Dr. Alex Otti, former banker and gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance in Abia State tells Vanessa Obioha that the socio-economic situation in the country and his home state, Abia have gone worse, because no one paid attention to the warning in his 2014 book, ‘Saving the Future: An Agenda For Economic Development and Prosperity.’
Are you sometimes frustrated with the increasingly bad situation in the country; such that you want to assume a posture of unconcern, after all, you are comfortable?
I think it is an attitude issue. Once you let yourself get frustrated, then you will keep getting frustrated. I tell myself that I can never be frustrated. I can never get tired because you will find out that everybody is not on the same level. The speed with which you understand may not be the speed at which others understand. It may require me to say things over and over again which a baby may perhaps grasp before I finish my sentence. But I need the other person to understand and that is an attitude thing. Once you are placed in a position where you lead people, influence them to do what you want them to do, then you must find the best way to communicate with them and even if it does not work, you may have to change tactics. Everything I wrote in my book in 2014 are still relevant till tomorrow. Some may be outdated or need to be updated, basically the truth is constant.
Aba is widely known as the commerce and trade hub of Abia state but you have argued that the place is a shadow of itself. What are you proposing to bring back the glorious days of Aba?
The case of Aba is very heartbreaking. The famous Enyimba city occupies a pride of place in the heart of all Abians and many Igbos. It has deteriorated badly. It has been abandoned and betrayed. From a thriving city of old, it has become worse than an urban ghetto with mountains of refuse, broken roads marked by gullies, craters and potholes. Indeed, Aba has become a monument to the abysmal failures of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
The way forward is to do first things first. If you lived in Iyana-Ipaja and all of a sudden, money comes and you have to relocate to Ikoyi, you must get rid of virtually everything that you are used to in Iyana-Ipaja, otherwise if you carry them like that, you will carry cockroaches and mosquitoes. There is need for a change. When somebody stays in a particular environment that is like an oven for too long, anytime you come into a regular room temperature, you will feel cold and start shivering. Our people have been defeated. They have been dampened so much that you will see someone selling food on a heap of garbage. That is Aba for you today. If you go to Ngwa road, Umuahia road or Port Harcourt road, you will see people eating in refuse. We need to do first things first. We need to clean up that whole area. And it is no rocket science. Ebonyi state has set up a garbage conversion plant that takes garbage from anywhere in the state and converts it, from gas to power. It is now cheap to do. Before now, people used to say that you cannot generate much waste. It’s just about knowing what to do and if you don’t know what to do, you can’t give what you don’t have. Secondly, we also need to ensure that there is proper drainage. Again, it is not rocket science. There was a design that was done by foreigners. In fact, if you fly into Aba, you will find that the old Aba is in a straight line. Every street links to another so the planning was properly done but our people have abandoned that.
Where and when did that decay start?
It got worse from 1999. The last governor that worked for Abia was Sam Mbakwe. Mbakwe was the last person to have done something significant in that state. I remember those days every street, every pole had a dustbin so you could not drop anything on the road or street. Overnight, they had trucks that will come and evacuate the bins. You wake up in the morning to find everywhere sparkling. You can’t even charge money to do that. I think the most important thing is the passion to serve, the compassion to ensure that the people do not suffer, the understanding that Aba the way it is today, with all the energy and order, if you do just a little thing in Aba, all the internally generated revenue can go up by 100 percent. Part of the problem is illiteracy. The ruling cabal in the state insist that they hand over the state to somebody who knows nothing so that when they ask him to jump, he will ask, ‘how high’? And that is why we are in this state but they didn’t expect that it will get to this level. Even his village is bad. How can you be a governor and there is no road to your village. It’s a bad situation. We are in trouble. It is not something that you deal with in a haphazard manner. It’s not something you will give monies easily to do a rushed work. That won’t solve the problem. It will require a lot of work by somebody who knows and not someone who wants to do propaganda.
But don’t you think this change of attitude should start from the federal level?
That’s diversionary. Charity they say begins at home. If you can’t fix your home, you cannot fix the centre. You must do all there is to fix your home. The reason I’m campaigning for a better state is not about politics. I don’t need Abia. A professor friend of mine once lamented the ugly situation of my state. I really feel ashamed when my friends make such comments about my state. It is not about money. The state already has an accumulated sum of over N355 billion from allocations and IGR.
Why are we not seeing much agitation from the indigenes of Abia regarding its poor state. You appear to be a lone voice and it is difficult to think this is not about politics?
The people have resigned to fate. In the past, people were clobbered down to such an extent that nobody could speak. If you dared to speak, you will be seriously dealt with. It was when I came out that people realised it was possible to challenge government and people are now getting their voice back. We also have a situation where a few people in their party are under the payroll of the government so their silence have been paid for. That is what the problem is.
You’ve contested the governorship elections twice and lost to the same man Ikpeazu, is this campaign fuelled by your defeat in the elections or are you generally saying that he has done nothing good for the state since he assumed office?
I’m still looking for those things. If I see them, I would have tabled them. Unfortunately I can’t see anything. All you have seen are propaganda. He said there is Abia Rice but it not in existence. He has consistently lied to the world that there is agricultural revolution in Abia. All we have seen are mushroom products. The government faced its biggest embarrassment so far recently, when it commissioned a dirty and substandard two-room local rice mill, causing outrage and condemnation. There is nothing like Abia Rice anywhere. If you go to Ebonyi state or Cross River state, you will see what Ben Ayade did a couple of months ago as a rice mill. There is absolutely nothing to talk about. He is a complete failure. Secondly, Ikpeazu cannot beat me in 20 wars. He has not beaten me and will never beat me. All what he has done is to rig elections. I really don’t want to delve into politics and elections. It is not about that. Anyone could see clearly that he could not have won in the 2015 election. What happened was that they went to the Returning Officer and forced him under gunpoint to admit fake results. That was why the Court of Appeal declared that he could not have won. The last election, they didn’t allow it to hold because all they did was to write results.
The people have resigned to fate. In the past, people were clobbered down to such an extent that nobody could speak. If you dared to speak, you will be seriously dealt with. It was when I came out that people realised it was possible to challenge government and people are now getting their voice back. We also have a situation where a few people in their party are under the payroll of the government so their silence have been paid for