Alex Otti and the Abia State Challenge
Most development indices indicate a declining trend in our nation’s development effort. Despite various Government officials claim to the contrary, fresh figures emerging from both the world bank and the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics show a continuous decline in such indices as Poverty rate, unemployment rate, debt burden, inflation rate, access to health, drinking water etc.
The national average in the standard of living has been on a downward slope, with Nigeria now being regarded as the Poverty Capital of the World.
However, there are variations amongst the Regions and States. In the South East Region, Abia State is adjudged as having the worst indices of development as indicated by figures from the Federal Bureau of Statistics. For instance, while the National Unemployment Rate is 33% Abias own is 51%, its Poverty rate is 31%. The state has the worst network of roads in the South East. Aba, its main commercial city and the honey pot of the state has the worst network of roads amongst all the cities in Nigeria.
There is no functional public water supply system anywhere in the state just as well as there is no Airport. Most of its local Government Headquarters are in varying forms of dilapidation, its only Tertiary Health Institution, the Abia State University Teaching Hospital has lost its accreditation, just the same way, the Abia Polytechnic lost theirs. Most of its workers and pensioners are being owed arrears of salaries. The list indicating its decline could go on and on.
Discerning observers have since attributed such state of affairs to the bad governance structure that exists in the state with its accompanying culture of greed and graft. Most Abians themselves are all aware of their peculiar problem and the most conscientious of its political elite have always struggled against it with a view to instituting a good governance system in the place. The bad governance structure in the state, its accompanying culture of greed and graft, the underdevelopment indices it has spewed over time and the past failed struggles to dismantle it is what constitutes the Abia Challenge.
The most stringent of such struggles was waged in 2015, when one of its most brilliant minds, Dr. Alex Otti a first-class economist resigned his lucrative job as the Managing Director of the Diamond Bank to lead the charge. Even though he was adjudged to have won that governorship 2015 election by a wide margin, INEC then at its worst behavior did what was considered incomprehensible even by its own standard when it suddenly brought back its cancelled results that was adjudged then by its own returning officers and international observers to have been falsified results. Such bad behavior of INEC top officials was challenged by Dr. Otti in the Court and the matter became a ding dong affair until he lost at the Supreme Court when the learned Judges averred that the card reader was not backed by law.
Even though Dr. Alex Otti lost the case, the matter generated a nation-wide concern and interest that triggered the struggle for reforms of the electoral process, the result of which has been the introduction of BVAs or simply the electronic transmission of results. The reform at INEC with the introduction of BVAS has gone a long way in improving the current electoral process in Nigeria. Smarting from the controversial loss of the 2015 election, Dr. Otti though bruised was still determined to continue. Thus, he contested the 2019 Governorship election whereby the same situation that happened in 2015 repeated itself.
Undaunted, Dr. Otti continued to Champion the struggle for better Nigeria using various other platforms like his column in the THISDAY Newspaper. He has consistently used such platform to engage in a lot of introspection about our national development efforts.
Most importantly, the reform of the electoral process has provided a fresh impetus for Dr. Alex Otti and his comrades another opportunity to mount a more determined and spirited effort at scorching and finally defeating the Abia challenge. Thus, in alliance with other experienced politicians in the state that includes the likes of Hon. Acho Obioma, the outspoken Former House of Representative Member as the Director General of the Campaign Organisation, Dr. Otti is once again in the struggle to win the governorship election under the banner of the Labour Party. They are now junketing the entire nooks and crannies of the state soliciting for votes in a renewed effort to wrestle power from the iron grip of the incumbents.
Accompanying Dr. Otti and his team in the campaign tour as a Member of the Campaign Council has been a most rewarding experience. It would have been impossible to imagine the organic relationship that exists between Dr. Otti and the generality of Abia people nor appreciate the state wide support which he enjoys without such participatory engagement. The enthusiastic support and endorsements which Dr. Otti and his team are gathering from the different strata of the Abia society could be equated to a revolutionary ferment. From the far-flung communities of Nneato, Isuochi to the hilly communities of Uturu and Ovim. From the rich agricultural basins of Okporoenyi and Nkpa in Bende Local Government to the oil producing communities of Ukwa.
From the shoe manufacturing hubs in Araria Aba to the civil service centre of Umuahia, down to the agrarian and warrior communities of Abam, the enthusiastic support and endorsements have been the same. The quest for change seems to be the same whether it’s the council of Ndi Ezes, Christian stake holders, the clergy, youth and women organisations, party faithful. Indeed Dr. Otti and his team seem to be getting the support he is requesting for in other to win the governorship and deliver other Labour Party Candidates in the State.
Dr. Otti has cashed in on the revolutionary ferment to reiterate his determination to dismantle the bad governance structure in the state, abolish the criminal security vote system and use the proceeds for his empowerment programs, industrialise the state, restore governance at the local government level, develop the health system and build modern infrastructure etc. His campaign promises that is encapsulated in a 42-page Manifesto document seems to be comprehensive enough.
There is no doubt such campaign promises resonate with the aspirations of Abia people because of his antecedents and personal integrity.
The reality of the current situation in Abia is such that one could assert with optimism that the determined effort of Dr. Otti and his team coupled with the wide spread support he is receiving from the different strata of the Abia society is such that there is no doubt that the former Bank Czar and his Labour Party faithful may this time around scorch and finally overcome the Abia challenge.
Hon Jones Ike, the former Chairman, Arochukwu LGA is a member of Dr. Alex Otti Campaign Council.