by Ifeanyi Amanze
“Aba ma ndi Aba (Aba knows its own people)”, the cheering crowd yelled as Alex Otti waltzed through Ariaria market; a characteristic smile playing on the corner of his lips.
“Alex Otti Ka anyi ma (Alex Otti is the one we know)”, a sea of locals chanted in Ohafia a few days later as the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate made a campaign stop in the community.
It is this collage of fawning and adoring supporters that leaves hack writer, Madubuko Hart, uneasy. “It is an erroneous view of any observer to quantify the noise that Otti is making in the media called campaign as being that “he has in abundant goodwill across the state”, Hart, now on the throes of an apoplexy, purred in his article titled: “Olusegun Adeniyi misfired on Abia”. Still unable to come to terms with the fact that one of the country’s finest columnists had literally called the Abia Governorship election for Otti, Hart belted his familiar rhetoric; one we’ve come to associate with his watery opinion pieces: “Otti whom Adeniyi has extolled beyond the fairness and balancing of report as is obtainable in journalism, knows that he is dead politically just on arrival; he knows that he cannot win election in the state, because he lacks the political sagacity and dexterity”.
This is where we have to help Madubuko Hart. This is the point where we save Madubuko Hart from himself. The cross-country appeal Otti is garnering from eligible voters in Abia State has nothing to do with a media blitz or a PR gimmick. Everywhere Otti has showed up in the State on his campaign stops, he’s articulated a clear vision for the State which he will begin to implement come spring. Like a fine school teacher, Otti never fails to lay out his blueprint on remaking Aba and Ariaria into industrial and economic clusters, mechanizing Agriculture in the State and improving healthcare and education across the State. The messaging has been constant and recurring. It is this attention to detail and policies that has endeared the APGA candidate to Ndi Abia, who can now spot a politician who means what he says because he has thought it through, from the herd of pretenders jostling for votes in Abia.
Hear Alex Otti on his plans for the chaos that Aba has become: “In my interaction with fellow APGA members, I spoke about our plans to build three flyover bridges in Aba. These flyovers will be located at Abayi (near Ngwa High School), Port Harcourt road and Ogbor Hill (near Enyimba hotel). These bridges will decongest traffic in the city, as well as create alternative routes for those going to Port Harcourt and Enugu, saving them precious time as they go about their businesses”. Crystal clear and unambiguous. No “Is/was”.
Hear Otti on Ariaria market which now passes for a pigsty: “We will relocate the popular Ariaria market. The truth is that the popular market has now become an eyesore. Our plan is to build a new Ariaria International Market across the express road. This new Ariaria will be a world-class shopping mall, and all occupiers of the present Ariaria that bring valid, verifiable papers for their shops will get new, air-conditioned shops in the mall”. Why wouldn’t the folks in Ariaria hail and call him their own?
Hear Otti on creating jobs by getting the private sector to work: “We have plans to build an industrial cluster, where our young people can fully and meaningfully engage their creativity and, in so doing, create a better life for themselves, as well as a more vibrant economy for Abia. The time has come for us to look beyond oil. The blueprint for the radical transformation of Abia is being completed. In fact, International Finance Corporations (IFCs) have already indicated their interest in taking up the Industrial Cluster project to the tune of One Hundred Million Dollars! This money is not made available to everyone, but only to experts and organisations these corporations trust. At the risk of sounding immodest, permit me to say that they trust my proven financial management skills, having extended the same facility to me when I headed Diamond Bank, and having seen how judiciously their funds were used then”. How else do you define ‘sagacity’ which Hart piteously claims Otti doesn’t possess?
Here, Otti outlines his blueprint for the healthcare sector as succinct as you would like: “On healthcare delivery, we envisage a not-so-distant future where Abia State will be at the centre of medical tourism in Nigeria and the West African sub-region. To this end, we plan to build real, world-class hospitals, starting with three, to be located in each senatorial zone of our state”.
Otti has also cut to the chase on the sensitive denizen factor: “I do not believe in the question of indigenes and non-indigenes. It ought not to arise at all. As far as we are concerned, any resident of Abia is an indigene, and is therefore entitled to every service my government provides, be it free education, quality healthcare or a better standard of living”. Just as it should be across Nigeria.
We could go on and on.
For so long, the electorate in Abia State have had to put up with political office seekers who come bearing vague promises or mouthing platitudes you could almost tell they will never keep or have never thought through. For so long, Ndi Abia have had to choose from a cast of politicians not ready to govern; but who have been foisted on the people by rent-seeking godfathers. At last, an office seeker appears on the stomp ground articulating his plans and delineating how these plans will be implemented.
That has been the difference between Otti and an Ikpeazu, for instance, whose plans for Abia State are still the subject of necromancy. “There is no electioneering promise of Governor Theodore Orji that he has not fulfilled; hence whatever anyone is saying against this is just “manufactured realities”, Hart writes, barely believing his own words. When people have to be forced to see “electioneering promises” on the ground, then there’s a problem. A huge problem.
In Abia State, prospective voters are coming to terms with the fact that they’ve been handed a raw and fake deal in the past and are ready to pitch tent with a thinker; one emblazoned with a track record of performance in the private sector. Alex Otti doesn’t only sound the part; he has looked the part on the campaign trail. Hart and his ilk may adduce all of these to media hype, which is quite unfortunate but not surprising; coming from a coterie of persons whose ‘ideas trough’ is virtually empty.
Ifeanyi Amanze writes from Umuahia.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.