Vanessa Obioha writes that renowned banker and Abia State governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Dr. Alex Otti holds strong personal opinion about governance in the state
Former Managing Director of Diamond Bank Plc and gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2019 election in Abia State, Dr. Alex Otti, has called on well-meaning citizens of Abia to arise and save the state from further being plunged into indebtedness by the government.
Otti said his patriotic call became necessary following plans by the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu-led government to obtain a USD200 million foreign loan that he, Otti, had previously scuttled in 2017.
The renowned former banker said instead of angling to sink Abia State further into debt the Abia government should account to the citizens what it had been able to achieve with over N355 billion it had amassed from Federation Account and internally-generated revenue, in over four years of the administration.
Otti, told journalists in Lagos recently that images and information out of Abia State did not in any way reflect a state where at least 20 percent of that humongous amount of money had been spent for developmental needs.
He said, “On the 16th of August 2017, I had a similar interaction with the media where I raised an alarm on the approval granted by the Presidency and the National Assembly to the Ikpeazu government to plunge the state into a fresh loan of USD 200 million from the African Development Bank.
“I had noticed some irregularities in the documentation for that loan and raised a few posers. I stated that documents sighted by me showed that the National Assembly might have been misled into approving a loan that is different from the one recommended by the Presidency.
“I had indicated that on May 25, 2017 a Presidential request for USD100 million regarding Abia State Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) was sent to the National Assembly, however, on July 18, 2017 the then Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun sent a request for USD200 million to the National Assembly in respect of Abia State Integrated Infrastructure Development Project (ASIIDP), which curiously, is exactly the same request that the Abia State Government submitted in October 2015.
Otti said he had gone further to ask some critical questions like, how Abia State Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) became Abia State Integrated Infrastructure Development Project (ASIIDP)? How USD100 million became to USD200 million? And when the request was presented to the Abia State House of Assembly which should ordinarily have approved it before it made its way to the National Assembly?
“Instead of answering the questions, the Abia State government went up in arms against me, abusing and mudslinging me. The good news is that my opposition to the loan paid off as the authorities saw merit in my posers and disallowed the loan,” he said.
Otti said it would be sad if well-meaning elders in the state continued to keep quiet and watch while Governor Ikpeazu and his government run Abia aground and further mortgage the future of generations of Abia people, born and unborn.
“At this point, I would want to call the attention and reawaken the consciousness of some well-to-do and respected citizens and elders of Abia state, especially those who have access to the government in Abia, to intervene and save this government from itself as well as save the future generation from being mortgaged.
“In line with the adage that an elder doesn’t stand idly by and watch, while a goat delivers in tethers, I therefore call on Abia elders, senior citizens, royal fathers, captains of industry, serving and former lawmakers at the state and national levels, elder statesmen and political stakeholders across political party lines, human rights activists and opinion leaders to rise to the challenge posed by the current destructive leadership ravaging Abia state.
“I call on our clergymen and women to speak out positively. There comes a time when silence is no longer golden. Your subjects are being owed salaries, your members are living in abject poverty and in filth. People are dying prematurely out of hardship and lack of good medical facilities. Businesses are closing down and some are relocating making it difficult for our children to get jobs. Crime is on the increase and life is becoming unbearable,” Otti recounted.
He acknowledged that a few had spoken up, but majority were either sitting on the fence or preaching peace.
Borrowing from the Bible, he admonished, “The word of God says in Jeremiah 6:14 ‘they dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. Peace, Peace, Peace they say, when there is no peace’. Again, we are reminded of Ezekiel 13:10 ‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, Peace, when there is no peace, and because when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall.’ My prayer is that this will not be our portion.”
He added, “To all those who can speak but have chosen to be silent, I remind you of the words of Frantz Fanon thus, ‘every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor’.”
The gubernatorial candidate of the APGA in Abia state for the 2019 elections, raised concerns on the dilapidating state of Abia. In his estimation, the state is a caricature of itself under the leadership of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. From infrastructural deficit, non-payment of pension and salaries to increasing protests by civil servants in the healthcare and education sector.
“A serious minded government that is not preoccupied with thoughts of petty politics would have carefully looked at the issues on ground that I raised sometime ago but political sycophants and social media miscreants were recruited by the government to attack my person. Unfortunately today, their misrule, emboldened by medieval and democratic arrogance has finally brought a disaster of immense proportions as we feared, to the extent that different institutions of government are presently being shut down, facing strike actions, protests or merely existing in theory while lying comatose,” he lamented.
He was particularly disturbed by the cumulative sum of monies allocated to the state since Ikpeazu came into power.
“The state has received over N355 billion in statutory monthly allocations and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). These funds are aside the bail out funds, Paris Club funds, ecological funds and loans from commercial banks taken by this government. Sadly, Abia doesn’t look like a state that has seen twenty percent of the mentioned funds, forcing one to ask; where do Abia funds go to?”
He further stated that the governor has ramped up debt in the state which was initially N25 billion of domestic debt and $33.79 million of external debt in 2015 to N63 billion and $100.2 million respectively.
Though he emphasised that his concerns are not politically motivated, he however pointedly referred to Ikpeazu’s government as a failure.
“I have been looking for something commendable to say about this present administration. Unfortunately, I can’t see anything but mushroom projects. There is nothing commendable to talk about Abia state. He is a complete failure.”
The way forward according to the former banker is for right thinking Abians to come together to make things work in the state.
“Abia is too big and rich in human and material resources to be surrendered to jesters for destruction on the altar of sectionalism and petty partisanship while vulnerable men and women who look up to us as leaders wallow in daily pain and penury. They cannot help themselves. All well meaning Abia people should leave their comfort zones and recover their voices so that a genuine conversation on rescuing our state can begin, ” he said.
Today, their misrule, emboldened by medieval and democratic arrogance has finally brought a disaster of immense proportions as we feared, to the extent that different institutions of government are presently being shut down, facing strike actions, protests or merely existing in theory while lying comatose