If you have at any time made an attempt to understand the kind of leadership the Alex Otti led Labour Party government has brought to the Southeast or perhaps you can’t help being confused as a member of the opposition then you must read this.
By Njoku SaintJerry A.
This may perhaps, appear as the best of times for residents of Nigeria’s SME hub and center of commerce, Abia State.
For over 2 decades the South East region known as industrial nerve center of Nigeria for its craftsmanship and ingenuity in trade and commerce was almost brought to its knees by political state actors when it took headlines for whatsoever negative tag that could be attributed to a failed enterprise. It was simply an awful tale of the people, the environment and their leaders.
Out of the 5 Major South Eastern States, Ebonyi was gaining a moderate attention for its internal reconstruction by then Governor Dave Umahi until Governor Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State came into the fora.
Ebonyi is not known as a trade or economic hub; therefore, hope was rekindled with the emergence of Chukwuma Soludo in Anambra state but was so short-lived with the people calling for his head for diverting attention to Abuja power brokers rather than Southeast.
As Engr. Dave Umahi was leaving governance of Ebonyi State, Chukwuma Soludo appeared not to have scored a convincing point for people in Anambra State to accept his position as possessing the capacity to lead the South East region out of the quagmire of economic neglect and poor leadership as they complain of neglect and frustrating business policies that has not yielded any relief to the commercial residents of Anambra state.
While Imo State has adopted all the headlines on security issues leaving the region as a war prone environment, attention remains unfazed on Abia as a lifeline and back up for the survival of the South East.
18th March 2023, the people in Abia State, their environment and their leaders were all put to a test on this date. The people rose up en-masse for their environment and their unfortunate economic situation and stood up against every known manipulation both religious and political to pick a leader they trust to take them out of the quagmire of filth and economic stagnation.
As the result of the election was pronounced, the excitement that shook Abia State on the 22nd March 2023 on hearing the announcement of the victory of the man they had built hope on, was reminiscent of the jubilation of a people set free from a long grip of cruel hostages as Dr. Alex Otti (OFR) emerged the new governor of Abia.
Now why was the earth shaking excitement on Alex Otti and the Labour Party and how has his leadership sustained the confidence the people repose on him.
The Choice of Labour Party
First, the choice of Labour Party and the principle on which the party is built.
It is not a coincidence that Alex Otti picked the Labour Party ticket, he had options but there was something supernaturally symbolic between the people and their God. It is found on the Logo of Labour Party.
The People are represented in the Logo as a Mother and Father and their Child, then the Wheel in the Logo representing Industry, Labour and Productivity, because the wheel is designed to rotate and that rotation happens only when there is productivity.
The environment thrives when the people are productive, the people are productive when there is a leader responsible for the rotation of the wheel of industry, If you take the people, their environment and industry out of nation building as your priority, it is obvious you will achieve practically nothing.
Unless you have this understanding of people and the environment you will be merely playing politics with the enterprise of public responsibility and that is almost becoming the Nigerian thing, it doesn’t work and will never work for any leader that fails to understand the position of the people, their environment and what keeps both active.
The Choice Of No Awards
This is Alex Otti’s first score card; on his inauguration day he said “Do not give me any award, Chieftaincy, Religious or whatsoever until I have finished the work which I have come to do”
I have taken part in the organising of many award parties, it’s a kind of soft solicitation for partnership, you give me this, I will make an award plaque in your honor and call the media people to make it a headline, it’s a kind of soft image laundry. Of course there exist merit awards but for the man and woman in politics or active public service, you do not deserve any award of media hype until you are assessed out of office. It was here that Alex Otti sets the first role model and pulled down all the Bill boards of self deception celebrating previous Abia governors for non existing advertised achievements.
The Low Hanging Fruits – the people and their environment
Second, Governor Otti went for the low hanging fruits – the ordinary people, those who do not belong to any circle of influence, neither political nor business, these are the low hanging fruits, once you are able to win their feel, you win everything.
In Abia State, they constitute the civil servants, pensioners, small business owners suffering the harsh environment of infrastructure neglect to run their businesses,
Prior to Otti’s emergence, virtually every civil servant in Abia state was owed money running into several months, some pensioners have died while begging politicians in government to pay them their entitlements, Otti took the bull by its horns and undertook the payment of all concerned in the first 6 months of his administration, and to untie the administrative bottleneck that has necessitated the backlog of unpaid salaries, it was found out that those parading as political leaders have been stealing the poor people’s money and living large at their expense.
Those who opted to engage in small businesses could not sustain it because the environment was simply chaotic and filthy. In the state capital, the environment wore the appearance of a Rural-Urban town, Once its 7.00pm the city is as dark as a cemetery, not a single street light functions, its gross darkness so much that before 5.00pm shop owners are closing business and returning home.
Governor Otti embarked on a project he referred to as ‘Light Up Abia” and began mounting Solar Powered Street Light across the cities to liven up the streets and bring back businesses, On sighting the shinning of Street Lights, the ordinary folks at Jubillee Street in Aba went wild in excitement, some held a vigil, Light has come into the city!
Why did Governor Otti invested so much energy on the ordinary people and their environment at inception?
The answer is not farfetched; these are the source of the economic wheel, owing them their means of survival amount to strangling the economy and neglecting their environment amount to killing their businesses – this was what previous administrations in all their 8 to 16 years failed to understand and Abia state was literally brought down to the rubble as No industry will thrive in a careless environment of filth and lawlessness, Nobody will work or deliver service effectively when the family is in debts and neglected while few circles of Individuals in authority lives in pomp and affluence at the detriment of their society. No serious investor will consider the region for all its woeful stories of neglect and careless leadership.
Do not play politics with the people and the state
Third, Otti as much as practically possible refrained from partisan politics and decided to engage governance as a reformer and a conscientious Labour leader.
This, perhaps have remained as one of the greatest asset of leadership of the Alex Otti administration, at first it was difficult to accept and almost impracticable to not play politics once you are in power in Nigeria, it is a time to call friends and families, pipers and dancers to sing and dance for you even when you shit in your pants, fellow politicians will praise you to high heavens as long as you bring the proceeds of governance and open the public purse on the kitchen table for all to ‘chop’ (Perhaps this is why it is called Kitchen Cabinet).
Otti turned a 360 degree from that practice of ‘let’s share the cake’ politics of Abia state, they call it ‘Blood Tonic’. He practically drained the tonic and chose to focus on the goal of rebuilding the failed state from the scratch with experts and men of high integrity and morals, while maintaining low key harmony with party faithfuls.
There have been rumours of neglecting the party or the people that brought him to power, but Otti has proved a master strategist in the game of politics of a reformer and that is, the politics of the people who made the society thrive, You feed them first and not the few circles of fortune seekers and opportunists.
Otti avoided the political hawks and looked out for what will make the ordinary people happy, the people want to see their streets lit up, they want to see their roads cleaned up and tarred, the people wants to be engaged by every means necessary void of the normal power play and political rhetoric. Any leader who chose this model is certain to win again.
When a leader chooses to empower the people and the environment first, it will be easier to convince them to join his brand of politics of self fulfillment and not a service in hunger and anger that produces hordes of sycophancy and liars, Otti exemplifies a genuine commitment to rebuild the roads and communities first and not embark upon political patronage. Any leader who does that will win again!
Indigenization and Industry
Finally, opening up the South East begins with indigenization of our own goods and services, after winning the confidence of the people and exhibiting genuine capacity to rebuild the environment, Otti engaged Nigeria’s only indigenous auto maker, Innosson motors to supply homemade vehicles’ both for himself and for official use as government vehicles, a visit to Umuahia will almost make you assume the vehicles are produced in Umuahia, then he commences the opening up of economic link roads and internal road networks to create unhindered access to business and movement of people. It’s no brainier that Governor Otti’s choices of engagement have endeared him to the residents of Abia and to the admiration of supporters of good governance which continue to elude the Southeast region despite the presence of enormous resources both human and capital that should rebuild entire Southeast to a massive economic region.
With the rebuilding and opening up of roads that were long abandoned and placing a priority on the people that operates the economy.’ Foreign investors began to make inquires on Moribund industries while the Otti’s government embarked upon clearing forest farmlands for mega industrial projects, agriculture and entertainment.
This is the development model entire Southeast has yearned for over the years and Governor Alex Otti have come to make a bold statement, Development is possible irrespective of the acclaimed difficulties and disparity between the Federal and State infrastructure, every committed leader can and will achieve success once his policy is targeted towards the people and their primary environment.
Njoku Jerry Ajike is the State Publicity Secretary of Labour Party, Abia