By Ogbonnaya Ikokwu
It is a common saying that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. It is also said that those whom the gods want to destroy they first make mad.
There’s no better way to capture the baseless, irrational and antagonistic attacks against the Alex Otti-led administration by the members of the opposition, particularly from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), than the above referenced wise sayings.
Although criticisms from the opposition political parties or even citizens are healthy in a democracy, one expects that Abia PDP chieftains should by now be sober and remorseful for the enormous damage they did to the state and its people, rather than weeping like little babies, forcefully removed from their mothers’ cuddles.
But then another Igbo adage says, “you cannot beat a child and also refrain him from crying”.
Indeed, Nwandugbom and his co-PDP bad losers are free to continue to weep over their abysmal failure in the March 18 governorship election that brought their infamous 24 years rein in the state to an end.
The recent media attack on Gov. Alex Otti by the immediate past Commissioner for Trade and Investment, John Okiyi Kalu (Nwandugbom JOK), is a clear case of a man trying to remove a speck in his neighbour’s eye, while carrying a log in his own eye.
The use of anonymous characters under the cover of devout apostles of the “OBIDIENT” movement
on a protest pleading to be recalled to their jobs by the governor, makes the writeup laughable.
JOK’s narrative can only go for a story line for typical young Nigerians who are into content creation on the social media.
An OBIDIENT apostle, who reports his challenge to an opposition party in Abia must attract the rhetorical question of “No be juju be that?”
The title of the Facebook post/article “Empathy should always DWARF Wickedness in Leadership” and constant use of the phase, New Abia and Original Abia, shows that the aim of the article was far from what could be considered an act of opposition. Rather, it is a clear case of comparing light with darkness.
The new Abia mantra is not a mere slogan, but an idea that people believe in, hence they voted massively for the apostle of the mantra to restore the state from the ruins of 24 years of PDP’s bad governance.
It must be emphasised that it is only “Empathy” that could have spurred Gov. Otti to resign his flourishing banking career to join politics, considering that politicians in this clime cannot offer an accomplished personality as the former banker with a party ticket to run for election.
It is a fact that governors in Nigeria would prefer a road side machanic to succeed them, than a First Class Degree holder, with an intimidating CV that depicts excellence, like Otti. Although king makers in Nigerian politics know the need for quality leadership, but they will never support individuals with capacity to provide the same to succeed them in office. They will rather prefer a puppet, who will remain loyal to them.
Against all odds, Otti contested the governorship elections in 2015 and 2019, but the political mafia in the state ganged up against him and brazenly stole the mandate freely given to him by the electorate. But he was not deterred, not even by the noise the media handlers of the old Abia landlords made in the electronic and social media, he contested and had a landslide in the 2023 poll.
It is empathy that made the governor to declare a state of emergency in critical sectors of the state, including waste management, security, education, infrastructure, investment, climate change and prompt payment of salaries and pensions on assumption of office.
All these areas are receiving prompt attention with visible proofs.
Today, civil and public servants in the state are sure of receiving their salaries on or before the 28th of every month, unlike what was the norm in Nwandugbom’s original Abia, where they were not sure of when their salaries would come. At a point, they lost count of the number of months of unpaid wages by the Okezie Ikpeazu’s government.
What else can best describe empathy, than what played out with how the Labour Party led-government handled those whose property would be affected by the proposed expansion of the Ossah Road, which is the major entry point into Umuahia, the state capital, from four to six lanes, to check traffic jam during festive periods?
The governor had delayed the flag off of the project because of the request by those whose structures would be affected to be given enough time to make adequate plans to relocate their homes and businesses.
He also gave a listening ear to their request to be paid compensations before the commencement of the project.
In the original Abia, when the government claimed it wanted to rebuild Port Harcourt Road, Aba, people’s homes were pulled down with brute force, yet nobody was paid compensation and the road was abandoned and made impassable to date.
Is it not empathy, that in the new Abia, government is going through the rigorous process of verification of workers and pensioners in order to flush out those who feed on government’s resources without rendering service, so that the genuine workers can be paid their wages as and when due?
The alleged sacked workers, who
Nwandugbom JOK claimed took their protest to Gov. Otti’s country home, were victims of the wickedness of his old Abia, where favouritism took the center stage, instead of merit and due process.
Despite several complaints over bloated wage bill of government workers in the state, Ikpeazu and his team went ahead to smuggle in the names of their cronies into government payroll through the back door in the twilight of his administration.
It was gathered that many victims of the last minute scam of the insensitive PDP era paid huge sums of money to secure their appointment letters. Which was the reason, over 10,000 names from many ring leaders in the corridors of power found themselves in government payroll, within six months. It was seen as an opportunity for “ndi stakeholders” to suck the last drop of the “blood tonic” in a dog-eat-dog manner.
Isn’t it surprising that a government that claims to have empathy for the people could embark on illegal recruitment to fill non existent vacancies in the civil service? This is even as many who were also scammed with similar employment offers in the past were later laid off.
Recall that in 2022, Ikpeazu sacked Local Government workers after they had worked for over two years. It will also be recalled that after the present government announced the discovery of hundreds of ghost workers in the state, some of the affected LG workers took their protest to some radio stations in Umuahia, pleading to be recalled.
Ikpeazu’s government also employed secondary school teachers in 2019, but they were later sacked after working for over six months for alleged document forgery. They were asked to go and wait until their services would be needed by Ikpeazu’s super powerful Chief of Staff, Mr ACB Agbazuere.
How could a government that JOK claimed had empathy for people, treat them like slaves, making them to pay for jobs, which is their right, when there were vacancies?
It goes without saying that Nwandugbom accusing Gov. Otti of not showing empathy to the affected workers is a calculated attempt to present the governor in bad light.
Otti had made it clear that the era of favouritism had gone, all actions of the government are greared towards the well being of the entire citizenry. No set of people is targeted for witchhunt.
The governor had also said that his administration would carry out civil service reform. The reform, which is ongoing, when concluded, would help to ensure that all forms of inhuman acts that were the order of the day in the old Abia would be done away with in the new Abia.
It will amount to a waste of time for the PDP to keep sponsoring their members to claim to be members of the OBIDIENT movement with a view to having the governor to recall them. It is obvious that they were desperately looking for a way to accuse him of favouring his party men over other Abians, just like PDP was doing in the past, but they will not succed because Otti runs a transparent government.
A new Abia is here to stay and the bad old Abia will never return again!
# A New Abia is possible.
Ogbonnaya Ikokwu Journalist/public affairs analyst, writes From Umuahia