Dr. Alex Otti

If there is any justice in the world, and indeed, if Abians are deserving of justice and worthy of reprieve from almost two decades of agony, then the wheels of justice, which regrettably grinds ever so slowly in Nigeria, will hopefully grind in the direction of truth and fairness. A Supreme Court victory for Otti will inevitably usher in an era of peace, economic prosperity and massive infrastructural development for the State.

A Supreme Court victory for Dr. Alex Otti, former GMD/CEO of Diamond Bank and gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the last general elections, is the best thing that can happen to Abia State in 2016, for at least the next four years. Going on two decades of misrule, mismanagement and political high-handedness by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Abians have been starved and deprived of good governance and their sense of pride in the state has totally shrivelled.

Once the darling of a nation, the great industrial-cum-agricultural potentials that the state once possessed dwarfed, failing to materialise, as successive PDP administrations have disappointed woefully at transforming potential and promise into performance. If anything, the State has suffered a momentous decline on virtually all indices of development in spite of the humongous inflow of federal allocations and locally generated revenue. At times, it appeared as though the immediate past governor was in a race to outdo his predecessor on the dereliction stakes. The need for a change could not have been more profound.

Otti’s hard-fought emergence as APGA candidate and a certain contender for the seat of power in the state signalled a breath of fresh air for most Abians who had lost every dint of hope they had in the PDP. A true son of the soil who is loved among his Arochukwu people in Abia North where he hails from and in Isiala Ngwa South in Abia South where he was born and raised, throughout the campaigns, the man cut the clear figure of someone who has a clinical understanding of the challenges confronting the people of his state.

Most importantly, he demonstrated at several fora that he has the answers for the many questions troubling the minds of a perplexed lot – often offering a basket of fresh ideas that were laced with practical and innovative short and long term solutions which, if given room to fly, would set Abia State well on its way to reclaiming its pride of place as one of Nigeria’s commercial headquarters. Otti’s belief in the embedded multifarious potentials of the state, the conviction that those potentialities remain grossly under-utilised and the manifest need for an urgent departure from the status quo, rang true and loudly in all of his campaign appeals to his compatriots.

A banking titan rather than a career politician, what he lacks in political prowess, he more than makes up for in his erudition and deep understanding of the needs and aspirations of Abians. It is the character, or so it is generally believed, of elites to be aloof and far removed from the quotidian experiences of the common man. Not Otti. He eats, sleeps, breathes, dreams and lives Abia. Otti believes in and is passionate about the Abian dream. This explains why he has never related or communicated with the base through proxies. He not just has his ears to the ground in Abia, the people have his ear. He mingles and relates directly with the people in the grassroots, assessing their peculiar needs and connecting with them at an emotional level. It was in fact this connection that evoked his empathy for the plight of his people and informed his decision to run for office, in response to the yearnings of Abians who had had it up to their throats with the pillaging PDP.

One of Otti’s favourite quotes is, “When tempted to quit, remember why you started.” This aphorism provided the mental push to go on in the face of daunting odds. Having won a hard-fought victory to clinch the APGA mandate, the decision to persist in sacrificing self, comfort, and resources, to pursue his stolen mandate in the courts of law was fuelled by a constant reminder of why he embarked on the political journey of his life in the first place – Abians.

It was Cambridge-based Professor Anthony Kila who advocated in a 2015 lecture in Lagos that power be given to those who want it and know why they want it, particularly when the motives are seen to be just. Otti’s tireless and relentless pursuit of power is occasioned by his conviction that the choice of Abians in the April elections was unambiguous and unequivocal. As opposed to those who seek power for the perks and trappings thereof, Otti has reiterated quite convincingly that his quest is driven by a yearning for true change in Abia. His is an ambition that aligns with and is subject to the aspirations and expectations of Abians.

Otti is Abia and this is the reason why he fights on. In his brief foray into politics, he has lived a charmed political cum judicial life. His faith in Nigeria’s legal system has been justified on two occasions – post the 2015 APGA primaries and post the April 2015 General and Supplementary elections. For the sake of the people of Abia who deserve better than they currently have, let us pray and hope he is a third time lucky.

Indeed, who better than Otti embodies the leadership need of the Abia people? His credentials and proven track record of competence provide answers to all of the development questions faced in Abia. His vast corporate experience, extensive international network and entrepreneurial dexterity displayed in successfully managing the affairs of some of Nigeria’s foremost financial institutions put him in a good stead to rewrite the history of Abia as governor. That is, of course, the sole position that can afford him the primal opportunity to weld the most influence and access the most resources required to create the Abia of his dreams.

Abia as an oil producing state presents all educated minds with a perplexing paradox. The state has witnessed too little development to parallel the federal largesse that it enjoyed during the gravy-train years of the oil-price boom under the two previous PDP administrations. That anomaly is unacceptable for Otti who has a keen understanding of figures and knows inside-out, the politics and dynamics of fossil fuels better than most, having previously excelled in top corporate roles such as when he was Principal Manager for United Bank of Africa’s (UBA) corporate banking for the entire South Division where he grew the bank’s oil and gas business.

It was his success in that role that attracted First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) which brought him into its ranks in 2001 with the sole purpose of growing the bank’s energy business. He would spend over a decade with the bank rising to the level of Executive Director, South Directorate, where he successfully oversaw 140 branches in the South-East and South-South geo-political zones of the country.

In an era of plunging international oil prices and federal government revenues taking a seismic hit: at a time when the imperative for states to be creative in devising viable and sustainable alternative revenue sources has never been stronger, who better to steer the wheels of the Abian economy than a man with the proven capacity, experience and expertise. The people of Abia have suffered too long and too gravely to leave their collective destiny at the mercy of the same party that perfected their sufferings. This was why Otti’s Appeal Court victory spawned wild jubilation scenes all across Abia, as the people’s hope which seemed to have evaporated, was temporarily resurrected.

Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has tried to save face for himself and his party by salvaging whatever residual reputation his predecessor left for the PDP, by commissioning the repairs of several unmotorable roads which pose a national disgrace. However, for many Abians who feel irked by the PDP’s fleeting victory at the polls, his actions are tantamount to stealing all of a person’s wealth and offering to feed him to pacify him. They would rather have their commonwealth managed and administered by another set of hands – hands they trust and voted for. Having served in an administration that impoverished them, not a few Abians see Ikpeazu as a puppet leader – a mere marionette on the puppet strings of his puppet master – Theodore Orji. They see his government as an extension of the one they fought so hard with their votes to boot out and, therefore, are desperate for a change.

If there is any justice in the world, and indeed, if Abians are deserving of justice and worthy of reprieve from almost two decades of agony, then the wheels of justice, which regrettably grinds ever so slowly in Nigeria, will hopefully grind in the direction of truth and fairness. A Supreme Court victory for Otti will inevitably usher in an era of peace, economic prosperity and massive infrastructural development for the State. As a man on a mission to revive the state’s ailing economy, he has his work cut out. His blueprint and roadmap for creating change remain one of the best shared by any gubernatorial candidate across the federation in the last elections.

Otti is Abia and this is the reason why he fights on. In his brief foray into politics, he has lived a charmed political cum judicial life. His faith in Nigeria’s legal system has been justified on two occasions – post the 2015 APGA primaries and post the April 2015 General and Supplementary elections. For the sake of the people of Abia who deserve better than they currently have, let us pray and hope he is a third time lucky.

Bamidele Salako covers the judiciary and writes from Umuahia, Abia State.