceptional performer whether as a student, university lecturer, Transition Chairman, manager of ASPMISS, Chairman of Council of School of Health and finally as the street sweeper of a sprawling city. Can the scriptwriter indeed capture the humility of the egghead and the erudite scholar who did not only conform to the job of street sweeping but did it with consummate passion? Will he capture the consistent nature of dedication to service and sense of purpose as exemplified by Ikpeazu even in the stinking refuse dumps from where he is noticed and now being raised to exalted heights?
The story of Okezie Ikpeazu does not only vindicate the holy book. It truly vindicates another great icon of history, Martin Luther King Jnr, the black American civil right legend. At the wintry fields of Montgomery, Lurther spoke to mind and hearts of his fellow oppressed black Americans and to eternity: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well'”
Today, it does appear Luther was speaking to Ikpeazu personally and directly. For he did not only sweep with his heart and mind, he wrote his name in the heart of the resident of the ancient city of Aba. He imprinted his name in the sands of time and this was how the journey began.
The Ikpeazu story of dunghill to power would also vindicate one of my literary idols, the great English poet of the renaissance, Alexander Pope: “Honour and Shame from no condition rise/Act well your part/For there the honour lies”. Honour does not lie in the cosy, air-conditioned office, neither does it lie in the mountains of refuse dumps of Aba. Honour does not lie in your top and exalted position, not in the lowly trough of life either. But, in what you do with yourself, on how well you act your part – “there the honour lies.” By the way he acted in re-engineering the environmental management of Aba, Ikpeazu gained the endorsement of the Aba people and brought honour to himself. Today, he is the spiritual bearer of the people's lamp-stool. He will forever sit on the exalted platform.
To the University of Maiduguri-trained biochemist, the job of clearing the dunghill of Aba was like a clarion call to duty. “I saw it as a calling and as a challenge because the problem of dirt management in Aba seemed to have defied all solutions and it was a point of criticism against the government,” he told this writer in 2013. In the same manner, Ikpeazu also sees his victory at the party primary election as a clarion call. “There is just one way to describe the overwhelming endorsement and support from the broad spectrum of Abia State and beyond, it is a divine call by God to serve my people,” he said, yesterday. For the people, there is no other way to describe Ikpeazu's emergence as the flag-bearer of the ruling PDP than as an act of God, for he was not among the frontline aspirants.
In view of the political atmosphere of Abia as a stronghold of PDP, one can say with every certaintythat Okezie is going to move from the maintains of refuse heaps of Aba to become the number one citizen of the State. His vision/mission is to transform Abia State into a functional private sector-led economy; creating opportunities for her citizens, improving the quality of their lives and shaping the state into a regional entrepreneurship hub through good governance, appropriate developmental and environmental sustainable policies. More importantly, his commitment is to serve God and humanity.
Born in 1964 to the family of late Pa Ishmael and Deaconess Bessie Ikpeazu of Umuebere in Umuobiakwa Village in Obingwa Local Council of Abia State, Ikpeazu obtained a Ph.D in Biochemical Pharmacology from the University of Calabar. Historyconfirms that since 1925, the people of the old Aba Province, populated by the Ukwa/Ngwas have always sought for political power. It has been a protracted struggle that has taken many dimensions through time, the highpoint being the Otuonu mass movement led by Senator Abaribe. In God's own time, Ikpeazu is standing tall as a fulfillment of prophecy and a fulfillment of the holy book.
His story is a thriller; a story of dunghill to power.
Adindu is the President-general of the Abia Renaissance Movement (ARM)