X-raying the gains of Abia’s new political leadership


By Ogbonnaya Ikokwu

The bane of Nigeria’s democracy has always been the often flawed process of electing leaders during general elections. More often than not, those who are declared winners of such elections were far from the true choices of the electorate. This is why a lot of anti-democracy strategies are deployed by politicians to be announced winners during such war-like

The “declare me winner first and let’s go to court” mantra has become engrained in the mentality of an average Nigerian politician.

Consequently, election tribunals and higher courts now reserved the final say over who occupies any political office in the country.

The court’s decisions, which often may not represent the choices of the voters, have led to voter apathy usually experienced during every election.

The 2023 General Elections were not devoid of similar flaws, especially the presidential election, where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) went against its own rules by not uploading the election results in its iRev portal, as earlier advertised.

Bad as it may be, the 2023 General Elections also achieved some feat with the election of many popular candidates into National and State Houses of Assembly, especially those who ran on the platform of the Labour Party (LP).

There is no gain-saying that the highpoint of the 2023 General Elections was the election of Dr Alex Chioma Otti as the fifth executive governor of Abia State.

It was a no mean feat by any standard. Despite the fact that the Abia electorate were tired of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and voted against it, the powers that held Abia down for 24 years were not willing to let go.

In their usual manner they doctored the result of the governorship election in Obingwa Local Government Area and awarded a fictitious figure of over 180,000 votes to the PDP Governorship Candidate in the election, Chief Okey Ahaiwe, hoping to upturn the original election result with the fake one.

The impasse created by that act of the PDP master riggers was only resolved after a review of the number of accredited voters as captured in the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines used for voting in Obingwa by INEC in Abuja.

All thanks to the Returning Officer in Obingwa LGA and the State Returning Officer, Prof. Nnenna Oti, who stood their ground and insisted that the right thing must be done.
They are the heroes of the 2023 governorship election in Abia State.

After the election and the subsequent series of legal tussles, starting from the Kano High Court to the election tribunal to Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, all of which were resolved in favour of Gov. Otti, came the real task of governance in the new Abia.

The governor is currently justifying the confidence reposed in him by the Abia electorate through his people-oriented policies and programmes.
The state of emergency declared in the health, education, environmental sanitation sectors and the massive road repairs, light up Abia and prompt payment of salary have indeed brought a new lease of life to Abia residents.

The Abia chief executive also vowed that the era of using Abia’s money to service stakeholders were over. He maintained that the only stakeholders he knows are Abia indigenes and residents that voted him into power, adding that he would remain accountable to them.

In keeping to his promise of always giving account of his stewardship to Abia people, the governor since August 2023 began a monthly media interaction with journalists, tagged “Governor Alex Otti speaks”. The media parley, which is broadcast live on many radio stations in the state, affords journalists and the public the opportunity to ask questions bothering their minds, while the governor gives answers to those questions.

During the March edition of the parley the governor affirmed his readiness to permanently liquidate the lingering pension arrears in the state by the end of March. He revealed that a lot of progress had been made in that regard.

He said that his administration was very passionate about ensuring that all the bottlenecks surrounding the issue of pension arrears were completely resolved.

He, however, pointed out that he was not overwhelmed by the problems and challenges he met on assumption of office as the State Chief Executive.

Otti further said that he was not unaware of the uphill task of “retrieving Abia from decapitation” before presenting himself for the office of the governor, adding that
he had articulated the challenges and problems together with his team and they were already solving them.

He said: “I can tell that we didn’t apply for this job not knowing that there were going to be problems and challenges.

“Just like former President Olusegun Obasanjo once said that ‘if you were not expecting problems in government, you shouldn’t have come to power’.

“We fought to retrieve this state from decapitation because we knew there were problems. We cannot be overwhelmed by the problems and we are encouraged.

“It was Albert Einstein that said that ‘you cannot solve a problem using the same mindset that you used in creating it’, but luckily, we are not the ones that created the problems we are handling now.

“But we cannot continue to dwell on the problems because it’s already nine months since we came on board.

“We have articulated the problems and challenges we met on ground and resolved within ourselves that we are to solve them, so we can’t be overwhelmed.

“That’s why we hardly talk about them because you can’t solve a problem by complaining about it”.

Speaking on why some civil servants were yet to receive their salaries for some months even after undergoing verification, the governor said a meeting had been fixed with the Accountant General and Commissioner for Finance to resolve issues responsible for why those affected were not receiving their salaries alongside their co-workers.

On upward review of salaries of Abia workers as he promised and the Federal Government’s wage award to workers across the country, Gov. Otti said that a committee had been working on modalities and implementation of the policy, assuring the people that the report of the committee would be ready soon.

He also spoke about his government’s plans toward ensuring food security in the state. According to him, the road infrastructure, improved security and other initiatives being undertaken are all geared towards creating the right atmosphere for Abians to access their farmlands freely while the Ministry of Agriculture is making sure that all available land in the state are cultivated this farming season for food sufficiency.

The governor, who added that efforts were on to retrieve farm estates which were currently in the hands of private investors, said that plans were underway to make funds available to 100 farmers and small business owners in each of the 17 LGAs in the first instance, while efforts would be made to extend the gesture to the ward level.

“We are working round the clock to see that all lands that are available, particularly to the state, are cultivated this planting season.

“There are quite a lot of plantations that we are still trying to disentangle . Some of them have been concessioned by previous governments to people who are actually not planting them and we have in the last few months been engaged in trying to disentangle some of those concessions.

“We also have programmes that support people involved in agriculture, trade and commerce at the very low level.
The cooperative arrangements that we just put in place would make available not less than N100,000 to farmers and traders, I believe a hundred of them per LG in the first instance and then, we would go to the wards,” he said.

Gov. Otti said that he had given approval for the renovation and retrofitting of 170 primary schools and 51 secondary schools across all the LGAs, in addition to other interventions in the education sector.

“We have approved the remodeling and retrofitting of 170 primary schools and 51 secondary schools across the length and breadth of the state.

“The whole idea is that at the end of the year all our schools would have received the touch of rehabilitation and retrofitting.

“So, as time goes on, you will see that our schools will begin to wear a different look.

“And a standard school in Abia must look a certain way and when we are done with that, we also have a lot of things to do because the school is not just a structure, the most important, the curricula. What are we teaching our children?

“We must teach them what will be relevant in the 21st Century.

“All we are doing is to arm Abians with the right skills and knowledge to be relevant in the competitive global market,” he said.

Gov. Otti, who described the March media chat as special as it falls on March 18, being exactly one year Abia people and residents elected him the governor, used the opportunity to thank the people for voting him and God Almighty for the opportunity granted him to serve the people.

No doubt, the regular interaction with journalists and other Abia residents is a welcome development as it affords the governor the opportunity to address some critical issues that were agitating the minds of the people.

This novel idea introduced by the administration is in line with democratic culture, which requires that a leader must be accountable to the people.

The increasing acceptability the LP-led government is enjoying on a daily basis in Abia is not unconnected with the governor’s commitment to service delivery and accountability to the people.

#The New Abia is here
#To God be the Glory

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