Dr. Otti – Demonstrated ability to provide good governance
The genuine desire and commitment of Governor Alex Chioma Otti, to reposition Abia for greater socio-economic accomplishments, through quality and purposeful leadership, is no longer considered within the realm of skepticism and conjecture.
The governor has proven, even to his die-hard critics in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), that he could be trusted to provide good governance, which eluded the state during the 24 disastrous years the party hijacked and enslaved the state.
He has obviously put the best foot forward in his early days in office with his pronouncements and actions, beyond the rhetoric of political campaign promises.
His “desperation” and “passion” to restore hope to the hopeless and build an Abia of the founding fathers’ dream have begun to manifest in different spheres, even in the face of looted and emptied state treasury.
The rot inflicted on the state by PDP’s mindless misrule is deep and expansive. They range from the huge infrastructure decay to gross lack of basic social amenities in any part of the state, total dilapidation of the education and health facilities, deep-seated corruption in the civil and public service sectors, as exposed by the pervasive ghost worker syndrome at the local and state government levels, unprecedented leadership deficit as well as high unemployment and underemployment rate and insecurity.
All these put together, with the staggering unpaid salary and pension arrears as well as a whopping debt from internal and external borrowings, amounting to N191 billion, stare the present administration in the face. This is the rot that Otti has courageously stepped forward to fix!
But, as the popular saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. Hence, on Friday, July 7, the governor inaugurated a body of 19 commissioners, which would function as his lieutenants and co-workers in the onerous task of rebuilding the state and making Abia work to catch up with other states of the federation in all the aspects of growth and development indices.
In line with his conviction and advocacy over the years for a moderate size of public office holders, the governor merged some existing ministries with overlapping functions, thus reducing the number from the 25 in the last two administrations in the state to 19.
By so doing, he hopes to achieve a drastic reduction in the cost of governance, particularly in the face of continued decline in the state revenue both from the Federation Account and internally generated revenue.
As part of the rebuilding process and in fulfilment of his campaign promise, the governor ordered the Ministry of Finance to begin the payment of June salary from the 25th. And by June 28, every verified worker in the state had received bank alert for their salaries. This is their right, rather than privilege, which they forcefully ceded to the eight-year administration of Okezie Ikpeazu.
One can confidently brag that under Otti’s watch, the payment of salaries and pensions as and when due has come to stay in Abia. Indeed, there would be no reneging on this.
The long term derivable from this positive development, beyond reflating the economy and stimulating higher productivity in the civil service, are that Abia workers can now comfortably plan their economic life within the limit of their monthly take home, which is now sure to happen.
They can also be obliged soft credit purchases in their neighbourhoods, confident that such a facility would be defrayed and in good time at the end of the month.
In-house cooperatives, which died natural deaths in the wake of the uncertainties that surrounded salary payments in the state, would soon bounce back, especially in the ministries, agencies and parastatal organisations and Local Government Councils.
Banks, which turned their back against Abia workers, refusing to have anything to do with them in terms of loan advances, will soon return to scramble for prospects from among the workers.
Interestingly, too, the government has begun the payment of the outstanding salary arrears as promised, with the governor’s directive to the finance ministry for the payment of the April salary.
Another area of interest to the governor is the enthronement of transparency and accountability in governance.
Addressing the commissioners during their inauguration at the Government House, Umuahia, Otti admonished them to justify the confidence reposed in them by showing “commitment, excellence and a sense of duty” in carrying out their assignments.
He warned that “excuses for failure would not be tolerated”, saying that his “dream of a new Abia, anchored on justice, service and economic rejuvenation, must be achieved”.
He further said that his target “is to expand the frontiers of opportunities to enable Abians to accomplish their dreams of leveraging the promises of the 21st Century environment to hand over a more functional society for coming generations”.
The governor said his administration would focus on job creation, poverty alleviation and “measurable improvement” in the living conditions of the people.
With the state Executive Council (EXCO) properly constituted, and the eighth House of Assembly also inaugurated, with the right leadership in place to provide complementary support to the executive, it means that the Otti-led administration is properly positioned on the mark to take off full steam.
Therefore, the EXCO is expected to immediately begin to formulate and execute good and people-oriented policies and programmes that would drastically tackle the infrastructure needs of the state, especially roads, social amenities, modern health and education facilities, among among others.
The citizenry is also expecting the state to bounce back to the path of industrial revolution in no distant time, with a substantial expansion in both commerce and investment opportunities in Aba, the economic hub of the state.
Other critical areas of need that would task the creativity, ingenuity and competence of the commissioners include job creation and youth empowerment, human resource development, exploration and exploitation of the huge but largely untapped mineral deposits in different parts of the state.
Recall that in his townhall meetings during the campaign tour of Arochukwu, Bende, Ikwuano and Umuahia South Local Government Areas, the governor promised to engage the private sector to harness the mineral deposits lavishly endowed in commercial quantities on the areas for the rapid development of the state.
These mineral resources include limestone in Arochukwu, phosphate in Bende, lignite (clean coal) in Ikwuano and kaolin in Umuahia South, amongst others.
The mining and extractive industry as enormously lucrative as it is having been grossly neglected by successive administrations since Abia was created in 1991.
It will suffice therefore that the present administration takes practical steps to break the jinx, given its promise to change the Abia narrative.
The commissioners should constantly remind themselves that they were selected among millions of other Abia prominent sons and daughters to be part of the team that would drive the governor’s vision to build a prosperous, economically viable and secure state, where peace, justice and fairness prevail.
They are, therefore, encouraged to follow in the footsteps of their principal by promoting accountability, transparency, financial discipline, incorruptible, purposeful and visionary leadership in their different ministries at all times.
They should also be regularly reminded about Otti’s popular campaign mantra of coming to restore hope and help to the citizenry.
They should work in harmony and not at cross purpose with the governor in order to meet the high expectations of the majority of the people.
They should consciously appreciate that their actions and inactions, successes and failures would definitely rob off on the overall public perception and assessment of the governor and Labour Party.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: ‘ Abia must point the light for others to follow’
As rightly advised by the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in her message to the inauguration of the Abia 2023 Transition Council, Abia must point the light for others follow.
She said: “We want our state government to set an example by being transparent about its finances.
“This is a governor that everybody is looking up to. His Excellency is educated, knows how to manage cost because he’s been a bank manager, he’s done so many things.
“So, can we set an example in Abia for good governance, transparency because he has what it takes?”
As is commonly said, “You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs”.
Therefore, the citizenry should exercise restraint and tolerance and get more circumspect in their expectations and reactions to the policies and programmes of the government at this early stage of the administration.
We cannot be in such a hurry to forget or underrate the depth of decay in the system or presume that the mess bequeathed to the present government could be corrected in a matter of months. That would amount to one living in denial!
Let us not unreasonably and in our impatience, like the proverbial tortoise, forget that it took PDP 24 solid years to destroy the foundation of growth and development of the state as prescribed by its founding fathers.
Therefore, it will, naturally, require resilience, painstaking, enduring and firm-footed steps by this government to reverse the ugly trend and return the state to the trajectory of progress and sustainable development.
It is obvious that some of the present policies and actions of government might seem disruptive and off the course from what had become a tradition in the state in the last two decades plus.
But they remain well-thought out, well-meaning and well-intended to ultimately achieve the desired paradigm shift needed to anchor the ship of state and its people at a better and prosperous destination.
The intendment of the policies and programmes is to right the inherent wrongs and obvious destructive aberrations in the system that have over the years become Abia’s nemesis among the comity of states in the federation.
Thus, the enormous task of rebuilding the state can never be a tea party and the governor was not under any illusion to assume it would be duck soup.
He expects that the flight would encounter some bumpy, cloudy and stormy weather, hence his long exhortations to the people in his May 29 inaugural speech.
He said: “As we get ready to cross our River Jordan into the Canaan land that God has graciously placed before us, let us not be under any illusion that the worst is over.
“In fact, in winning the election, we have merely won a preliminary battle, albeit a very crucial one.
“Nevertheless, the war has just begun and we have put our hands on the plough.
“There is no turning back until we achieve our collective dreams and aspirations.”
The governor further spoke in a more passionate manner for all hands to be on deck in the Abia rebuilding mission.
He said: “Even as we pledge to do our best to serve the state, let us all bear in mind that this adventure will only meet with success, when we all resolve to come out and contribute to it.
“We propose to create prosperity, happiness and security for every citizen and resident of Abia State.
“As we stretch our hand of service and leadership, we expect the citizen to also do its part.
“A bird that desires to soar on eagle’s wings, must first set itself free from its cage.
“We, therefore, call on every Abia citizen and resident to participate in rebuilding the state and nursing her back to greatness and prosperity.”
This is the clarion call by the man behind the wheel, conscious that it would take the collective and collaborative efforts of all to realise the magnificent Abia of everyone’s dream, where milk and honey flow.
Let us, therefore, continue to persevere, partner, support and pray for the governor and his team to excel in the discharge of their divine mandate. (End)
Sam Okoro, is an Umuahia-based public affairs commentator