News

June 22, 2024

Govs Otti, Mba setting pace for S’East renaissance

Govs Otti, Mba setting pace for South-East renaissance

Gov Otti

By Steve Oko

The lack of visionary,  people-centric and focused leadership has been the bane of various states in the country including the South East geo-political zone.

Over the years, the absence of development; leadership failure; loss of public confidence in leadership;  retrogression; and even insecurity currently ravaging the zone can all be traced to lack of focused leaders/leadership.

But the duo of Gov. Alex Otti of Abia State, and his Enugu State counterpart, Dr Peter Mbah, appear to be changing the narrative in their respective states.

Both Chief Executives from their activities so far, seem to have come to power prepared for the job.

A dispassionate scrutiny of their scorecards in the past 12 months, shows visible developments in their respective states  openly acknowledged even by their opponents.

Abia:

Since Otti took over the mantle of leadership in May 2023, he has made remarkable imprints in critical sectors of the economy.

Abia which hitherto crawled behind others in many frontiers particularly infrastructure, appears to be taking the lead in vital areas.

There is notable road infrastructural development across the state especially in Aba and Umuahia metropolis where many of the roads had nearly collapsed and remained in deplorable condition for decades.

The Labour Party Governor, had during his campaigns, promised to change the old order and do things differently if given the opportunity, a promise he appears poised to deliver.

For the first time since the history of Abia State, Otti’s administration, arguably appears to be the only one that has enjoyed the covert and overt support of even the opposition.

His approach to governance is gradually restoring public confidence as well as hope in political office holders.

The decision to expand Ossah road (now Aguiyi Ironsi Boulevard) – the major gateway to Umuahia the state capital – into a six-lane road, towers among the landmark achievements of Gov. Otti endearing him to many hearts.

The 6.5 kilometer road project which began by the last quarter of 2023 amidst resistance and public outcry by owners of property on the right of way, has in less than one year been ‘done and dusted’ with full compensations paid to the property owners even before the demolition commenced.

It was arguably the first time any Government would sincerely and transparently pay compensation in the state.

Similarly, his courage to award the strategic but long-abandoned Port Harcourt Road Aba to Julius Beger, further made him the hero of many residents including the opposition.

Elder statesman and former Senate President, Senator Adolphus Wabara, despite his exalted position as the Chairman Board of Trustees (BoT), of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), jettisoned partisanship and declared that Otti had secured his second tenure by that singular gesture. Although some of his party chieftains are yet to forgive him over such a sincere outburst, the incontrovertible truth remains that he spoke the mind of many folks.

The immediate past administration after demolishing a lot of property including those far from the road without any compensation abandoned the road that leads to many industrial hubs in the Enyimba City.

This led to the exodus of many businesses, residents and schools around the area as it became inaccessible. But rehabilitation of the road is advancing courtesy of Otti’s administration.

Apart from many other internal and strategic roads already renovated and inaugurated in Aba and Umuahia by the Otti-led administration, the Governor has also extended his road rehabilitation drive to other key towns in the state.

Recently, Otti broke a jinx when he awarded a contract for the total rehabilitation of Abam-Ndi Oji- Arochukwu road which is the shortest route to Arochukwu from the state capital.

This critical road which crisscrosses the various agrarian Abam communities down to Arochukwu has been abandoned for decades by previous administrations, thus forcing commuters to access Arochukwu through Akwa Ibom as the Ohafia route to the ancient kingdom has since collapsed.

Similarly, he awarded a contract for the rehabilitation of Umuahia -Uzuakoli -Akara -Abiriba -Ohafia 40-killometer road to three different construction firms for early delivery, and work is progressing on the road.

Otti’s zero -pothole policy is paying off as motorists now enjoy  less stressful rides unlike before when potholes were rather the trademark that reminded interstate commuters that they had crossed into Abia territory.

The pressure by the Otti-led administration on the Federal Government to speed up the long-abandoned Aba -Port Harcourt Expressway which had literally become impassable before he came on board, is beginnig to yield fruits as one lane of the dual carriageway, is at least passable now.

Apart from roads, Gov. Otti has consciously embarked on building infrastructure, renovation and completion of some abandoned public buildings.

One of such signature building projects is the completion of the Joint Accounts Allocation Committee (JAAC) building, which was initiated by the administration of Sen. Theodore Orji but abandoned by his successor.

But in 12 months, Gov. Otti has completed the edifice which towers as the most aesthetic and tallest building in Umuahia with functional lift.

Another area Otti’s administration has posted a commendable record is the health sector which had prior to his coming on board, suffered gross neglect.

In one year, the hitherto comatose Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH), where the only functional unit was the morgue, has been revived.

This has led to the regaining of its lost accreditation by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN; in addition to the approval to resume housemanship programme which was halted over four years ago due to incessant strike actions occasioned by non payment of staff salaries.

For  the first time in the history of Abia State, the 15% budgetary threshold was met as 15% of Abia’s N556 billion 2024 budget was allocated to the health sector.

Besides ABSUTH, two other tertiary health institutions in the state – Abia State Diagnostic Centre Umuahia and Amachara Specialist Hospital were also retrofitted within the period under review.

The new Chief Medical Director of the Abia Diagnostic Centre, Dr Chimezie Okwuonu, told Vanguard that the Dialysis Centre of the hospital which was moribund for over four years, has been revamped.

The Education sector is not left out as the administration has embarked on holistic renovation of 10 primary and three secondary schools in each of the 17 Local Government Areas into model schools.

According to Commissioner for Education, Professor Uche Eme Uche,  each of the benefiting schools will have staff quarters, Head teacher’s House, and a Caretaker House, to ensure a water-tight security of the school property.

Another major achievement of Otti’s administration in the past 12 months was the decision to clear the backlog of pension arrears.

Besides defraying the accumulated arrears based on the negotiated agreement with the leadership of pensioners, Otti has also ordered that pensioners be not only paid their full pension but on the 28th of every month with workers. Vanguard checks revealed that he has consistently maintained this promise.

The positive impacts of this on  workers,  pensioners, and indeed the state economy are enormous.

However, the relevant officials should sort out the  encumbrances in the biometric capturing of some workers which have made it difficult for the affected workers to receive their salaries with their colleagues.

Otti should also address the lingering issue of wage award as Abia seems to be the only state in the South East that is yet to implement the presidential directive.

Efforts of the  Governor to improve on the ease of doing business in Abia is commendable as such will help to attract more investors.

Today in Abia, application for, and acquisition of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), takes only 30 days.

The innovation, according to Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Mr Chaka Chukwumerije, is to make the state a preferred destination for investors.

Already, a number of foreign investors have visited the state with a view to exploring the various business opportunities in the state.

A multi billion Naira Industry Park with provision for modular refinery has been flagged off in the oil-rich Ukwa East LGA with December 2025 production deadline.

The recent  inauguration of the $800 million Geometric Power Plant Aba now in charge of power generation and distribution in nine out of the 17 LGAs in Abia, has made Abia a sure destination for investors.

This, if not sabotaged, has the potential of reviving the economy of the state and the entire South East.

The imprints of Otti’s administration in the security sub-sector is very noticeable especially after the launching of Operation Flush.

Kidnapping and banditry, particularly around the Umunneochi/ Isuikwuato axis, have drastically plummeted ever since the launch.

However, more efforts are still needed to totally deal with issues of insecurity and criminality despite the recorded gains.

Otti’s Government has  demonstrated capacity in waste management as Abia streets which were noted for indiscriminate dumping of refuse by residents, now appear cleaner.

 The Governor had during his inaugural speech, declared a state of emergency on waste.

He followed up with some radical steps to ensure steady evacuation of wastes from the streets, and these measures, including the engagement of private firms in waste management, appear to be paying off.

Major streets in Aba and Umuahia, now have solar panels installed  to provide illumination at night.

This  has since restored night lives and revived the economy of the state although some of them need to be re-energised.

Although the Otti-led administration has sponsored 300 youths to Nasarawa State to understudy modern farming, more practical measures need to be taken to boost food production in the state.

As he begins his second year in office,  Otti should look towards resuscitating moribund companies in the state as he promised.

Abia still has a barrage of moribund companies such as Modern Ceramic Umuahia, Golden Guinea Breweries, Aba Glass Industry, Star Papers ltd, among others which must not be allowed to continue to deteriorate while youths endlessly wander for jobs.

Revamping them will help in generating job opportunities for the youths and ultimately lead to economic growth and reduction in crime wave.

Peter Mbah

Enugu State:

Just like his Abia State counterpart, Gov. Peter Mbah of Enugu State, has taken bold steps to depart from the challenges that previously defined and trademarked the Coal City State.

He has  demonstrated capacity in some key sectors notably water supply, education, infrastructure, industrialisation, agriculture and security although more improvements are needed.

Mbah, like few of his predecessors particularly Chief Jim Nwobodo, and Sullivan Chime, has demonstrated genuine commitment towards restoring Enugu as the rallying pot of South East economy.

The zest to restore pipe- borne water supply in the Coal City which has been abandoned for nearly three decades, will remain one of the enduring legacies of Mbah’s Government.

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Governor promised to restore pipe- borne water supply to Enugu homes within 180 days of his inauguration, a promise he kept as the taps had started running again since November 25, 2023.

As efforts are on to holistically fix the water sector, it is hoped that pipe borne water will again return to every part of Enugu metropolis as witnessed in the 80s.

Reports say water supply capacity to Enugu City had increased from 2 million to 120 million liters per day,  a feat many view as very commendable.

The  restoration of the 9th Mile Water Scheme and the refurbishment of other water schemes in Oji and Ajali, accounted for this.

Governor Mbah has equally made some marks in the education sector through his Smart School Initiative.

For the first time, and arguably the highest in the entire South East region, Mbah allocated 33 per cent of the state’s N521.5 billion 2024 budget to education.

Another legacy achievement of Gov. Mbah is the New Enugu City Project which is an ambitious urban development initiative aimed at reviving and transforming Enugu as the ‘Dubai’ of Igbo land.

The project, envisioned to address perennial infrastructural and socio-economic maladies while creating a modern, sustainable, and robust urban centre, is already gaining national and international recognition.

It stands on the key pillars of infrastructural transformation, housing, commerce, education, health, tourism, security among others.

So many estate developers and investors are already flocking into Enugu with a view to making it a home for all, especially Igbo investors who are often targets of unprovoked attacks outside the South East.

It has become imperative for South East Governors to intensify efforts towards regional integration and building of a mega city to serve as an investment hub in the zone. Enugu as the political capital of the region, with massive infrastructure already has an edge over others.

The geographic location of Enugu has already conferred on her some advantages that any visionary leadership must maximize.

Regrettably, the South East, unlike other geopolitical zones, lacks leaders with shared vision, goal, and unity needed to steer the zone  to the right direction.

But all eyes appear to be on Govs. Otti and Mbah, who despite their individual deficiencies, have so far demonstrated vision and passion for the much-needed Igbo renaissance. They should bring their brother Governors on board, to chart a new cause for the South East.

The National President of Igbo Women Assembly, IWA, Lolo Nneka Chimezie, in a recent press conference in Abia, scored Abia and Enugu, very high especially in security, infrastructure and creation of conducive investment climates.

However, their ability to sustain and improve on the gains so far recorded up till their second and third years in office, will justify the accolades they are currently eliciting.

Abia and Enugu in the past 12 months, have shown signs of survival and economic growth which must be sustained until the states begin to run effectively, and serve as a model for others.