THE declaration of Alex Chioma Otti as the governor-elect of Abia State sparked spontaneous celebrations across the state during the week. The people of the state expressed unfettered joy because of their belief that they have, through their massive election of Otti, been liberated from their bondage of nearly 24 years. The celebration across Abia State was steeped and it was also as a result of the fact that the people had sought a relief for a long time. Alex Otti represented not just that, but he also symbolises an opportunity for the state to truly liberate itself and revive its arrested development.
The people elected Oji Uzor Kalu in 1999 with the strong and exuberant hope that the young state would be tended like the juvenile tendrils of a sprouting yam. But years after, the people found that the flourishing yam farm had been engulfed and was at the mercy of a monstrous orchestra of hungry crickets. Of course, they had presented as skillful farmers and the people had accepted them as such. The people wanted their yam tended but found that this should not be by Nte the cricket. The crickets were not the kind of hardworking farmers to cultivate such a young but enterprising state.
Through their facade of ‘structure’, stature and ‘power’, they had been feeding fat on the state and clung on it like vicious leeches. They also brought their ilk to milk the state at the expense of the workers, pensioners and masses. They ate Abia’s roads and sundry infrastructure; they pocketed the salary and pension of the true labourers in Abia fileds. Apart from their annoying parasitic disposition, they are ostentatious in the display of their opulence even in the incompetence.
Thus, Abia people became entrapped in a political cul de sac from which the people had repeatedly struggled to break free for nearly two and a half decades. Rather than witness genuine development, the people have repeatedly been riled up by successive disastrous administrations which blatantly handed power to carefully selected cronies since 1999. Thus, by the celebration of the people, the era of Abia family government was gone. Those who ruined our collective farm have been successfully driven away.
As a metaphor, it is safe to say that Aba is the heart of commerce in Abia. There’s nothing to argue about that. Aba is also competent to stand as the heart of commerce in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. If the second opinion is contested, it would not be poor judgement to honourably concede that Aba can come down a notch to be referred to as the energiser of trade and commerce in Port Harcourt. Therefore, the government of Alex Otti must devote at least 50 percent of its attention to effectively reopen and energise commerce and businesses in that commercial hub. One respected senior citizen in Rivers State shares this contention and actually shared his thoughts on what he feels should be done. The man contends that “commerce in Port Harcourt relies so much on the Aba business energy. But the road to Aba from Port Harcourt is a route not taken. And Aba, Abia State is losing so much revenue. Please do not accept the constant excuse that it is a federal road. It is not the cars of federal officials that suffer on that stretch of the Enugu – Port Harcourt road. Work out some funding arrangement and give that road a lifeline, and you would have won your second term within your first term.”
In terms of stature, attainment and presence, one ‘homunculus’ man may not be noticed in his quest to set an agenda for and give advice to a man who had run this same race unsuccessfully in time past. Otti is expected to have prepared and a lawyer of no less stature than Dr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani has stuck out his neck: “Abia has a very bad image in terms of decayed infrastructure, bad governance, bad leadership, backlog of salaries and pensions and all that. If you go to Aba, it is one of the worst places to be, especially in the rainy season. There is low morale in the civil service. Otti has a lot to do, I don’t envy him at this juncture. But he is going to pull through because of his pedigree, his competence, his skill and his character. He will not share Abia’s money; he is going to use Abia’s money for Abia. I basically believe that Otti is going to perform.”
The other portion of Otti’s 50 per cent attention for Aba should be given to internal roads and drainage in that eternal, bubbly frontline Abia city. During a visit to Aba to interview the television broadcast and theatre legend, Chief Elekwachi Ukonu otherwise known as Mazi Ukonu at his home in Aba, my memories of the town as an abandoned commercial fortress made a rabid resurgence. As I meandered my way through marsh, mud and meadow on the street where his residence is located in the heart of the town, I was thrown back to the days of my secondary education in Umuahia. That I would randomly hop on the train in my school uniform to visit my Aunt at Omoba Road in Ogbor Hill, Aba. Then, although Aba was nowhere near Umuahia in cleanliness, but it was still not anything like the refuse dump successive governments in Abia State had deliberately relegated the Enyimba City to.
On the sidelines of the interview session, the elderly man and I discussed Aba a little and he shared his thoughts. Mazi Ukonu took me into the Aba of yore and lamented the abyss Aba had become in the hands of unfeeling politicians. He was literally weeping for Abia State because of the misfortune of bad administrations. One of the pains expressed by that man of immense stature and knowledge and who made waves with his Ukonu’s Club in NTA Aba was the state of internal roads in the city. Chief Ukonu stated his, all other Abians have their dreams too. Otti has his plans and it is hoped that they are for a better state.
With Otti, the people have hope. Thus, it will not be out of place to charge from this corner, in my Ikwuano variant of the Igbo language: De Alex Otti, a kwara la ajo ji àlà. Do not till the soil for bad yam. The imagery of the bastardised yam farm is before the people of Abia. They have, over the years, wished that things are done differently and governance is taken away from yes men and returned to the people. Crooked cronies are the ‘ajo ji’ that must be done away with. That jubilation in Abia should tell Otti that the people want him and would cooperate with him to bring about a successful tenure. He must therefore not let anything that would tarnish his administration fester. A kwara la ajo ji àlà. One of the factors going for him is that he has no godfather per se. As things stand, there are strong expectations that there would be no “Nna Anyi said” in the coming dispensation in Abia State. And we hope and reiterate that Alex Otti will not till the ground for the continued cultivation of bad yam. Otti a gaghi a kwara ajo ji àlà.
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