Alex Otti and the task of exorcising Abia of evil spirit of backwardness

by Amos Kalu

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For straight twenty four (24) years, Abia State has been badly run. The state has been under the torment of certain spirits that frustrated development as it were. It has been presided over by three managers called governors. For their collective efforts, the state today holds the unenviable record as the worst state in the South East geo-political zone and perhaps, in the entire country.

Created from the Old Imo State on August 27, 1991 by the Military Administration of General Ibrahim Babangida, its story is known across the country as a state that has refused to “grow”.
Observers have continued to accuse those who had presided over it as having plundered the state; making themselves richer as individuals than the state.

Although Abia is an oil producing state, the high level of unemployment and scandalous poverty do not bear testimony of that.

Abia has been variously described as a failed economy.

In one of his essays on Abia, Chidi Amuta, a former university don and publicist, had so decried the incompetence exhibited by past and present political leadership of the state, that he prescribed that the state should be auctioned to whosoever would want to buy and turn it around for profitability.

Before the gubernatorial election, Amuta, in his published article, ‘The moment to rescue Abia State has come,’ pointed out that “Abia is easily the most indebted stare in the federation with a debt portfolio of over N189.9billion.”

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According to him, “To citizens of the state, a tradition of irresponsible and insensitive governance may have become all too familiar and normal. The records speak for themselves. From the administration of Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu to that of Theodore Orji and the outgoing Okezie Ikpeazu, the story of Abia has been one long night of deceit, unbridled corruption and epic incompetence.”

Today, Abia is a reference point whenever Nigerians are discussing backwater states or states that have been unfortunate with leadership, just like what has happened to Nigeria over the years.

From Kalu days in Umuahia as governor to Orji and now Ikpeazu, the people of the state have continued to gnash their teeth over misrule and maladministration.

The situation has gotten so bad that to work in the state’s Civil Service is akin to slavery and to live in the state is tantamount to living in purgatory as there is absence of everything that makes life liveable.

Not too long ago, the health workers in the state were at daggers-drawn with the state government over several months of unpaid salaries.
Other categories of workers in the state are lamenting cruel treatment in the hands of the state government.

Abia’s case became more pathetic when the governor appeared on a national television to announce that the state government assists mothers who had their babies delivered in government’s health facilities with a token of N500!
The governor said the money was to assist such mothers to transport themselves back home upon discharge!

It was also in Abia that the governor queried indigenes of the state who expressed worries that a flyover being constructed somewhere close to Aba was taking longer time to complete than expected. He wondered during a live radio interview if those asking about the project had cars to ply the flyover or if they were going to climb the flyover on foot or with bicycles!

The Ikpeazu administration had so much dawdled on the flyover project at Osisioma that it attracted mockery. The project was nicknamed “Centre table.”
On the day of the inauguration of the project toward the end of last year, Ikpeazu waxed abusive.

“Today is a sad day for those who thought that this flyover will never be completed. It is a sad day for those who called it a borehole and called it a centre table. This is a sad day for the Sanballat and Tobiah (detractors); those who called the flyover ‘centre table,’ this is a sad day for them. I weep for them as they hide their faces in shame. All those who thought this flyover will not come true, my word for you is shame on you,” Ikpeazu said.

The governor came into office with great dreams. He had marshalled out good plans for the re-engineering work in Abia, but sooner had he took off than he crash-landed. He never found his bearing again.

As he exits office on May 29,2023, Ikpeazu is not leaving worthy footprints in Aba, the commercial nerve centre of the state. Even his community in Umuobiakwa in Obingwa Local Government Area, did not receive his attention.

Now that Alex Otti has been declared governor-elect and is set to succeed Ikpeazu, there is a burden on him to rid the state of everything that had been responsible for its backwardness in the comity of states across the country.

Times of campaign have passed. It is time for action. For many years, since 2015, Otti had been contesting to govern Abia.

Otti has moved from one political party to the other to achieve the aspiration. Many Nigerians, not just Abians, are happy that there seems to be light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

During his campaign before the election, Otti had told Abians that he would reverse the ugly scenario. He repeatedly promised that as a knowledgeable economist, he knows where and how to generate the much-needed funds for the socio-economic development of Abia.

It was his mantra to recall that the state’s current debt profile of N150 billion rose from N35.5 billion in 2015, when Governor Okezie Ikpeazu came into the office, insisting that the debt burden has remained so till date.

He also reminded Abians that the state’s five million people live in poverty, saying that 51 percent of the population is unemployed, because all sectors of the state’s economy, especially, infrastructure that facilitates businesses, and development and make life worth living, are decaying.

He insisted that reversing the scenario called for emergence of a knowledgeable economist like him to take charge as governor, stressing that gubernatorial election in Abia was critical to rescue the state from those that have held it down in the past years.

“I know how and where to get the money to run the state, and invest same wisely and profitably, pay regular salaries, as well as pensions. I shall turn the security vote into an investment fund from which I would give loans to genuine entrepreneurs,” he said.

Now, the victory is his and expectations are high that he would walk his talk.

Observers have also advised the governor-elect to avoid the mistakes usually made by newly elected public office holders

Kingsley Ekeh, a public affairs analyst and trained economist, said: “Dr. Alex Otti is a brilliant and accomplished private sector operator, who has shown his competence in his past offices. I have no doubt whatsoever, that he would lift Abia from the doldrums.

“But I would advise him to be careful with praise-singers; sychophants who would be milling around him for personal gains. These elements are the characters that usually derail public office holders from their good intentions. He must be a man of principle and be fair to all.”

Having won the election, Otti must cast off the clannish cloak of unduly favouring certain parts of the state to the detriment of other parts. He must see himself as neither an Ngwa man nor Aro Chukwu man, but an Abian.

His task is simple- to rebuild the broken walls of Abia State which has, over the years, given undue access to enemies of the people.

News Credit/Source: © The Economist.

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