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Plaudits for Otti, Soludo and Bago

Plaudits for Otti, Soludo and Bago
May 23
17:34 2024

A video clip which is just about two and half minutes in duration has been trending on social media in the last few days. It captures the moment top officials of the Abia State government, arrive for a meeting of what could pass as a state executive council meeting, (ASEC), the sub-national variant of the federal executive council, (FEC). The faces of a few of my friends and colleagues indeed stroll past in the short clip. They include Kingsley Agomoh, an Assistant Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, (FRSC) who is on leave of absence to help the new administration in Abia and Kazie Uko, my colleague in the old Daily Times. Iheanacho Obioma, (we call him Chomen), a former federal parliamentarian, also appears in that recording. The curious and discerning will easily know that the venue of that converge is not the designated executive council chambers of Government House, Umuahia.

From the lacquer on the fence of the facility to the interlocked driveway, and thenceforth to the improvised conference room where the meeting was held, it is obvious this is private property. I’m indeed told it is the country home of Alex Otti, in Isiala-Ngwa, Abia South senatorial zone. The official address of the governor in Umuahia is probably undergoing renovation. And for Otti that is no reason to impact the course of governance negatively. Each senior Abia State government functionary, secretary to government, chief of staff, commissioner, adviser, and technical assistant who walked past in the said video, carried their essentials themselves. They hauled their files, folios, notepads, laptops, handbags, and backpacks, to the meeting themselves. There are no squirming, stampeding aides and security details needlessly occupying space, shoving people aside to make way for their principals. And you could see smiles on the faces of some of the officials an attestation to their subscription to the new administrative regimen. Otti, governor of the state, arrived without fanfare or ceremony in the said video, holding his mobile phone.

The Alex Otti regime in Abia State is barely one year in office. But the incumbent administration has compelled national attention and admiration to the state for the novel governance championed by Otti, a former helmsman of the erstwhile Diamond Bank, which has since merged into the mega Access Bank. A few months ago, the 141 megawatts Aba Integrated Power Project, (AIPP), was commissioned by Nigeria’s Vice President, Kashim Shettima. Reputed to be the first of its kind in Nigeria, it will produce uninterrupted electric power for nine local government areas of the state which is about half the entire Abia State. True it was a work-in-progress before Otti’s advent dating back 20 years by the governor’s own admission, the eventual consummation and operationalisation of the initiative was courtesy of the former banker. Critically, the infrastructure will liberate the infinite potentials of Aba, the Enyimba City which is the folkloric socio-economic hub of the state.

Aba’s direct competitor in Nigeria’s South East is Nnewi in Anambra state, an equally vibrant nexus of multilevel entrepreneurial ingenuity. Since he became chief executive of the state two years ago, Chukwuma Soludo the globally recognised economist has worked hard to redefine governance and administration in the state. Soludo came into the job with a virtual truckload of competencies and experience. First, he is a class professor of economics who was called up by the Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar regime to serve first as an economic adviser. He was soon after appointed governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), a position from which he superintended over the recapitalisation of Nigerian banks which facilitated their competitiveness in the global financial market. The exercise shrunk the nearly 100 banks, some wobbly and breathless, to 25 solid entities, a process which entailed partnerships and absorptions in many instances.

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Soludo signalled his faith in homemade brands when he rode a sports utility vehicle, (SUV) built by the Nnewi-based indigenous vehicle production outfit, Innoson Motors to his inauguration in March 2022. The various components of his regalia to his swearing-in ceremony derived from various parts of Anambra State. He inherited a state which had previously assumed worldwide notoriety for large-scale violence. Faceless murderers branded “unknown gunmen” had free reign prowling contiguous streets of communities in the state hunting the innocent like game, in the full glare of the afternoon skies. Abductions, cannibalism, and arson were rampant before Soludo came. I had reason in 2021, to engage with the worrying issues in two public discourses, Unknown Gunmen, November 6 and the Epidemic of Bloodletting and Gun Smoke from the East. It seems the horrendous trends have been on a gradual downward slide, since Soludo came.

Soludo is equally pursuing an aggressive infrastructural development programme. First, he is concerned about congestion in Awka the state capital and Onitsha the commercial capital of the state. His administration is poised to build three new cities. Masterplans for Awka 2.0, Onitsha 2.0 as well as the Anambra Mixed Industrial City are being concluded. While those are in the works, Soludo has embarked on a very ambitious road development programme. This encompasses 400 kilometres of roads in the present phase and aims to facilitate seamless commuting by road users. Remediation of failed portions of existing road infrastructure is a regular chore, handled by statutory departments of government and contracting firms. The Soludo government has also been credited with remarkable fiscal prudence, the stuff of the prototype economist.

I began to take study notes of the enterprise of Mohammed Umar Bago the governor of Niger State when I followed his courageous works in the agricultural sector. I was once his guest a few years ago in his Maitama, Abuja home when he was in the House of Representatives. I visited him in the company of a mutual friend, Bimbo Daramola who was in the “Seventh Assembly” with Bago. He is a tea aficionado by the way. He is also a dog lover which is a point of mutual convergence between us. Bago began this year by clearing one million hectares of arable land, preparatory to the approaching rainy season. Food security for his constituents is paramount on his agenda. His government has procured a record 500 mega-capacity tractors, as well as irrigation equipment, tillers, water and solar pumps among other accessories, to drive his agricultural vision.

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True, Bago ruled against the shipment of truckloads of produce from his state to others earlier this year, in the face of inflation and imminent famine. He is fully cognisant though of the fact that his state has a headwind advantage over many others in the country, in the agricultural sector. He is willing to do legitimate, mutually beneficial business. The landmass of Niger State is larger than that of Sierra Leone, by the way. If Niger State was a ravenous python, the belly of the state would effortlessly swallow Gambia and Togo put together! Bago’s administration is willing to partner with other states in agricultural development and exchange which informed the memorandum of understanding, (MOU), signed between Bago and his Lagos State counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on behalf of their entities.

Governor Bago has also been unyielding in the battle against sundry criminalities which have held his people helplessly captive over the years. Kidnappings for ransom, routine invasions, occupation of communities by vagrants and wanton banditry, have headlined the security situation in Niger State in recent years. Bago has been at the fore of the mitigation of the situation vis-a-vis increased collaboration with, and support for the security sector in his state. His administration has provided support in terms of motor vehicles and equipment to the various security agencies, to enhance their performance. There is said to be motorised patrol by joint security services which has brought sanity to the state, notably the very important Suleja-Paiko-Minna road.

Bago has also directed the redesign and remodelling of the moribund Shiroro Hotel in Minna as the new Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University Teaching Hospital. The Niger State leader who spots a strikingly luxurious black beard and was a notable banker like the older Alex Otti before his political journey, is redeveloping Minna the state capital, as well as Suleja and Bida into model towns. His fiscal shrewdness evidenced by the fact that he saved N10 billion from leaking valves within his first four months in office has loosened funds for investment in needy departments of statecraft. Among these is the ongoing construction of roads in all the local government areas of the state to ensure unimpeded movement by commuters and by extension the evacuation of agricultural produce to the secondary markets.

It is instructive that Alex Otti, Chukwuma Soludo and Mohammed Bago belong to different political tendencies, namely: the Labour Party, (LP); the All Peoples’ Grand Alliance, (APGA) and the All Progressives Congress, (APC). What this implies is that if democracy is allowed to grow and fruit without unobtrusive impunity and high-handedness from political high commands, Nigeria can be availed of some of its best across board. Enyinnaya Abaribe the senator representing Abia South, for instance, is in the parliament for the fifth successive time. Muscled out of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP’s) ticket by the immediate past governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, Abaribe contested on the platform of APGA and won! Soludo himself had his share of gravitation from the PDP to the APC before pitching his tent with APGA which ensured his pathway to his present office. Let’s hope that party politics in Nigeria is gradually throwing up some of our best albeit from unanticipated platforms.

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Olusunle, PhD, is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors (FANA).



Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

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