Friday, November 24, 2023

GOVERNOR ALEX OTTI AND THE FAMILIAR ANTICS OF NAYSAYERS

Governor Alex Otti and the Familiar Antics of Naysayers 

By Dodoh Okafor 


Let me start on this note: Dr Alex C. Otti, OFR, the Executive Governor of Abia of Abia State is not a perfect human being and does not pretend to be one; he does not run a perfect government and as a leader, he believes, very much like many of us around him, that every day is an opportunity to improve on yesterday’s output, learn from the mistakes and consolidate on the gains. 


Importantly, Governor Otti, is of the conviction that democracy can only grow when those in opposition act as effective watchdogs, pointing the public to where the government in power erred and making alternative policy prescriptions. 


As someone who extensively played opposition politics, the Abia State governor appreciates the fact that you cannot win over the people solely by brash politicking; at least, he is experienced enough to know that any opposition with a balanced strategy must always seek to outthink the ruling party in terms of how problems are interpreted and new paths to better outcomes established. 


Dr Otti knows all of these and everyone around him can attest to how readily available he is to listen to alternative viewpoints and dissect ideas on the basis of their relevance to situational realities. 


In societies where the ideals of democracy are deeply rooted, Governor Otti’s style of leadership would have been a standard practice. In Nigeria however, things are very much dramatic as many have come to accept mediocrity as the norm. 


The routine lies told by the many dishonest political leaders in the land have been accepted as truth. 


Quietly and without knowing it, it is now settled for many that things will always remain like they have been, stagnant or in retrogression. 


Over the last decade, a large army of cynics have emerged. To this group of mostly young people who interact habitually on the internet and social media platforms, nobody is credible, nobody should be trusted and those who seem to live above board in their public or private life are either hiding something or have just not been probed enough. 


To prove their theory that “they are all the same,” any hint of wrongdoing, however unfounded, is embraced as a eureka moment. 

Governor Alex Otti came to power in May this year with a promise to do things differently. 


Matter-of-factly, he defeated the candidate of the incumbent PDP, Chief Okey Ahiwe and several others, on the strength of his reputation for doing things differently. 


He promised that salaries would be paid by the 28th of every month, that the mountains of refuse that had defined the Aba and Umuahia urban landscape would be evacuated to never return again, and that pensioners would heave a sigh of relief after 8 years of asphyxiation by the PDP administration. 


He also vowed that under his watch, all the economically and socially important roads in Aba and Umuahia and across the rural communities would receive major government attention and that our people whether traders, transporters or just individuals in pursuit of their varying social and economic interests would be able to do so with one less thing to worry about: bad roads. 


The Governor promised to rebuild the civil service and make it an effective mechanism for driving the execution of the programmes and policies of the government. At the venue of his inauguration, he served quit notice to criminals to quickly vacate the state or face the might of the government. 


To the general population, he promised improved access to medical services, announcing that women and mothers would get a better deal under his leadership.  

It figures therefore that anyone who is keen to assess the governor — as is necessary under a democratic setting — would be acting fairly by looking at his output on the things that matter most to the population namely: road reconstruction and rehabilitation, payment of salaries and pensions, urban sanitation, reform of the civil service, healthcare delivery, education and responsiveness to the needs of the general population. 


Indeed, on road rehabilitation and reconstruction, there is no early-term governor in Nigeria today who can beat Dr Otti’s records in this regard. As several commentators have noted, the Abia State governor appear to be in a hurry to fix all the bad roads in the state, starting with Aba and Umuahia. 


From MCC road to Udeagbala, and from Umuimo and several others in Aba which had already been commissioned for public use to Port Harcourt Road (Aba) and Ossah Road (Umuahia) amongst several others currently under construction, it is evident that we are indeed in a New Abia where the government works for the people, not godfathers and other hideous actors who deploy threats, blackmail and intimidation to have their way with public funds. 


What is clear, but unsavoury to the opposition, is that the governor Otti has made nonsense of the myth that you have to wait until the end of the rains before the roads can get serious attention. 


Yes, the governor wants our people to ply good roads, no matter the season.  


Generally, the governor has made good his promises on key areas. Workers and pensioners now get their entitlements on or before the 28th of every month. 


Today it is easy for a civil servant or retirees in the state to plan, certain that their salaries and pensions would be paid as soon as they are due. 


To tackle the menace of criminality, the governor launched a special security operation codenamed “Operation Crush” and true to his commitment, the state is now one of the safest destinations in the region. 


He is steadily working to improve healthcare delivery services across the state. Presently, the state sponsors free medical services in all the public hospitals in the state and this programme has been running since July. 


The free healthcare initiative covers full diagnostics services, surgery and other medical support services. 


Not only did the emergency taskforce team he set up at the inception of his administration to evacuate heaps of refuse at strategic points in the urban areas achieve its mandate satisfactorily, the waste management system in the state is now better structured with private sector operators at the centre of it while the state environmental protection agency, ASEPA, plays a strictly regulatory role, saving the government huge chunk of funds and providing jobs for hundreds of people.


Across Nigeria and beyond, it is widely accepted that the Abia State governor is setting new standards by running a government that responds promptly to the needs of the people. 


Recently, students from the state’s nursing schools rose in protest against the conduct of the post-test session (PTS) exams. 


The governor did not send armed security operatives to disperse the protesters but welcomed them, paid attention to their complaints and set up a team to investigate the allegations made. 


When evidence of wrongdoing was established, the examination was immediately cancelled on the governor’s order and the students are happy, convinced that indeed, we have a governor who listens. 


In response to allegations of extortion by commercial drivers in Aba against some security operatives, the governor directed his special adviser on security to swing into action and work with the relevant stakeholders to put an end to the menace of extorting money from hardworking Nigerians by men in uniform under whatever guise. 


Governor Otti insists that there will be zero tolerance for any form of extortion, especially of the common people, in any part of the state.  


This is not something you find every day in a country where extortion, for many, is a way of life. 


Does Governor Otti expect the praise of the opposition for his efforts? 


Clearly, he is not naïve to hold such expectations. 


However, so many of us are disappointed that several well-meaning Nigerians are often misled when opposition elements, working with uninformed and mischievous elements in the media, throw their usual mischief into the public space. 


When the governor launched the Operation Crush initiative, they made sure that the governor’s efforts at improving security across the state did not get any mention. 


Their only worry was that the operational vehicle for the exercise did not come from a certain supplier. 


Without getting the substance of the issue, the cynics ran to the media with the tale, refusing to make critical inquiries to understand what the issues were. 


Recently, reports emerged that the “governor spent about 1 billion naira on feeding.” 


It was a clearly sensational headline designed to mislead and drive a negative narrative on governor Otti and the government he leads: “they are all the same.” 


Well, “they are not all the same” as the truth has since emerged. The terms were misconstrued to deceive but the fact remains that nothing close to the announced sum was spent on “feeding.” 


The spending (N233.3 million) captured the expenditures across all arms and institutions of government in the state, including the ministries, departments and agencies and the items cover more than just food and drinks. 


The details are in the state government website, abiastate.gov.ng, but to those whose intent is to indict, the truth means nothing. 


Only the headlines, no matter how mischievously written, would count. 


The governor understands the risks associated with the job he took and he is very much prepared to deal with each as they develop. 


His singular motivation is to serve the people of Abia State with dedication and sincerity. 


He will never waiver on that commitment. 

To the good-intentioned observers whose only interest in Abia and its governor is to find one flicker of hope amidst the thick cloud of darkness in the polity, and all other men of goodwill wishing to see Abia succeed after years of rudderless leadership, the assurance is that Gov. Otti will continue to lead with accountability and transparency, and that public resources will only be channelled to causes and projects that promise the best outcome to the state and its citizens.


Mr Dodoh Okafor is the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Alex Otti on Public Communication.

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