Being A Speech Delivered By Dr. Alex Otti, OFR on the Declaration of His Intention to Run For The 2023 Governorship Election At Umuahia on April 17, 2022.
|Alex Otti Picture During His Official Declaration|
Fellow Abians, party men and women, supporters and allies in the struggle, I bring you Easter felicitations. Today is significant as it marks the resurrection of our lord and saviour, Jesus Christ from the grave, having been crucified, died and buried. It can be likened to the several years that our State has suffered crucification. Today marks the end of that crucifixion. Our state has started the journey to be raised from the dead.
I, therefore, stand before you on this holy day to declare my interest, once again, to serve you as Governor of this state from 29th May, 2023 under the platform of the All Progressive Congress, APC.
Majority of you already know the story of this struggle. It’s the story of a struggle motivated by sacrifice and sustained by tenacity. It’s a struggle inspired by conviction and advanced by courage. The problems which informed my decision to respond to the call of our people in 2014 for their liberation has now taken a new and a frightening dimension – complete breakdown of infrastructure, increase in inequality, non payment of wages of workers, high rate of unemployment, weak economy, corruption, abject poverty and poor healthcare and educational facilities.
Now, we cannot blame historic forces beyond our control for these challenges, but the wrong leadership choices we had made as a state, elder statesmen and citizens.
Without sounding immodest I would like to state that, as the GMD/CEO of a flourishing financial institution, with over six years of my tenure yet to expire, I voluntarily left my plum job, to the shock and disbelief of many who understood what the office I occupied meant, to answer the call to serve you.
Venturing into the murky waters of Abia politics from such professional background was not an alluring adventure for the faint hearted, so the struggle was ab initio not motivated by the quest for affluence, luxury or comfort, but by an altruistic desire to audaciously dare and defeat the albatross of leadership ignominy that had suffocated the economic development of our dear state for a very long time, and made us a laughing stock in the comity of states.
For instance, unemployment rate in Abia is presently 51% as against the National Average of 33% and best performers like Osun and Benue at less than 12%.
When I set out on this journey, I didn’t come as a messiah, but that of a servant-leader who would serve as a mere rallying point for a project that bore the trademark of a revolution. Abians saw the seriousness and sincerity in us and and swiftly keyed into our vision as we preached the gospel of positive change while mobilising our people in every nook and cranny of the state.
In spite of unprecedented acts of medieval threats, intimidation and brutal violence meted out to us and our supporters, we stood firm and got thousands of Abia voters out as they overwhelmingly voted for our victory. The climax of the violence was the invasion of the state collation centre by high ranking government officials and leaders of the PDP who forced the alteration of the result of the election to ensure that a loser was returned as governor. These same people who had earlier lined the streets of Aba with caskets to threaten voters, followed up the heist by setting ablaze at least two LG INEC offices to destroy evidence.
Many had asked why we didn’t counter those violent acts. Our response is that; we valued and still value the lives of innocent Abians at the collation centre, many of whom would have lost their lives in a crossfire if we took the same primitive extreme measures of counter violence.
We are convinced that it was better that our victory was delayed for such citizens to be alive to see us preside over the affairs of Abia in 2023 and fulfil our promise, than to have secured a victory that would lead to the loss of lives of those whom the victory was meant for. Our attempt to retrieve our mandate from the courts succeeded until the Supreme Court reversed same by ruling that electronic accreditation of voters by card readers was not recognized by the electoral act. We are glad that that mischief has been cured by the recent amendment of the electoral act.
Before the Supreme Court judgement of February 3, 2016, many attempts were made on my life by suspected opposition culminating in a bloody attack on my residence in Abuja in July 2015, a few hours after God had taken me away from there. Today, I remember the mobile police man attached to the residence who was shut dead by the attackers. May his soul continue to rest in peace.
We were also encouraged by the fact that though we may not have been declared and sworn in as Governor, but God inspired and spurred us to permanently and positively open the Abia political space to the point that our people got more involved in politics and governance, and became more conscious of their democratic rights. I want to state here that most of the people both within and outside Abia who took part in this process to delay the course of history have continued to regret their actions as 8 years speed through like lightening.
Some have been courageous enough to confess to us and ask for forgiveness. To those, we have already forgiven them! Some have regretted their actions but have no courage to confess and seek forgiveness. To the people in this category, we have also forgiven.
Like George Santayana opined “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The essence of this brief historical reference is not to mourn the tragedy of the past, but to educate and refresh the minds of those who may have forgotten; those who were not in Abia or never knew this part of our history; and those who may not have been of age as at the time this history was recorded.
Because God saw the richness of our vision and the genuineness of our intent, He prepared and equipped us spiritually, materially and mentally, thus we never gave a thought to overtures from the oppressors who repeatedly made several unsuccessful attempts to compromise us to betray and abandon the people we sought to lead.
In spite of all that transpired in the last seven years, we make bold to say that we neither bear grudges nor harbour hate against those we disagreed or disagree with because of our firm understanding that that the disagreements were and are ideological rather than personal. They have been baffled by the firmness of our conviction and the consistency of our character which is a true reflection of the true Igbo spirit.
We have held our ground firmly as the mouthpiece of the opposition and courageously engaged the government in the most constructive and responsible manner, with the utmost desire at ensuring that government is held to account and meets the democratic expectations of our people.
As I declare and offer myself for this onerous task, I’m mindful of the humongous challenges that are staring our state and people in the face, however, I’m not new to confronting challenges.
I may not have held public office, but I have led highly rated Coporate institutions where I successfully managed human and material resources and achieved mouthwatering results that drew national and international accolades and awards.
Yes, no matter the enormity of resources at a man’s disposal, if he lacks managerial skills and discipline, he would be a time bomb waiting to explode.
Abia is abundantly blessed with human and material resources, and thus has the potentials to exist and flourish outside the handouts called federal monthly allocation. All that the state requires is someone who has the skills, the character, the courage and the network of contacts to engineer responsible leadership that would propel economic resurgence and prosperity. That person is standing here before you and asking to be sent by you.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Considering the numerous challenges facing our people and our state at this time, coupled with the global economic downturn, it becomes expedient that we do things differently to achieve a different result.
Having appreciated that the only way to retrieve Abia from the stranglehold of the PDP, is to launch an attack from the opposition, I decided to join the All Progressives Congress (APC) for us to have a unified opposition. We have worked very hard to put up formidable structures from the polling units to wards, local governments and at the state level to take back our state.
For those of you who are wondering on the direction we intend to go, our vision and mission have not changed. We have resolved once again to bring change to Abia State and have the plan to do things differently.
We plan to pursue economic policies for shared prosperity and immediate attention on youth employment.
We plan to create quality education for development, modernization and social mobility.
We plan to ensure the modernization of agriculture and its value chains to take millions out of poverty and ensure food security in the state.
We plan to revive moribund industries and create new ones to generate employment and manufacture goods, not just to remain hawkers of other people’s goods.
We plan to support the establishment of modern healthcare facilities and guarantee the healthcare needs of our people.
We plan to deploy modern infrastructure to aid ease of doing business, particularly in Aba, the commercial nerve centre of the state.
We plan to move Abia from its present unenviable position of one of the dirtiest states in the country to the cleanest state
We plan to restore honour and integrity in public service by motivating, attracting and retaining the best.
We plan to tackle corruption which has become synonymous with the state. The rest of the states in Nigeria look at Abia State as a cesspit of corruption.
We plan to prioritize the protection of lives and property.
And we plan to respect the principles of separation of powers between the executive, legislatures and judiciary as well as respect the rights of citizens. That is why I’m in the race for the Governor of Abia State.
I’m in the race for the successful and the struggling Abians.
I’m in the race for those breaking barriers in technology and discovering cures for diseases.
I’m the race for petty traders who stand on their feet all day while hawking around the risky roads of Abia North, the dirty streets of Abia South and dangerous roads of Abia Central.
I’m in the race for the nurses and doctors who work day and night under terrible conditions and yet receive the reward of stagnated wages.
I’m in the race for the truckers, taxi and Keke drivers who drive for hours on our 3D roads – (Dirty, Dangerous and Deadly).
I’m in the race for the farmers who feed us.
I’m in the race for the small business owners who took a risk to establish their businesses, but lack the enabling environment to succeed.
I’m in the race for everyone who has ever been knocked down, but refused to be knocked out.
I’m in the race for those civil servants and teachers who work so hard for the state, but have been rewarded with arrears of salaries.
I’m in the race for those who have lost their properties and source of livelihood to political witch hunt for the mere ‘sin’ of joining in the fight against corruption, resisting their oppressors or lending their voices to speak against the ills in Abia.
I’m in the race for those who have lost loved ones on the death traps we call roads, for those whose spirit have been dampened and are on the verge of a total breakdown.
I’m not in the race for some Abians, I’m in the race for all Abians.
The Ariaria trader and tax payer who is submerged by flood whenever it rains needs good and hygienic environment to do his business. The Bende rice farmer requires access road to evacuate his produce. And the Obingwa maize farmer who is surrounded by arable lands requires government financial incentives to boost productivity and yield. We shall assist these hard working Abians turn their fortunes around, and make their output competitive.
We shall courageously restore the lost glory of Aba through well planned and well executed infrastructural revolution.
We do not consider payment of salaries and pensions as gestures to workers and pensioners and thus would not expect songs of adulation and appreciation when we would begin to rewrite this sad part of our history.
Our hard work, character and conduct shall serve as the biggest collateral that would attract investors and create job opportunities for our teaming youths as we create the enabling environment. Capital flows to conducive environments as the literature tells us.
I know there are those who will doubt the possibility of achieving all I have stated here. I understand there would be skepticism. After all, every four years, candidates from various political parties make similar promises, and I expect this year will not be different. Let’s know that anything is possible where there’s a will.
There’s no mystery about what it takes to build a strong and prosperous state: Equality of opportunity, jobs for those who can and want to work, security for those who need it, the ending of special privilege for the few, the preservation of civil rights for all, a wider and constantly rising or good standard of living.
I stand before you to let you know that my values and a lifetime of experiences in the corporate world have given me a different vision for Abia State. I believe that success isn’t measured by how much the wealthiest Abians have, but by how many children climb out of poverty.
How many start-ups and medium sized businesses open and thrive. How many young people go to primary school, secondary school and university without their parents drowning in debt. How many people find a good job without being connected to those in high positions.
I didn’t learn this from politics. I learned it from my own family. My parents taught me as a little child that everybody needs a chance. They knew what it was like not to have and I knew too.
I am sure you have heard about my true life story. I came from a very poor background, with my father a clergy in a remote area, with a bicycle and later motorbike as mobility and my mother and I, were street hawkers of bean- cake (Akara) and Akamu as means to support our father.
As I continued in that difficult journey with hard work, perseverance and faith in God, my dreams came through. If my dreams could come through, those of your children can also come through.
That’s why I believe with all my heart in Abia State and in the potential of every Abian to meet every challenge in spite of his present circumstances; to be resilient no matter what the world throws at you and to solve the toughest problems, once the determination is there.
As a young boy, through hard work and grace of God, I graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Economics from the University of Port Harcourt in 1988 and won the Dean’s prize and was also the best graduating student from the University that year. I subsequently enrolled and bagged a master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Lagos.
As a young man, with strong desire to use education to change the world, I pursued further education in various disciplines from prestigious internationally recognized universities- the Executive Development Programmes of the Columbia Business New York, and Stanford Business School California, Wharton Business School (University of Pennsylvania), and INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France. I crowned it with with an Advanced Management Programme (AMP) from the prestigious Harvard Business School.
As a young man, I extended my hard work to the banking sector, where I started from the entry level in the late 80’s and through hard work and grace, rose through the ranks to become the Group Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Bank Plc, now, Access Bank, two decades later. Through a dint of hard work and grace of God, I led the bank through a major transformation which resulted in a robust, optimized multi-billion Naira balance sheet, thereby making the bank more profitable and attractive than it had ever been and than any of its peers.
As a young man that wanted to use his financial expertise and extraordinary qualities to shape the country’s economic system, I accepted the offer as Chairman and member of board of several companies and universities in Nigeria and for two years, was Chairman of the Committee of Bank Chief Executives Officers in Nigeria, leading other CEOs under the auspices of the Chartered Institute of Bankers.
Warren Buffet tells us that “if you are in the luckiest 1% of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99%”. Considering the fact that all that I have was freely given to me by God, I was compelled by Buffet’s words to see how I could help to give the lives of the less privileged a meaning.
This led to the establishment of the Alex Otti Foundation, to enable me assist indigent, bright and hardworking undergraduates from Abia State with financial support to facilitate their educational pursuits. Under the auspices of the foundation, indigent people have been assisted in different vocations and trade and the annual scholarship program has been adjudged one of the best in the country in terms of transparency and funding.
It is also on this basis that we facilitated the construction and completion strategic road projects across the state viz: the 4.5 kilometer Mbalano/Umuasua Road in Isuikwuato LGA; the 5.5 kilometre road in Isieketa in Isiala Ngwa South LGA; the 12.5 kilometre road connecting several villages that were hitherto without access and terminating in Mbawsi in Isialangwa North LGA.
We also facilitated roads in Arochukwu from Amaikpe market square through the Avia Ovuru road, to Ibom by Opobo House; through Obinkita new layout to Ugwuavor new layout. The long stretch of road also connects Amangwu village square; Isinkpu/Amangba junction with a spur through Amankwu to Ndi-Ivi to Umuoti Asaga village square. The Aro Civic Center road commencing at Oror to Amoba village square; and through Jubilee road to Obinkita hall were not left out.
Fellow citizens of Abia State, my dear brothers and sisters, if out of personal conviction and as a private individual, one could do all that have been mentioned here through God’s grace, you can imagine what would happen in every sector of our state, when I’m given the opportunity to serve.
I therefore, ask you to join me in helping to make this an age of greatness for our people and for our state. Let’s come together and work and be the generation that will reconstruct the headlines and change the narrative; from our schools to our churches, from our business offices to our organizations, from our marketplaces to our door steps and every media platform; and declare that henceforth, there will be no place for the wicked in Abia State.
Abians may have been slow, but we are not weak. We may not have acted in the past, but we are not stupid. We may have been silent for many years, but we are not dumb.
I therefore, call on all Abians all over the world to rise today with the determination to pay the debt we owe our past and future generations,
Thank you all. God bless you. And may God bless Abia State.
Dr. Alex Otti OFR,