Tuesday, October 30, 2018
New York, New York, USA

Dr. Alex Otti

n 2006, long before he contemplated running for President, former U.S. President, then Senator Barak Obama published a book titled. "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" in which he summarized his policy views, values and beliefs. While firmly disagreeing with both conservative and dogmatically liberal views, he proposed a pragmatic, evidence-based politics based on good will, and a willingness to approach issues differently while also making a distinction between politics and policy. "Hope" was what Dr. Alex Otti brought to Abia citizens in diaspora during his interactive Town hall sessions held in New York and Houston-Texas. The word, "Hope", "being the ability to see that there is light despite all the darkness, that it is a state of mind that believes and desires outcome to situations in your life and that it is a feeling that things will turn out for the best", those at the town hall meetings were not disappointed. With the realization that "hopelessness" is a form of silence, of denying the world and feeing from it, Dr. Otti spoke to his audiences with the conviction that the dehumanization resulting from an unjust order is not a cause for despair but for hope as well as the realization that hope, does not consist of crossing one's arms and waiting. The reality is that when you are moved by hope, you fight and when you fight, you do so with hope, hence in his many dialogue during his question and answer sessions and as it will be in the forthcoming campaigns, Dr Otti revealed a mindset that dialogue cannot be carried out in a climate of hopelessness.

Beginning his speeches with his academic and professional antecedents not excluding his humble upbringing Dr. Otti impressed on his audiences that his aspirations, motives and objective for running for Governor a second time are implicit in his vision and confidence in his abilities to be able to change the trajectory of governance in Abia state and that the purpose of his trip was in part to enunciate his vision and policy for Abia State if elected. In doing so Dr. Otti's comments were an expression of a vision fundamentally grounded in the ideals of fairness, justice, equity, honesty financial prudence and fiscal restraint. In a state where its citizens lack the faintest idea of what good governance looks like or its benefits and an audience whose despair and loss of hope for a new Abia came not from accepting that things are bad as they were going to get, but worse that they might go on like that forever, Dr. Otti allayed their fears with a detailed articulation of thoughtful policies he will implement. Policies that ranged from putting fairness and decency over cruelty, prompt payment of salaries and pensions, rebuilding our crumbling roads, water and drainage systems, increasing access to healthcare with the construction of three specialist hospitals in the three senatorial zones, addressing youth unemployment, improving educational standards and more important providing security and the enabling environment for foreign and local investments.

With reference to the three specialist hospitals he promised to establish if elected, Dr Otti bemoaned the billions of Naira or one billion dollars expended by Nigerians on medical trips to India, arguing that with well -equipped hospitals adequately staffed with Abia medical specialists resident in diaspora those billions will be a veritable source of revenue for the state in the sense that just 30% of the one billion dollars accruing to the state's treasury, an equivalent to 300 million dollars will be a financial boost to the Abia state economy. At one point he turned around and asked the medical doctors present at the town hall meeting if they would be willing to come back home and render their services if their security was assured and good schools available to their children, they all responded in the affirmative. He described the non -payment of salaries and pensions by the present Governor as not only an irresponsible act but one of ignorance as it relates to the revitalization of the state's economy adding that when you don't pay worker's salaries, you are depressing the economy hence school proprietors need students school fees to keep their school operational, traders need to be patronized by the sale of their goods, and landlords needing their renters to be able to pay their rent. In other words the cumulative buying power generated by salary payments is what enhances and sustains economic development. He described Abia state as one of the most indebted states in the country and attributed the debt burden to fiscal dishonesty, incompetence and graft. He wondered how a Governor in good conscience can dole out car gifts to the state's 17 local Government Council chairman running into millions of Naira at a time when thousands of Abia civil servants are yet to be paid with the same governor attributing this heartless act to the lack of funds. He related the story of an Abia prominent stakeholder who demanded for the continuation of the Blood Tonic payments the sitting Governor gives him monthly as condition for his support, promising to do away with all manner of Blood Tonic payments if elected. He made comparisons to the level of infrastructural development between Abia, Anambra and even Imo states with Abia State and wondered why the Abia people should be made to suffer such denial of the benefits of good governance and democracy.

Our problem in Abia State Dr Otti intimated to his audience was one of godfatherism, describing a godfather as one who imposes his godson on the people and who in most cases is inferior to him, adding in essence that godsons are usually worse than their godfathers as they are not allowed to overshadow their godfathers. As it relates to Abia state one might be inclined to conclude that re-electing this godson will be tantamount to a continuation of the lack of progress, innovation, environmental decay and governing ineptitude that has become the norm since 2015. In further enumerating his wide range of policies for the state if elected, which in his words are couched on two anchors or levers-namely immediate and non- immediate deliverables ie industrialization, Agriculture and agric processing and storage, energy generation (Oil &Gas), Entertainment, Sports and Tourism etc. With regards to education he stressed the realization that the world has moved forward into one of advanced science, robotics, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing , just to mention a few, hence according to him we must strive to move with the times by preparing our youths for the technologies and jobs of the future. To do this he opined, our educational system has to be both modified and re-evaluated, with the training, re-training and recruitment of the best teachers and college professors from home and abroad. He implored his audience to endeavor to visit their primary and secondary school alma maters the next time they come back home and they will be shamed and amazed by the degree of dilapidation that has occurred since they graduated from those schools.

When asked during the question and answer sessions which ranged from, how he was going to protect the votes cast in the election to other aspects of financing and implementation of his policies and vision for the state Dr. Otti made references to the awareness of the mistakes his campaign made in 2015 and their plans to avoid a repeat this time around. Regarding his ability to implement his vision, he reminded the audience of his banking antecedents, experience and accomplishments which includes increasing the balance sheet of Diamond bank from 500 billion Naira in 2011 when he became its CEO to over one Trillion Naira when he left in 2014. A tenure during which witnessed the most exponential growth of the Diamond Bank. Success he attributed to his acquisition of the best staff in the banking industry. Something he said he will replicate in his administration as Governor by employing the best minds blessed with the right education, skill, experience and ability to help him govern and execute his policies. As an investment banker Dr. Otti assured his audience that he knows how to generate and source whatever funds he will need to accomplish his goals adding that you can never tax the people to death and continuously depend on monthly Federal allocation to meet your developmental goals as a Governor. Acknowledging the importance and the contributions thousands of Abia citizens in diaspora can render or contribute to the development of the state, Dr. Otti promised to create if elected an Office of Diaspora Affairs to be headed by one of them as a way of accomplishing his goal of getting everyone to have a stake in his administration and in the development of their home state.

As much as it will be difficult to fully enumerate all that Dr. Otti said to his audiences in both New York and Houston-Texas, it could simply be said that this is a man who is not running for Governor for the thrill of it, the derivatives of office or the glare of public adulation but someone whose motivation is to do good and improve the lives of his people. As he said during his speeches, he did not need the money or the position to make a living or a name for himself, but rather to make a difference to mankind and to give back to his community. To many in the audience this is a man whose professional antecedents are as inspiring as they are intimidating. A man, who will bring to the governance of Abia state if elected, matchless dignity, determination and purpose. More than anything else they were inspired and impressed with Dr.Otti's great determination, strength, political resilience, and supreme confidence. Despite all efforts by some during his party's primaries to tarnish his name, they saw him as a man whose enduring prestige, image and reverence has remained largely undented. As he addressed the many Abia citizens who came to the town hall meetings he displayed superb intellect, a firm grasp of the issues, a cool tempered elegance and political savvy that made him during the 2015 elections and continues to make him the beloved figure he is today.

Speaking to some in the audience in New York City they revealed to me an awareness that everything of lasting value is highly demanding and that greatness is not a product of convenience but rather one that begins, with the sacrifice of today, hence the pain of knowing they have an opportunity right now to change the course of events in Abia state with their political participation and assistance to Dr. Otti's campaign efforts is one they don't want to live to regret. Such comments revealed the express intention of some to take time off from their jobs and travel to Nigeria to help with his campaign. As eloquently expressed by the American writer Julia Sands early in the century, "great emergencies awaken generous traits which have lain dormant half a life." Another American author, Mr Hemmingway put it rather succinctly, "today is one day on its own, but what will become of the many days to come depends on what we do today." There is no doubt the just concluded interactive sessions with Dr. Alex Otti has awakened the activist spirit of Abians in diaspora, many of whom have resolved to make thousands of telephone calls to friends and relatives back home in their effort to drum up support for Dr. Otti , culminating in their votes for him on election day.

Today the Abia people are stuck between the wounds of the past and the uncertainties of the future which has resulted over the years to what might be aptly termed "the silence of the disposed" hence the worst thing Abia citizens can do at a time when their government have been hijacked by a heartless group of kleptocrats is indifference. We are human beings and not animals who cannot commit themselves to anything in the here, now and tomorrow. Yesterday does not exist for the animal where life, lacking self-consciousness is totally determined. In the words of Prof Alvan Pinto in his analysis of the problem of limit situations, "a critical perception is embodied in action, a climate of hope and confidence develops which leads men to attempt to overcome the limits of situations". The situation in Abia state today is perilous and existential hence as humans we can surmount the limits imposed by the here and now and by our oppressors. It is time to rally behind Dr. Otti and break the two decades of political bondage, economic misery and deprivation. We in diaspora are heartened by Dr. Otti's visit and will do our utmost as we urge those at home to give their best. The fight has just begun and God willing, VICTORY WILL BE OURS.