By Emeka Nwosu, PhD.
Since the former ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) expectedly lost the gubernatorial elections in Abia State to the Labour Party (LP) on March 11, 2023, all has been let loose. Not knowing what hit it, it is yet to come to terms with the devastating defeat. It is still like a dream from which it expects to regain control. With every passing day, the expectations and dream have remained what it is: a mirage.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the party and the delinquent characters that populate its ranks, at will, have resorted to the vilest of propaganda to tarnish the image of the Otti administration which every discerning mind in the State acknowledges as visionary and trail blazer in all indices of development. The PDP crowd in Abia State is stunned at the level of achievements which Governor Otti has recorded within only six months in office. It is to its eternal shame that after 24 cumulative years in power, the PDP left nothing but a legacy of bad governance, decadent infrastructure and unbridled impunity.
Some of the things that were thought impossible under PDP are now being provided by the Otti administration with relative ease. Under the immediate past administration of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, workers were owed several months of salaries and never paid as at when due, pensioners were treated with disdain, critical roads could not be fixed, the Abia State University Teaching Hospital and Abia Polytechnic, all in Aba, lost their accreditations. The Government House in Umuahia was abandoned and left to rot while Ikpeazu operated from his village, Umuobiakwa, in Obingwa LGA.
The Ikpeazu government also operated a policy of dichotomy that abandoned staff of State-owned tertiary institutions to their fate, resulting to accumulated huge wage bills that were never paid.
This callous policy led to countless work disruptions and stoppages which impacted negatively on the State. Relentless kidnapping incidents around Umunneochi and Uturu were a terrible hallmark of the vision less PDP administration.
But in the last six months, the Otti administration has made and continue to make the desired difference. On May 29, 2023 when he was inaugurated as the Governor, Dr. Otti pledged that workers` salaries would be paid on or before the 28th day of every month. He also promised to clear all outstanding arrears and pensions of the elderly citizens who served the State with their strength. He has kept faith, as workers now receive salary alerts on the 28th of every month. Again, after a verification exercise that was carried out to weed out ghost pensioners, relief has come to our senior citizens.
In the area of road infrastructure, the Otti administration has left a positive imprint. Particularly remarkable is the bull-headed approach in the tackling of the critical Port Harcourt Road in Aba which was criminally abandoned for 24 years by the past PDP administrations. Governor Otti has engaged the construction giant, Julius Berger, to fix the road. As at press time, work is proceeding on an impressive speed on the road. Also noteworthy is the on-going expansion of the Abia Tower-Ossah-Umuahia road, the main approach road to the capital city of Abia State. The Otti administration has also fixed the previously impassable Udeagbala Road that leads to the Abia Teaching Hospital, Aba. The poor state of that road was one of the factors that contributed to the denial of accreditation to the hospital.
Beside other laudable projects the Otti administration has embarked upon like the Abia Industrial and Innovation Park at Owaza in Ukwa West LGA and the effective management of refuse and industrial wastes in Aba and Umuahia, the introduction of a well-equipped and funded security outfit, Operation Crush, has helped tremendously in stabilizing the security situation in the State, particularly the troubled Umunneochi axis. Deploying technology and requisite modern security gadgets, the Abia government was able to make stunning discoveries around the dreaded Lokpanta axis of the Enugu-Umuahia-Port Harcourt highway.
It was discovered that the cattle market at Lokpanta served as a hideout for criminal elements, including kidnappers, ritualists, human traffickers and armed robbers who use the place as operational base. Human remains of kidnap victims were found within and around the premises of the cattle market. Consequently, Governor Otti ordered the demolition of all the shanties in the market, including an illegal 160-room brothel that served as a place of hibernation for the criminal elements. The Governor has now converted the cattle market to a daily market and making it non-residential. A permanent taskforce has been set up to enforce compliance. Since these measures were taken, normalcy has returned to the dreaded Lokpanta-Umunneochi corridor.
But having being overawed and diminished by these impressive achievements, the PDP has unleashed its hatchet men to rubbish the records of the LP administration in the State through mindless propaganda that is anchored on sheer fabrications and false narratives. The latest in their wicked agenda is the sponsored story by an online publication to the effect that the Governor has spent about One Billion Naira on feeding alone in the last five months of his administration. This a lie from the pit of hell.
From the explanations that had been rendered by Abia State Government, the total amount spent so far by the entire government of Abia State for refreshments and meals for the period in question is N223,389,889.84. The figure is as captured in all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government. In a statement signed by the Press Secretary, Kazie Uko, and Special Adviser on Media, Ferdinand Ekeoma, the stated figure “is for the entire state and not for the office of the governor, as being erroneously portrayed”.
The statement further reads: “The stated figure covers expenses for special events, such as retreats, conferences, and related events. For welfare, the Abia State Government has so far spent the sum of N397, 520,734.84. The welfare expenditure is in line with the State Fiscal, Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme (SFTAS), an initiative of the Federal Government.
“Also note that the welfare expenditure covers all the MDAs and not just the Governor`s office, as wrongly alleged. Expenses under welfare deal with issues of Health Rehabilitation and Public Emergencies.”
The explanations by government have laid everything bare and put a lie to the fabrications. It is now obvious that the figures were distorted to achieve a predetermined agenda: blackmail the governor and belittle his achievements. The governor has done so much within a short time to be appreciated. The destructive campaign is unhealthy and unhelpful. The opposition should change its strategy and engage in a more constructive way of putting government on its toes. There must be limits to malicious propaganda in a decent society.
Dr. Nwosu, a Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Umuahia.