Dr. Alex Otti, governorship candidate of Labour Party (LP) in Abia State, has met with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to explain his plans for Abia as he aspires to lead the state in 2023.
This is even as the Church of God Mission, Aba recently endorsed his candidacy.
Otti was the guest of CAN on Wednesday at the ‘Governorship Candidates Interface Programme’, a town hall event organised at the behest of the Christian body to interact with the various candidates of political party parties contending for the leadership of the state in 2023.
It was the day seven of the programme which started December 1, 2022, at the Bishop Anthony Nwedo Pastoral Centre, within the massive expanse of the Mater Dei Catholic Church compound in Umuahia, capital of Abia State, and Otti took the stage to share his vision of a new Abia.
The LP governorship candidate did not waste time in declaring his intention to rebuild Abia, adjudged one of the least infrastructurally developed among Nigeria’s 36 states, and how he plans to go about executing them. Abia has been ruled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for past 23 years.
“The main trust of my campaign is to create wealth and eliminate poverty, not alleviation but, elimination,” Otti, who preferred to introduce himself as a student of economics, said for emphasis.
According to the top banker, Abia State, today, reels in huge debt burden just as its citizens languish in high rate of unemployment, poverty and insecurity.
He said: “Today, about 31% of our population live below the poverty line…51% of people who are willing, able and actively searching for jobs and not finding it, that is almost twice the national average of 33.3%. So, you cannot have peace in a place where more than half the people looking for jobs cannot find one. You can also not sleep easy at night if one-third of the people cannot provide three square meals or even two square meals for themselves. So, that is the major problem.
“So, how do we deal with this. The party that I belong to, Labour Party, is today known for its mantra about changing the country from consumption to production and that sits well within our objectives in the state.
“Times were when this state had so many industries all over the place. In Umuahia here, we had the Modern Ceramics Industry, that has disappeared; as you move towards Aba, there is a street called Factory Road, and there we had the Aba Textile Mills, PZ Industries, Lever Brothers, Nigeria Breweries and the likes. And as you move further to Nicholas Avenue, there was a company called the International Equitable Association of Nigeria, makers of Palm Olive. And as you move forward to Ekeakpara, our brothers and sisters from Abiriba had companies littered on that axis. Today, none of them is there.
“So, when we are talking about the high level of unemployment, the question is where will our people work? The largest employer of labour in our time is the Aba Textile Mill and people like us, when we return from school, we looked forward to going there to do part-time jobs in those places and earn some money to support our parents as we went back to school. Today, in Aba, when we have all the clothes that are made in Aba, everything is imported and they will just sew them in Aba.”
To effectively accomplish his vision of creating wealth and moving the citizenry out of poverty, Otti said he has fashioned a deliberate policy that we will see his government, when he takes over reins of power in 2023, litter Abia with industries.
“Now, what do we intend to do? The first thing that I’ve said is industrialisation and we believe that if we do not industrialise the state, we cannot go too far. I’ve given you instances of the companies that we intend to bring back. While we intend to bring back companies, we’re also going to create new ones. I commissioned a study and found that beyond oil which exists in Ukwa West, there’s a whole lot of solid minerals that Abia State is blessed with.
“Just by our corner here in Ikwuano, we have Lignite in commercial quantity. Lignite is also called ‘Brown Coal’ which is used to fire steam turbines for electricity. I was lucky to be part of the people that made Geometric Energy happen in Abia. In my previous role (Managing Director of Diamond Bank Plc), we invested well over $500 million into bringing the 181 megawatts electric generating and distribution plant to come on stream. I think four turbines have already been delivered and that will give about 141 megawatts. The discussion I had with the management is that before the end of this year, that is this month, Geometric will come on stream, full time. So, all the local governments from Isialangwa North all the way to Ukwa West, will have 24-hour supply of electricity. So, that’s a problem solved.
“Now, what happens to Umuahia down to Arochukwu? My plan is that by the time we do further studies and we’re able to mine legally (the Lignite), because all these solid minerals today are being mined illegally, we’ll be able to provide power for Umuahia, all the way to Arochukwu.
“We also know that Kaolin exists in commercial quantity in Umuahia South. Kaolin is the raw material used for ceramic tiles and bathroom accessories. So, we intend to re-establish the Modern Ceramics Industry but no longer in Umuahia but in Ohiya, where Kaolin exists in commercial quantity. These are the areas where we can help our people, create jobs, also help in the internally generated revenue of the state,” He enumerated.
Otti said Abia cannot afford to continue to rely on Abuja for sustenance when it can exploit its natural resources and internal revenue to run the machinery of government and deliver dividends to its teeming population.
According to the front-running gubernatorial candidate, with about N15 billion in internal revenue generated annually by government, N60 billion from Federal Allocation and massive theft and looting of the state’s commonwealth by political office holders and their agents, Abia has continued to lag behind in all indices of development.
He said except the Abia electorate make the wise decision in voting him, a technocrat with capacity, character and competence, to lead the state in 2023, the precarious situation the state is currently faced with will become even worse as the times ahead speak of more economic hardship.
“From January to August this year, that’s a clear eight months, the NNPC which is the largest contributor to the Federal Allocation has contributed nothing. What that means is that states like ours that rely fully on Federal Allocation to run its activities will be in trouble from 2023 because if NNPC has not remitted anything to FAAC it means that the money we are sharing is either printed or they are borrowed.
“Today, the country is owing about $100.4 billion and about 120% of our revenue is used in servicing debts. That’s not a problem. When you come to Abia, where we are generating only N15 billion in internally generated funds and we’re owing between N140-N190 billion, there’s an argument about it, then you know we’re in for trouble because when you look at the average debt per capita, Abia State is about N30,000, that is what you and I are going to pay every year, meanwhile, the country, even though we’re screaming that the loan is too high, is about N27,000 per capita. So, the economy of the state has to be fixed, has to be managed properly if you really want to take people out of poverty and if you want to create wealth,” Otti told the Christian leaders, who posed very probing questions to him.
Apart from resuscitating some of the moribund industries and building new ones to fulfil his promise of wealth creation, Otti said his government will also focus on agriculture and its value chain, which will include primary product, processing, packaging and export.
“Our government will do everything within its power to ensure that our farmers, particularly women, have easy access to capital. I have documented everything that I would do in terms of wealth creation and poverty eradication in my manifesto,” he said.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Church of God Mission International, Ogbor Hill, Aba, endorsed the Labour Party candidate.
Otti was a special guest at the church’s annual thanksgiving service which held at the church’s auditorium.
The front-running gubernatorial candidate, who was accompanied by his amiable wife, Mrs. Priscilla Otti, and two other LP candidates, Engr. Chinedu Onyeizu and Steven Ucheonye, Abia South Senatorial District and Aba Central State Constituency, respectively, was honoured with a gift, a customised throw-pillow with his image emblazoned on it.
Also, on his entourage were other LP chieftains and campaign council executives, including Dr C.C. Okwuonu, a Zonal Coordinator of the Alex Otti Campaign Council.
Otti was warmly received by the very exuberant congregation, spurred on by the soul-lifting praise and worship songs rendered by a youthful musical crew.
Senior Pastor, Daniel Kalu, did not have difficulty proclaiming Otti the next governor of Abia State, while heaping praises on him.
“I will like to let you know sir that you have earned our respect,” Pastor Kalu told the renown economist and top banker.
He said: “In time past, we have invited other people and they will come to church by the time we’re sharing Grace and still expect that we will honour them and wait till whenever they decided to come.
“We were expecting you between 9.30-10 (am). While I was still in the office, they announced to me that you were already here. So, I want to let you know that if for nothing else, for me as a person, you have my vote.
“There are little things that tell you the character of a man. If a man would honour your time and be there when invited that tells you that he who is faithful in little things will also be faithful in bigger things.
“It is commonly said that if somebody should cheat you in Ludo Game, don’t bother to do big business with the person because that person will also cheat you. You have earned our respect.”
The Senior Pastor consequently prayed for Otti and the other candidates, declaring God’s protection over their lives as they transverse the nook and crannies of the state for their campaigns.
Speaking earlier, Dr. Otti thanked the church for the wonderful reception accorded him and his entourage and more importantly, for keeping fate with him since 2015, when he began the journey of becoming Abia governor.
“Let me thank all the people that have supported us all this while, we have been on this journey since 2015. We won but it was stolen. But then, we tried to enquire, what happened? Then the message we got was that, you wait, it’s not yet time.
“A lot of people have passed on between 2015 and now, but here we are healthy, just ready for it and I believe that this is the time.
“Today is harvest and the word I want to live with you today is that as you enjoy your harvest, don’t forget those who are struggling; those who are not as lucky, those who do not have anything. There are a lot of people who are weeping. My word to you today is that weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning. Psalm 30 verse 5,” Otti, son of a Seventh-day Adventist pastor admonished.