By Steve Osuji
MAN OF DESTINY: In this series of governors watching, this column picks on Governor Alex Otti first, not because he’s the odd Labour Party governor. No. Political Parties have no meaning in Nigeria. Parties are mere jalopies with which politicians climb to power. But Governor Otti’s case is indeed different for so many reasons.
He had tried twice before (2015 and 2019) to claim the Abia diadem riding the APGA jalopy. He failed both times. Nay, he was outdone both times. This third bid under Labour Party (LP) he rode on the wave of momentum created by a certain Peter Obi who had suddenly given LP wings. He got it this time but only by the skin of his teeth; more by divine unction. He’s probably destined to rule Abia. In Nigeria of today, it’s not enough to win an election, you have to win against the electoral umpire and the courts. So beyond the plebiscite, there is the leviathan of state to contend with as we see Peter Obi and his LP doing currently.
THAT WAS THE EASY PART: By Jove, winning power in Nigeria through our so-called polls is probably the craziest venture any human would want to undertake in his lifetime. Crazy, daunting and in fact, suicidal. So it would be superfluous to describe it as easy. Yet it’s easy in comparison to the real thing which is leading the people and getting some work done.
Have we ever wondered why most of our elected officials have failed? One wagers that it might be due to the gruelling and sometimes, gruesome electioneering we wade through in these parts. By the time a candidate is through with the election process, it appears to him as if he had already served the term. He’s stripped to his pants, worked up, worked over, tired, deflated and disoriented… his mind is immediately directed at recouping expended resources multiple fold and preparing for the next election. Under this circumstance, such a person is too distracted to pay proper attention to the main job of governance.
So here we have a man who has gone through the trauma of three guber elections successively in Nigeria. What energy is left to do the real work? Many in this state would be consumed by the spirit of entitlement and triumphalism. But again, no excuses. Nobody drafts anybody to election contest. If you must be in the kitchen you live with the heat and get the job done.
THE PETER PARADIGM: The real work as we have noted, lies in carrying the fate of millions of your countrymen on your shoulders. One can learn a navigational trick or two from the Peter Obi workbook. This column having written extensively on the basic leadership qualities and methods of Obi as Anambra State governor, one would always recommend it. By one’s reckoning, the first and major success factor of Obi’s governorship in Anambra is his ability to manage power. Nothing is more intoxicating and indeed aphrodisiacal than power. A Nigerian president or governor is ensconced on to the pedestal of a god immediately he is sworn into that office.
The genie embraces him willy-nilly and rids him of his senses. If it’s not already too late, this column hereby admonishes Otti and all the fresh governors: keep you feet on the ground, remain normal; don’t drink the heady ‘wine’, don’t ride on the carousel of power, lest you would never get off.
Here’s just one of a thousand examples to buttress this point: by the Nigerian norm, the Office of the First Lady is bigger and more powerful than that of the vice president or deputy governor. The building, exotic office, huge budget and appurtenances thereof are already in place. But this is unconstitutional! How many presidents/governors can stand his ground and resist this ‘madness’. Hardly any since 1999, apart from Peter Obi. There lies the difference between him and other governors Nigeria has had from 1999 till date.
There are thousands of such aberrant actions and situations like this example that have been entrenched as the norm in Nigeria’s governance system. They must be dislodged for to usher in a new beginning…
Peter Obi was momentarily impeached for staying the right course. Can Otti take the hard decisions, can he bite the bullet? Because that’s what it really is. Can he restore the normal normalcy to Abia governance? This is the first REFORM and RESTORATION he must do.
LIKE OTTI, LIKE SOLUDO? It apposite that the example of the Peter Paradigm is raised here first because Governor Otti and his senior colleague in Anambra, Governor Chukwuma Soludo have some uncanny similarities. They are both first class minds in academics, they are economists and they excelled in the banking system before veering into politics. Their trajectories have been similar, up to the manner in which they swept into office by popular acclaim holding much promise.
However, it’s obvious that the man in Anambra has already had a fill of the power opium in just one year, so much that he’s already hurtling away on a rollercoaster of no return. We hear of loans already, we hear pensions and gratuity are falling behind already, the governor has so far been unable to master his domain as Anambra remains insecure and in the grips of hoodlums. The state has among the smallest land mass in Nigeria and a simple network of Ndiezes, President-generals (PGs) and community leaders would cordon the state in a security network as it used to be. Are the LGAs right under his watch?
If Soludo was merely grappling with his underperformance without raising the hackles of people, he may have just been ignored. But his unwarranted attacks on LP candidate Peter Obi during the last elections finally erased any claims to high leadership. Having brought nothing exceptional to the running of his state so far, the image we see is of a small Nero with a bogus sceptre and outlandish costume. What did ancient monarchs do other than wage wars and behead their enemies, real and imagined; they hardly gave a thought to the good of the people.
OTTI MUST REVAMP LGA ADMINISTRATION: Anambra people and indeed Nigerians who thought Soludo would be a governance model and indeed a solution to all index of underdevelopment in Anambra must have switched off and moved on having concluded that there’s nothing to report about the economics professor in Government House.
We hope and pray that Otti will not suffer the same fate. Apart from having a handle on and a mastery over power, this column next recommends that Otti takes a different look at the local government administration. What’s probably the worst coup carried out against the mass of the Nigerian people is the vanquishing of the local government administration system by the state governors. Without exception, LGAs across the country have not worked in this 4th Republic. (Even Peter Obi, great as he was, failed in this regard. But he tried to mitigate it a bit by reaching directly to the PGs and faith-based organisations, etc.)
Annihilating the 2nd tier of government explains the retardation in productivity and development in Nigeria in the last 22 years of democracy.
It’s bad enough that governors neglect to conduct elections at this level, even their handpicked, ad hoc chairmen are not primed to do any work for the people. The result is that successive governors across the country have STOLEN (emphasis deliberate) the bulk of the federal allocations going to the LGAs over these years. If you want to put any governor in jail, ask him to account for LGA allocations during his time.
Can Otti buck this ugly trend? Can he pick good heads to run his LGAs and make them deliver the goods to his people? Can he vouschafe to channel the billions meant for rural Abians back to them through their LGAs? This is the only method that would stand him out and cast him as a truly transformational leader. Otherwise, he will soon find that he has spent four years running helter-skelter, wasting his time and that of Abians.
Former Governor Emeka Ihedioha started off well during his brief spell in Imo. It was a glorious sight to see about 54 projects rising simultaneously in 27 LGAs in Imo. It was unprecedented. These projects have been abandoned by his successor, Hope Uzodinma.
To run a state is quite easy if we allow power to devolve. If we eschew greed and corruption. A governor would only need to drive the process, imbue healthy competition among LGAs, and appraise performance. Can Otti resist the lure of the Abia LGAs lucre?
WHY CAN’T STATE GOVERNMENT EXPORT? We wager that if state governors could take their eyes off the cheap allocations from Abuja, especially the LGAs funds, they can actually generate huge revenues from export of agricultural products. Good enough that Otti recognises in his 2019 manifesto that “though the state is blessed with cocoa, it seems to have been ignored.”
There are also cashew, rubber, sugarcane and of course palm oil. Maize and cassava may also be added to the basket. This combo of agric products could earn Abia enough forex to make it the richest state in Nigeria in four years … starting from the next harvest and cropping season. Most governors are plagued by the fact that they are not minded to chase revenues in billions of dollars. They are fixated to sharing whatever trickles in from Abuja monthly. No state can be transformed with this kind of penny mindset.
ENTERTAINMENT, SPORTS AND CULTURE (ESC) HOLD KEY: Finally, Nigeria is yet to grasp the enormous potentials ESC hold for her. This is the YOUTH SECTOR; apart from being areas of our strongest competitive advantage globally. It is probably bigger than oil and gas if properly understood and harnessed. But let’s shelf this discourse for another day. Suffice to say that if Otti keeps his head, drives the LGAs to work and takes advantage of the huge export potentials in his agric sector, he would have done in four years, what no governor has ever done in Nigeria’s annals.
EXPRESSO wishes him well.
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