If you do not say I am here, nobody will say there you are. When a church wishes to expand its membership it embarks on evangelism outside its base. The essence is to find, and minister to the unconverted and convert them.
Since he became Governor of Abia State on the 29th of May 2015, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu has stridently campaigned for and promoted made in Aba brands with unparalleled vigor and focus.
It all started with his decision that all through his tenure, as Governor, he will only wear made in Aba clothes, shoes and accessories.
To date, he has kept that promise to the admiration and acknowledgement of all, by always wearing openly branded made in Aba clothes and shoes, even outside the shores of Nigeria.
In addition, he has added serving of only Abia or Ebonyi rice at Government House, and has even gone ahead to support the large scale production of local rice in Abia.
He also prioritizes the use of local construction companies to execute his much talked about "caterpillar revolution" that has delivered more than 40 roads, mostly with the innovative Rigid Pavement Technology, also known as cement road construction, at Aba.
Nationally, the focused promotion of Made In Aba brands by the Governor has attracted the attention of the Federal Government with the current Acting President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo, being one of the strongest supporters of the Governor's MSME growth initiatives. Nigerian military has long ordered for and received more than 50,000 Aba Made shoes while the National Youth Service Corps is currently considering a proposal to make all their uniforms from Aba at a much reduced cost.
Little wonder Abia State recently won the Best state in Promotion of made in Nigeria products and best state in the promotion of SME in the Businessday Newspaper States Competitiveness and Good Governance Award of 2017.
While delivering his 2017 budget address to the National Assembly in December 2016, President Muhammad Buhari noted that his administration will focus on local procurement of goods and services to support growing industrial and innovation hubs like Aba.
According to president Buhari, "...We will buy Made in Nigeria goods. We will encourage garment manufacturing and Nigerian designers, tailors and fashion retailers. We will patronize local entrepreneurs. WE WILL PROMOTE THE MANUFACTURING POWERHOUSES IN ABA..." .
Many viewed that policy statement as a direct result of the strident promotion of made in Aba brands championed by Governor Ikpeazu.
Only recently too, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said that tailors and designers in Aba make the best clothes in the world.
Ngige who equally praised shoes produced at Aba made the assertion while speaking to newsmen in his office at Abuja during the recently celebrated 60th anniversary of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) also urged the group to synergize with Aba SMEs to deliver much better results.
He said that NECA in its existence has not done well, urging them to do more by bringing other employers across Nigeria into their folds.
"Imagine there is no presence of NECA in Aba, the tailors there make the best clothes in the world. The shoe making outlets there are the best shoes producers in African continent and are owned by private owner."
After receiving the Best state in Promotion of made in Nigeria brands and best state in the promotion of SME in the Businessday Newspaper States Competitiveness and Good Governance Award 2017, Governor Ikpeazu followed up the following day by launching the made in Aba fashion show that attracted the creme de la creme of the Abuja society, including diplomats, Nollywood practitioners, government officials, entrepreneurs, professionals and the fashion conscious residents of the Federal capital city.
Since the highly successful event at Abuja, many have come to understand better the evangelistic disposition of the Governor Ikpeazu with his campaign for made in Aba products. In this wise, he considers Aba and Abia the base of the "already converted" and decided to launch out to the deep of Nigeria and the globe to further spread his message of Aba's technological and innovative ingenuity to others.
Such is the passion of the Governor to promote products made in his state that even international organizations like Ford Foundation are willing to stake a claim to the positively changing narrative of Made In Aba brands. The organization is sponsoring international media campaigns using CNN and other global media platforms to sensitize consumers of the quality brands being produced at the SME capital of Nigeria.
Speaking at the Made-in-Aba fashion show, the Executive Director/CEO, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Mr. Segun Awolowo, emphasized the need for Nigerians to patronize Aba products.
He also decried the neglect of Aba by government and commended Governor Ikpeazu for his unflinching desire to reposition Aba and products from the commercial city.
Testimony from producers of Made in Aba brands confirm the benefits of the focused promotion of the brands by the Ikpeazu led administration. One of the participants at the recent Made In Aba fashion show at Abuja, Mr Andrew Anya Etim of Shoeplanet, captured the gratitude of the participants when he stated during a TV program that his sales of Aba made shoes have grown in leaps over the past one and half years.
According to Mr Anya, "my company started buying and making Aba Made brands in 2015 and we are now making much more in volumes and profits than we made when we were importing foreign shoes and clothes. My customers are happy to buy our products which are clearly marked as "Made In Nigeria" and I must admit that we owe a lot of that to the Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu."
A foreign visitor to the Made in Aba Fashion show at Abuja was so visibly impressed by the quality of the products he saw on display and modeled by some of the best models drawn from the Aba environment that he asked his Nigerian escort to swear that "these beautiful products were actually produced in Nigeria".
In an interview with newsmen after receiving the Business Day Award, Governor Ikpeazu captured the thinking behind his administration's efforts to promote Made in Aba brands. According to him, "we want to help our local producers grow and make more profits, contribute to reduction in unemployment and add to the GDP of the nation in such a way that the country will wean itself from over-dependence on oil revenue."
If the successes recorded so far is anything to go by, it is expected that over the tenure of Governor Ikpeazu, Aba will move from the production and export of more than one million pairs of shoes weekly to become the African fashion products manufacturing hub. This notion is supported by the fact that Aba producers are supported by one of the best equipment fabrication industry in Africa that produces high quality machines and equipment to aid mechanized manufacturing.
Made in Aba is already leading at the national front, while making very strong competitive impact globally. Even those who dericively focus on the geographical location of Aba are now taking note.
When you buy and use made in Aba brands you are contributing to NIGERIA's socio-economic development.
• Appolos, is chief Press Secretary to the Governor