• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Otti using mayoral model to drive development in Abia State

No part of Abia will be left behind in infrastructural devt – Otti

Governor Alex Otti of Abia State on November 30, 2023, inaugurated new Local Government Transition Committee Chairmen, now to be known as Mayors. They were appointed by his administration to oversee the 17 Local Government Areas of the state, for a period of six months.

What is so special about the development is that the appointees, who are not your everyday politicians, include business moguls, professionals and academics, who are qualified to run for the office of the President of Nigeria, if they so wish, but accepted to take the position of Local Government Transition Committee Chairmen to serve their people.

For example, John Udeagbala, who owns big manufacturing firms and the immediate past President of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry Mines and Agriculture ((NACCIMA), was appointed Mayor of Aba North Local Government Area; David Ogba, a business mogul, who pioneered mobile telecommunication in Aba, is to overseer Ohafia Local Government Area, while Elelenta Nwambuisi Elele, an American-based engineering mathematician, was appointed chairman, of Isialangwa South Local Government Area.

Full list of the Mayors and their deputies

Isiala Ngwa South LGA: Elelenta Nwambuisi Elele, chairman; Eberechukwu Ahuruonye, deputy chairman; Ukwa West LGA: Newman Azu, chairman, Anele Michael, deputy chairman; Arochukwu LGA: Joe Ezearu, chairman, Okezie Azuma, deputy chairman;.Umuahia South LGA: Obike Ejike Nnochiri, chairman, Olendingwa Nwabueze, deputy chairman; Isiala Ngwa North LGA: C.Y Nwankwo, chairman, Uchenna Nwanbuko, deputy chairman; Umunneochi LGA: Ndubuisi Ike, chairman, Njoku Augustine C., deputy chairman; Isuikwuato LGA: Marshal Chiwendu, chairman, Harrison Onyike, deputy chairman;.Ikwuano LGA: Osinachi Hyacinth Nwaka, chairman, Charles Ugbuajah, deputy chairman.

Bende LGA: Chijioke Nwankwo, chairman, Onyedikachi Iroegbu, deputy chairman; Ohafia LGA: David Ogba, chairman, Mkpa Oju Uka, deputy; Obingwa LGA: Eric Egwuibe, chairman, Chiemela Ekpemu, deputy; Ugwunagbo LGA: Nodike Ihediaba, chairman, Nnamdi Kelvin Chijioke, deputy chairman; Ukwa East LGA: Ngozi Nwagbara, chairman, Onyebuchi Nnah, deputy chairman; Umuahia North LGA: Victor Ikeji, chairman, Okechukwu Anthony Amah, deputy chairman.

Others are Aba South LGA: Uchechikwu Wogu, chairman, Nkiru Ugwu, deputy chairman; Aba North LGA: John Udeagbala, chairman, Nnaemeka Ogbonna, deputy chairman, and Osisioma Ngwa LGA: Israel Nweke, chairman and Young Ngwaziem, deputy chairman.

Read also: Otti solicits synergy with stakeholders to restore education to former glory

Reasons for choice of quality personalities

A reliable source told BusinessDay that Otti chose to appoint very well huge moguls, merchants, businessmen, intellectuals, and retired military officers as Transition Committee Chairmen cum mayors across the 17 Local Government Areas of the State because he felt the threat of appointing ordinary party faithful, who might not be conversant with his own understanding of running an effective administration of staying careful, over public funds, not actually understanding the economic and social implications of Nigeria, not running a proper local government system in a republic, where the Federal, State and Local Governments are supposed to be really independent, autonomous and development-oriented.

And because Nigeria in the past 24 years has developed a bad culture, whereby Local Government Councils were grossly abused, by crass politicians, who did not understand the principles and philosophy of politics and economics, he decided to recruit those he felt would not be lured by public funds but instead, give their own resources to see the good of Abia.

Otti had appealed to his party men and politicians, who are working with him that he had an idea of trying a minor deviation from what used to be, to a new model where the government looks for people, who have economic stability, who are not going to be swayed by the enormity of local government funds, finances that come from the Federal Government and internally generated revenues and will not have any interest or need to tamper with such funds, except using such funds to do public service for those local government areas, as stipulated by the constitution.

The source said that is the core reason why Otti decided to try that model and that it is not going to fail because there is no marked difference per se, it is only in nomenclature and in principles because henceforth, Local Government chairmen in Nigeria would be known as Mayors, because “we have started it in Abia, but you will contest your election as a local government chairman if you win, you will now become the Mayor of your locality, which is the way it is in the whole of Europe and the United States of America, North America and some other areas in South America.”

The source continued, “So, it is just about making it clear that a local government chairman is equal to a mayor. Even in Nigeria, some localities are already using Mayoral titles, like in Port Harcourt, where you have the Mayor of Port Harcourt.

“The difference here in what Otti is trying to do is to get those who will not be interested in taking away public funds, even 10 Kobo.

“He wants people, who are completely above board when it comes to the issue of embezzlement of public funds or looting of public property.

“So, you will be entitled to the pay, which somebody, who served in that capacity will get and that pay entitles you to serve the people and that is about service and so, that is his principle,” BusinessDaySunday learnt.

Otti at the inauguration of the Mayors, observed that the diligence, efforts at consultations and negotiations that attended the selection process for the mayors and their deputies are pointers to what is possible, when citizens appreciate the true responsibility of leadership in their dealings, serving their communities with fairness, sincerity and an abiding sense of inclusion.

“We may not have made the most perfect of choices, but if the feedback we have gotten since the names of the Mayors were announced is anything to go by, there is no doubt that we have made a very quality judgement in the choices of the individuals selected. It is my hope that the optimism that attended the announcements would be matched, by the quality of your performance and dedication.

He reminded the new Mayors and their Deputies that their appointment is a call to serve and not to be served, noting that people expect them to get everything right on the first day, but advised them to be willing to learn and keep their minds open to new ideas and possibilities.

While Otti promised that the state would give each of the Mayor’s free hand to manage the affairs of the council responsibly, he said that it is important for them to design programmes in ways that align with the general development philosophy of the present Labour Party Administration in the state.

He said that the state’s priority at all times must be the security and welfare of the people.

He further said that the state was currently working with an amalgamation of critical stakeholders to guarantee the safety of life and property in all parts of the state. So far, the efforts have been very fruitful, because as many observers have noted, Abia has become one of the safest places to reside in, travel to or set up a thriving business enterprise.

Read also: We’ll continue to uphold the rights of our citizens through good governance – Otti

Responsibilities of the Mayors

Otti said that one of their first tasks as leaders of the various LGAs shall include strengthening the security architecture in the towns and villages within their domain, especially as the yuletide approaches.

“As we have said on many occasions, no part of Abia, not an inch, shall be ceded to any group of criminals, whether they are armed robbers, kidnappers or any individual or group, whose actions threaten the peace in our communities.”

Beyond the security of life and property, Otti said that his administration was working with multiple stakeholders, including multilateral and donor agencies, global IT companies and local financial institutions, to develop a robust framework for addressing the critical challenges facing the people of the state, including endemic poverty, restricted access to basic amenities, including potable water, access roads to the farms and markets; limited skills for enhanced earning and unequal access to the boundless opportunities of the 21st-century global economy.

He said that the State Government cannot wait to accommodate the LGAs, as new strategic partners in the development projects.

“The tasks before us are daunting but we must remain resolute. Abia electorates chose us above all other political groups in the State because the people believe that we have the most credible, competent and development-oriented men and women in our ranks. We have now been given the opportunity to prove the electorates right and further consolidate the appeal of our great party amongst all demographic groups.

“I have heard people ask why we chose a certain class of people for the mayoral positions and my response is simple: we need the best hands and heads to drive the development of the State. We are in a hurry to elevate the standards of leadership to accommodate strictly those, who have something to offer.

“While I would be the first to admit that the road ahead is still far, I am, however, satisfied that we are progressively setting a new template for governance in the state; the people now know how and where their resources are being channelled to and Abians can look to the future with great optimism.

“We are not just reconstructing and rehabilitating roads to score cheap political points, our overarching objective is to improve the economy of the state by working on the fundamental enablers for economic prosperity, especially in the towns with the most potential for accelerated growth and development. Quality road networks for us are not just end in themselves, but a pathway to something more profound.”

Lessons to learn from Otti’s model

Charles Chinekezi, an Aba-based media consultant, said that Otti wanted to remind the ruling class in Nigeria and the general public that it was wrong to allow the looting of local government funds.

“For example, you don’t leave the control of family beverage in the care of the children. You and I know what could be the consequences. They can’t manage it well, because they can’t restrain themselves from tampering with it and so that’s exactly what Otti wants to do. And that we have people, who are virtually richer than the usual local government, they’ll know that the money in the local government is not much; in fact, we are even looking at how to ask them to help the state with their own money, and figure out how to drive this place. So, it’s about service,” Chinekezi said.

Chinekezi however, put a caveat that if these super-wealthy people go there and disappoint the government and the people, the people would have learnt another lesson altogether and “we will be wiser.”

People’s Expectations from the Mayors

For Chinekezi, the people expect the best from them, because the Governor and the entire state have eulogized them so much, and have told them the reason why the State chose that model.

“The Government has told them that the state cannot continue with the former wastages and irresponsibility, they have been reminded about their pedigrees and where they are coming from, the kind of economic milestones that they have created in their lives and the lives of other people.

“The government has reminded them about a new dream of a new Abia, a new dream of a new Nigeria and with their responses we are convinced that they have bought those views. And so, now that they have been recruited, we feel great.

“Except when we watch them in the next few months and we don’t see what we expected that is when we will set up another panel to look into the immediate causes and that will entail research,” he said.

Mayor: What is in the name?

In the United States of America (USA) and other countries where it is used, a mayor is the municipal head of government, the maximum civil authority at the municipal level, in most United States municipalities (such as cities, townships, etc.).

He has been elected to represent the city or municipality for a fixed period of time or, in some places, to run its government.

In Nigeria, the name of such a political officer is local government chairman.

BusinessDaySunday gathered that the excitement of many of those who accepted to serve had to do with the nomenclature above every other consideration.

“If you saw the array of self-accomplished personalities that were appointed, you would know they are not the political robbers we see in government circles. They must have been swayed by that imported nomenclature- Mayor. You know, Nigerians are slaves to anything imported. These wealthy individuals would just want to add such in their CVs so that when they go over there they brandish their certificates and medals as Mayors. I am not sure many of them would like to return after the six-month tenure,” an Umuahia-based public affairs analyst told BusinessDaySunday.