Ebere Uzoukwa, Ph.D
On May 29, 2023, Dr. Alex Chioma Otti OFR, entered into a social contract with Ndi Abia following his inauguration as the 5th Executive Governor of Abia. It was absolutely the May 29th oath-taking of the former bank chief that historically sealed the democratic deal thus ending the inglorious era of corruption and staunted development in the God’s Own State.
Before his emergence as governor, Dr. Otti advocated for transparency, openness, accountability and zero corruption in public administration. It is possible that his excellent background, antecedent and credentials as a successful banker and first class economist may have moulded and sufficiently prepared him for efficient, open and transparent public service delivery.
During his campaigns and engagements with the people, Dr. Otti advocated for good governance that will sufficiently accelerate development, job creation, industrialization, promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), quality and sustainable healthcare delivery, improved education system among others. He never pretended in any manner as he openly vowed to disruptly drive positive change if elected governor of Abia State.
Dr. Otti never came to power with any slightest intention to endorse and continue with the old order. His vision for a New Abia as unambiguously encapsulated in his manifesto was strongly anchored on positive change. The ongoing disruptive approach was indeed expected to elicit reactions and possible resistance in some quarters. As earlier advised by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy and currently Director General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Otti has already begun to implement the “Disruptive Measures” to positively rebuild and return Abia on the right pedestal of good governance, speedy development and economic prosperity in Abia.
The very first step taken by the governor was the transparent and strategic overhaul of the Abia civil and public service as well as the Local Government Areas administration. It is public knowledge that most Permanent secretaries and Local Government Areas Head of Service (HoS) that worked with the past administration were partisan and corrupt. There were several allegations of financial impropriety, non-performance and corrupt practices hanging on their neck. They administered an overtly umotivated and grossly unproductive Ministries, Departments and Agencis (MDAs) and Local Government system in the State.
The alarming rate of corruption that enveloped the past administration, no doubt, affected the civil and public service negatively. Abia workers lost their patriotic spirit and every sense of obligation to the State. The workers salaries and entitlements were unpaid amid systematic corruption and overt diversion of public funds. Abia workers, to say the least, wallowed in abject poverty and emotional delapidation. To worsen the situation, their oppressors employed more in thousands and dumped their names on the payrolls expecting the incoming administration to inherit such evil-planted liability. Though the bobby-trap was deliberately laid to punish, undermine Gov. Otti and possibly pitch his administration against Ndi Abia, following their total rejection by Abians; such reckless abuse on the workforce, retrogressively injured the civil and public service of the State.
As a governor committed to rescuing the state and her people, Gov. Otti applied transparent and open measures to sanitize the payrolls. It is obvious the governor may have been pressurized to grant exemptions to a few networth and influential persons whose children and relatives were probably victims of the past administration’s job rackeeting and bazaar. But as leader who firmly pledged to fairness, openness and equal treatment of all Abians; such requests as many predicted and expected under Dr. Otti’s New Abia, would never fly. Not even the empty noise and politicization of the governor’s positive and disruptive approach to rebuilding Abia by the disoriented and politically dismantled Abia PDP would railroad the governor into altering the popular decision.
The naysayers which the embittered Abia PDP represents are more frustrated upon the governor’s recently introduced transparent and open approach of engaging critical stakeholders in repositioning the LGAs as such never happened during their inglorious days.
After the systematic administrative overhaul and staff verification, Gov. Otti is set to constitute the Transition Committees that will oversee and administer the affairs of the third tier government pending when council election shall be conducted. Against the old practice wherein the past governors without consultation and stakeholders input, imposed their lackeys and surrogates as TC Chairmen, Deputy Chairmen and Councillors, Gov. Otti in a transparent manner had requested stakeholders nominations and recommendations based on commonly approved criteria. This transparent and open approach are not unconnected with his consistent vow to make Local Government funds easily available for infrastructural and socio-economic development at the grassroots.
Recall Gov. Otti had during his electioneering campaigns promised to accelerate development at the rural areas by ensuring that only competent, reliable and trusted persons with excellent records of financial management would be given opportunities to head the Local Government Areas in the State. This strategic approach aimed at recruiting competent and capable LGA Transition Team is a clear indication that the governor has institutionalised transparency, openness and accountability as a hallmark of the New Abia administration.
Another area the governor has demonstrated transparency and openness in governance is the handling of the recently released Federal Government palliatives to cushion the harsh effect of petroleum subsidy removal. Unlike what happened during the Covid-19 era where the past administration and then ruling political party hijacked and diverted goverment palliatives and funds, Gov. Otti did something different that ensured the targeted persons received the palliatives. The governor and his team clearly enumerated and documented categories of persons in the society the palliatives (rice) are meant for. The template was transparently and openly communicated to the media and directly to the officials involved in distributing the palliatives to the last point. The naysayers, of course, wouldn’t have appreciated such level of transparency by Dr. Otti’s administration.
It is therefore disturbing that the uncompromised transparency and openness to governance driving Gov. Otti’s administration are today seen as an aberration by some elements of the politically displace and dismantled Abia PDP. They have resorted to attacking the governor, albeit futility, upon realizing that the ex-bank chief is strong-willed and wouldn’t succumb to their cheap and orchestrated blackmail. Apparently frustrated, these naysayers and enemies of the good people of Abia State are politicising every good intention and actions of the governor aimed at moving Abia to the right pedestal of good governance, economic prosperity and sustainable development. The most recent is a particular Anglican Bishop and his alleged request. Rather than applauding the governor’s stance who desires to treat Abians fairly and equally, the politically dismantled Abia PDP is rather peddling an absurdity and unsubstantiated interpretations. They are terribly disturbed that Dr. Otti is doing for Ndi Abia what they failed to do in the past 24 byears.
The reality on ground, however, remains that Gov. Otti’s superlative and impressive performance within the first 3 months in office have profoundly silenced the naysayers and the crying Abia PDP. The governor will never cease to implement his well-articulated people-oriented programs and policies that shall completely erase the corrupt system that impeded economic growth and development of Abia State.
Dr. Ebere Uzoukwa, a Political Strategist, Media & Public Relations Consultant, writes from Obingwa.