Ottified: The new paradigm in Abia’s political leadership



By Ogbonnaya Ikokwu

The emergence of Dr Alex Otti as the fifth Governor of Abia State has indeed introduced a new song among many Abia residents, who have continued to pour encomiums on him for his people-oriented programmes and policies.

Gov. Otti’s resolve to fulfilling his campaign promises is also changing the narrative about the political class and their attitude to promises the moment they assume political offices.

Whereas past leaders in the state concentrated on servicing political stakeholders in the state through the payment of stipends, popularly referred to as “blood tonic”, Gov. Otti made it clear that he would use every kobo that accrues to Abia to develop and transform all parts of the state.

The governor, who had persevered since 2014 when he resigned his flourishing banking career to join partisan politics to redeem Abia’s lost glory, came up with the mantra that “the common Abia residents are the real stakeholders, who those in power must work for”.

He insisted that no money would be paid to any so-called stakeholder.
Little wonder all those who were beneficiaries of the “blood tonic” deployed all the weapons in their arsenal to stop his election in 2015, 2019 and 2023 General Elections.

However, not deterred by their gang-up, Gov. Otti went into the 2023 governorship contest with full assurance that Abia was ripe for liberation. And given that Abia is codenamed “God’s own state”, the Almighty, knowing that Gov. Otti meant well for the state, answered the people’s fervent prayers by granting him victory at the poll.

Eleven months down the line, uncountable testimonials of achievements by a responsive and responsible leadership have left many astonished as to where the money for the avalanche of the administration’s projects is coming from.

But there is nothing to worry about as the First Class Degree holder in Economics and astute banker has the answer.

Speaking during his monthly media chat earlier this month, he made it public that his government had been able to cut the cost of governance, hence could save the money to embark on developmental projects, defray the salary and pension backlogs as well as pay salaries and pensions as and when do.

Of course, the big one was the clearing of pension arrears owed pensioners by the immediate past Peoples Democratic Party-led administration in the state.

There is no gain-saying that it takes a governor with the interest of the pensioners at heart and a huge political will to clear the huge pension arrears.

Gov. Otti had announced during his inauguration on May 29, 2023 that his administration would clear the pension arrears by December 31, 2023. That date could not be realized due to the verification initiated to ascertain the real size of the pensioners.

The governor took time to explain this during his 2024 New Year state-wide broadcast.

He announced the first quarter of 2024 as a new date for the payment of the arrears.

Interestingly and true to his promise, bank alerts began to hit the phones of our senior citizens from Ukwa to Umunneochi down to Arochukwu, since March 28, sparking off ecstatic and joyful season for our senior citizens.
Thank God that Abia now has a son that makes the heart of his parents glad in Gov. Otti.

Not hiding their feelings, members of the Concerned Abia Pensioners held a thanksgiving service to appreciate God for answering their prayers and making Gov. Otti to pay the arrears of their pensions owed by past administrations.

Speaking during the thanksgiving service at The Apostolic Church Nigeria, Umuahia, the Chairman of the group, Elder John Kalu, said during the period they were owed, the group had gone to many churches as well as written letters to churches, asking for prayers on their behalf.

The 85-year-old Elder Kalu thanked the governor for fulfilling his campaign promise of defraying the pension arrears.

He said: “We had a very big problem. Our problem was that they did not pay us our pensions, our members were dying in thousands because of illness and no money to go to hospital, no money to eat.

“We retired to praying, we were fasting, we went to churches for them to help us in prayers, the Apostolic Church was one of the churches we went to.

“So, this time, the governor has given us what we wanted.

“He has paid us the arrears of pensions, which the other governments didn’t pay us, which we were crying for, he has paid it to us.

“We are grateful. That is why we said we should go back to The Apostolic Church to tell them that God has done what we requested.

“Right from the time he (Gov. Otti) was campaigning, he came to the Abia State Pensioners.

“He told us that if we vote for him, he will pay our arrears and will be paying us monthly. So, he did it, that’s why we are saying that we are grateful to him”.

As against the popular maxim in Nigeria that “promises and agreements made are not kept in politics”, Gov. Otti has changed the narrative in Abia by keeping to his campaign promises.

One of such promises is to get rid of refuse from the streets of major towns in the state. Although it may seem simple for a state government but Abia was once noted for having some of the dirtiest cities in Nigeria.

The Abia State Environmental Sanitation and Protection Agency, (ASEPA) saddled with the responsibility of keeping the capital city of Umuahia and Aba, the commercial hub of the state, clean was literally sleeping on duty.

The agency was noted for occasional end-of-month refuse evacuation, accompanied by some journalists to cover the exercise. The entire urban areas were always stinking.

Little wonder the Anambra State-born billionaire, Chief Author Eze, once said during a visit to Umuahia in 2014 that “Abia is stinking and the people’s faces show suffering”.

But in his avowed determination to keep the state clean, the governor has made ASEPA to come alive to it’s responsibility and evacuation of waste is now a routine and the people can attest that Abia is not stinking again. One wishes that Chief Eze can do a return visit to confirm this new development. Well, I’m sure he must have heard about the new turn of events in Abia.

The governor, himself knowing the enormous effort and resources that are committed to keeping the state clean, has continued to plead with the people to become partners in the business of keeping the state clean.

It is worthy to note that the governor had always emphasized his stand that until all hands are on deck, the vision of making Abia the cleanest state in the country would remain a mirage.

It, therefore, behoves Abia residents to join hands with the governor to actualize the dream of making the state one of the cleanest because, beyond the saying that cleanliness is next to Godliness, a clean environment also guarantees good health and happiness.

As our God-chosen and people-oriented governor is working assiduously to make life meaningful for Abia residents, the people are encouraged to play their part by disposing their refuse at designated places and appropriate time.

Indeed, Abia is turning out good for all and sundry under the watch of Gov. Otti.

To God be the glory!
# The New Abia is here

Ogbonnaya Ikokwu, a journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Umuahia.