As Otti returns to the turf, By Chima Nwafo

Posted by News Express | 8 August 2018 | 1,335 times

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•Abia guber hopeful, Dr. Alex Otti

 From the cool ambience but tough battle-ground of corporate survival in the top first generation and leading second generation banks, Dr Alex Otti emerged on the murky waters and dubious terrain of Nigeria’s partisan politics in 2014, as the gubernatorial standard-bearer of the All Progressive Alliance (APGA), in Abia State. Yet, he was not a neophyte. And the opposition which, incidentally, was the ruling party, both at the state and federal levels equally felt his presence. And they deployed the totality of their arsenals, both human and material, and fought dirty. Battle-wise, they did not win. Neither did Abia voters disappoint him. Between officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who accepted to be hosted by partisan Local Government Transition Chairmen and the State Collation and Returning Officer who was compelled to renounce his initially- announced result, the election was lost, and the stage set for the tribunals and courts.

Conscious of his victory in what observers saw as barefaced robbery, he did not give up. Not minding the financial and psychological cost, Otti trudged on. The seasoned technocrat and economist was no stranger to battles. He wrestled like a cat and shook the system in the three fronts of the electoral battlefield. Convinced of the mandate Abia people gave him, Otti fought gallantly: from the electoral tribunals to the Supreme Court. He proved his mettle at all the stages of the battle. But, ours is a peculiar model of democracy. Our judiciary too is peculiar to our socio-political milieu. And Nigerians are quite an individualistic lot. The moment they cast their votes, they’re no longer bothered what happens next, especially in post-war South-east. Perhaps, this is due to their perception of the calibre of politicians parading the oriental stratosphere since the current democratic dispensation. Since there are no ideological differences, it’s hard to differentiate one politician from the other, one political party from the other. Generally, the security of their pecuniary attractions determines their political leaning. As a result, they actually play on the people’s emotions and primordial sentiments.

As a result, no one wants to belong to the opposition; both at the state and federal. But since the ruling party cannot contain all the interests, the rest have no choice but to accept that reality. And that operates more effectively at the federal, where the institutional structures are well defined. But that is not the same with states, where most governors hold sway as Generalissimos. As the absolute paymaster, they call the shots for both state assemblies and local governments. Under such an atmosphere, it’s been pretty difficult being in the opposition, except in Anambra State, due to the peculiar circumstances that threw up Peter Obi’s administration. Even in the ‘Centre of Excellence’, how many of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members elected into the Lagos House of Assembly are still on the opposition?  On that score, Otti may not have enjoyed the desired support of APGA members in Abia State for long.

But that should not be, given the circumstances in which APGA won 11 seats or rather 11 state constituencies were allowed to the party in the State Assembly poll. That was then. Who knows the latest figure, going by the experience of PDP legislators in Lagos State. But, with that number, APGA would have been a vocal and contentious opposition party in the state. And given that the ruling party makes good use of the media, especially with the Made in Aba slogan. The governor carefully chose his media team, majorly from his clan and they have helped him win some laurels – from the media too. So much noise, but little substance! There are bogus claims of achievements but facts on the ground speak the contrary. Naturally, it is the duty of the opposition to dig deep for details to counter those exaggerated media reports. This is particularly necessary for a state where media penetration is relatively low. This is quite understandable. First, the Aba trader, and they are in the majority, is neither interest in politics nor civil society activism. Second, there is high-level political apathy in the state, although the scenario is gradually changing. These are major drivers of news. That is why someone has to work harder to attract the people’s attention. But for the social media, the atrocities of soldiers against unarmed members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), especially during the “Operation Python Dance II”, would not have been adequately reported. Even with the gory photographs, one pitiable image maker described the social media report as rumour. Given the preponderance of such goons, the need for an active and informed opposition in a state like Abia cannot be over-emphasised. There’s need to educate the people, drawing attention to lapses in public affairs. Sad, it appears Abia APGA expects Otti and a couple of his close allies to lead and perform the functions of opposition. That should not be. There were and soon will be senatorial aspirants, House of Representatives contestants, and party executives. How often do we read their views about what is happening, or not occurrences not presented as accurately in Abia?

Hence, I partially disagree with Nwangwu’s well-articulated narrative in the Daily Sun of July 14, on the …The silence of good people. The more disturbing silence in this context is that of party men. Sometimes one wonders if APGA has a publicity secretary, state party chairman and a youth wing. The party should keep in touch with the polity, proffer alternative solutions to some issues, query excesses or absence of transparency and due process in public spending and contract awards. They should let the electorate know APGA has not resigned to fate, sulking. There should be some politicking and critical analysis of issues to keep your supporters’ hope alive. The momentum with which APGA campaigned and contested the polls ought to have been maintained. But media watchers know it wasn’t, even if some may claim to have been active, if they were, maybe their voices were muffled, unheard. In politics, you must blow your own trumpet loud and clear. You must be bold to challenge the opposition. And that yields a greater result when you have facts at your fingertips.

 For, example, three years on, Enyimba International Football Club, Nigeria’s only Continental Champion, is still shamelessly playing all their home matches in far-flung states, some of which are not as industrially vibrant as Abia, neither do they collect so much from the Federation Account. That is just one. There several other instances. Somebody should help Abians in the Diaspora to appreciate the enormity of developmental problems confronting the state; that in reality, not much has changed.

The state still needs the services of a tested, globally acknowledged manager of men and resources like Dr Otti. That is why it is important for the good people and friends of Abia to join forces with him and compel the system to give him a chance. Surely, that cannot be on a platter, no. So far, he has proved his commitment to the liberation of Abia by staging a comeback, despite the raw deal he suffered in 2015.

 Part of the consolation, however, is that power has changed hands at the centre. Although PDP still controls the state, but the loyalty of the security forces and INEC officials have equally changed. This was demonstrated during the Ekiti State governorship election. Perhaps, that should give APGA some reason for confidence: that the injustices and impunity of 2015 cannot be repeated without challenge in 2019. At least, the All Progressives Congress will operate at the same level of opposition in Abia State.

Nwafo, Features Editor, News Express Online, can be reached on chi_dafo@yahoo.com090 6522 5130.

Source: News Express

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