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Dr. Alex Otti, Abia State Governor

Abia, Otti has landed! By Emeka Obasi

Something different is happening in Abia where fresh air makes the environment smell sweeter than Jazz perfume. Governor Alex Otti sure knows where he is going, the journey does not need a better driver and the people are enjoying the cruise.

Two things have endeared the governor to those who think of the common good. Restoring sanity at the Lokpanta Cattle Market  has combined with the appointment of seasoned administrators to run the local governments, to give the state a new look.

Any government that cannot guarantee the safety of its citizens is not worth  the people’s trust. The Lokpanta axis of the Enugu – Port Harcourt Highway was dreaded by commuters and locals alike. Criminals decided who had the right of way.

Otti took his time, and mounted Intelligence all over the area. The result was the discovery of 20 headless human remains and 80 decomposing bodies around the Lokpanta Cattle Market which was like the Biblical Sodom and Gomorrah, where everything evil stood tall.

To stem this ugly trend, he ordered traders to close shop at 6 pm henceforth after which everyone would vacate the market, to resume activities at 6 am the following day. The idea came as a relief to road users and many of those who live in the Umunneochi Local Government Area.

Unfortunately, a few misguided politicians twisted this laudable move. They went to town bandying false reports that the market was closed. This toxic band  flashed the obnoxious ethnic card, of all the traders hailing from the North.

We know that Ndigbo are also damn good cattle merchants. Former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, is a handy example. His mother was well known in the Gamboru area. She went as far as Chad to trade in cattle. Some of the cows you see in the South – East, therefore belong  to Abians.

The peddlers of this mischief apparently forgot that in Borno State, the Gamboru International Cattle Market, was closed for nearly seven years because of insecurity. Boko Haram used the market to fund their operations.

In March 2016, Governor Kashim Shettima (now Vice President), had no choice but to close the market. He extended the sanctions to markets in Shuwari, Dusuman and Ngom. This situation existed until  November 2022 when his successor, Babagana Zulum, reopened the facilities.

In Zamfara State, governor Dauda Lawal is fighting banditry. In September 2023, he was forced to shut five cattle markets in Tsafe and Anka Local Government Areas. Lawal, like Otti, is a seasoned banker. No one has accused him of denying the traders their source of livelihood because of ethnic colouration.

Beyond Lokpanta and cattle, Otti is doing wonders in Local Government administration. He has chosen experience above politics in picking those who will run the all important third tier. And they also have deputies to smoothen everything.

Chinwendu Onyike, a retired Air Vice Marshal, heads Isuikwuato. Some have argued that the man is too big for the job. I disagree. This line of thought explains the decay in local government administration where many governors go for political thugs and ‘All Correct’ hangers on.

Onyike was at the Defence Intelligence Agency and hails from Eluama, Isuikwuato. Lokpanta is part of the same area. The governor knows what experience can offer. And the new chairman is related to the Enyi 1 of Abia, Dr. Onyike James Onyike, now late, a seasoned grassroots operator.

Ide John Udeagbala takes charge of Aba North. He is an industrialist and the 21st head of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (NACCIMA). His place of origin is Ozubulu, Anambra State.

These appointments are commendable. Onyike is not bigger than former UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, who has just resumed as Foreign Secretary. Walter Mondale was US Vice President under Jimmy Carter. In 1993, thirteen years after leaving office, he became Ambassador to Japan.

The Israelis care more about experience and are ever willing to serve in any capacity. Yitzhak Rabin, a general, was made Defence Minister after his first tenure as Prime Minister. Shimon Peres assumed office as Foreign Minister after a first term as Prime Minister.

Some inconsequential Ngwa politicians are crying buckets because an Ozubulu man is in Aba. That is rubbish. Aba is land of the Ngwa. There is no disputing that. The real Aba goes for the best. Enyimba did not become African champions, twice, by using Ngwa players. Infact, a Northerner, Abu Musa, captained the team when they lifted the CAF Champions League in Egypt in, 2003.

In 1961, Margaret Ekpo, daughter of an Efik man and an Anambra woman, began to represent Aba in the Eastern Regional House of Assembly. Her husband, John Ekpo, an Ibibio Medical Doctor at the Aba General Hospital, saved lives, irrespective of dialect.

In the Second Republic, Aba was represented by James Nwobbi, an Architect from Umuoji, Anambra State, in the old Imo State House of Assembly. No sane Ngwa man complained. Of course, his wife, Joyce, saved lives running the first Motherless Babies Home in the Eastern Region, built in 1965.

Divisive, hungry politicians should go look for food elsewhere. Northerners are safe in Abia. Criminals are not. Gen. Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu connects all the dots. He is from Ovim. His mother hailed from Katsina. Jumai, his sister, chose Brig. Musa Usman, a Kanuri born of an Igala woman, as husband.

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