Abia 2023: Alex Otti plots to upset PDP, APC
Alex Otti

By OBINNA EZUGWU

Dr. Alex Otti, former bank CEO and governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Abia State, is looking set to achieve similar success at the polls as he did in 2015 when he first opted to run for the office and took the political landscape by storm.

“Abians will vote for him as we always do, but the problem is the protections of our vote,” said Bennett Agunwa, a business owner in Aba. “In 2015, we all voted for him and he won, but they stole the mandate from him. So, we hope for a better outcome this time.”

When Dr. Otti, fresh from the boardroom with little experience in politics, opted to join the Abia governorship race in 2015, running under the platform of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), it was like a tsunami. He blew away his opponents and was headed for victory, but that was not to be. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), determined to remain in power, deployed state apparatus to “rob” him of victory at the eleventh hour.

Not willing to engage in street fight, Otti opted to fight to recover his mandate through the court. That proved to be a costly mistake. Although he did, indeed, achieve victory all the way to the Appeal Court, he ultimately lost the mandate at the Supreme Court.

“I won my election as governor of Abia State in 2015, but due to legal contingencies, I lost the case at the Supreme Court,” Otti said.

“My supporters in Abia State are much ready to vote me again, and I am more than ready to recover my mandate.”

The former bank chief did attempt for a second time in 2019, but again failed, this time to what many have said was a conspiratorial agreement between the PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to allow Governor Ikpeazu return for a second term in exchange for giving President Muhammadu Buhari at least 25 percent of the ‘votes’ and allowing Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of the state, and current senate chief whip, to go to the red chamber.

“In 2019, there was no election,” Said Emma Obasi, a political observer in the state. “What they basically did was to sit down and write the results. They agreed to give Buhari 25 percent and send Uzor Kalu to the senate. And then, to ensure that Alex Otti doesn’t have much basis to go to court, they put him in third position, behind Ikpeazu and Uche Ogah who was candidate of the APC.”

Going into 2023, however, Otti appears determined to to ensure he achieves a better outcome. Having been crowded out of the APC in the lead up to the party’s primary election, he opted out of the party and pitted tent the the Labour Party, a party whose profile is rapidly growing nationwide, thanks to its inspirational presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi.

Since Obi joined Labour Party last month, its following has grown rapidly, driven by young people who say they are resolute to birth a new political order amid growing poverty and security challenges in the country. Courtesy of Obi, Labour is now effectively the much touted third force movement, even as the party looks to build alliances with other platforms ahead of the 2023 polls.

In Abia, however, the movement is more localized. Having suffered from poor governance under the PDP, starting from when Orji Kalu took power in 1999 to the present Ikpeazu government, the state’s populace say they are desperate for a change, and many are looking up to Dr Otti in this regard.

“This time nothing is stopping us. Thank you for your commitment towards librating Abia from her age long bondage. We appreciate,” said Ure Abazie.

Abazie, like many others took to Facebook to congratulate the Labour Party candidate on getting his certificate of return for the governorship.

” It’s time to liberate the Abians from several years of misrule and bad governance,” says Martins Itua.

For George Dozie Nwachukwu, “This is the beginning of our success story. More grace. Congratulations sir.”

Indeed, having suffered more than two decades of uninspiring leadership under successive PDP governments, many in Abia appear determined to change the story this time around.

A poll conducted on microblogging site, Twitter by a user E.J. @Enwagboso on who the people of the state would be voting for in 2023, returned Otti as overwhelming favourite, amazing 77.4% percent of the votes, followed by Prof. Gregory Ibe, candidate of APGA, who had 15.3%, while Prof. Uche Ikonne, candidate of the PDP had 5.5%, and Engr. Nana Nwafor of YPP, 1.7%.

“We have started a movement which no cabal can stop. We are the party the majority of people who deserve good leadership in the state are looking for,” Otti declared when he clinched the party’s governorship ticket.

“The symbol of our party is human beings, I therefore urge to join me as we work hard to win the 2023 governorship election and make life easier for our people. If elected I will donate my salary for humanitarian purposes.

“We shall move in with courage to upset the backlog of unpaid salaries, stop insecurity, bad roads and poor health care delivery because we have all takes to make a difference.

“We will activate industrialization in the state to move our people to prosperity, through Education, Agriculture policies and reduce rural urban migration.”

Otti will be going into the election on a political platform that appears to be the only one not beset by internal crisis, which could be an added advantage to the movement he is inspiring in the state.

Practically all of the other major political platforms, from the PDP, to APGA and the APC, have not recovered from their bitterly contested primary elections marred by imposition of candidates in most cases.

In APGA, for instance, while what appears to be the main primary election conducted at the Kolping Society of Nigeria Conference Hall, produced Prof. Gregory Ibe as candidate, a parallel primary produced Chief Chikwe Udensi as candidate.

On the part of the PDP, Prof Eleazar Uche Ikonne emerged candidate, but controversy continues to surround the primary that produced him, with INEC having rejected a controversial 3-man ad-hoc delegates list submitted to it before the primary, even as his candidacy is said to be in breach of the state’s power rotation arrangement.

By the state’s zoning arrangement, the governorship ought to return to Abia North where it began from in 1999, but Ikonne is said to be from the Central, and of Ngwa sub-group as Ikpeazu, who is from the south. Of the six local governments that make up Abia Central, three are of Ngwa sub-group, while the other three are of Umuahia group. Ngwa also make up the bulk of Abia South, where Ikpeazu falls into.

The allegation, therefore, is that he opted for his Ngwa brother to succeed him in office, what could further constitute a challenge for the PDP, especially given that the likes of Theodore Orji, former governor of the state are said to be against the move.

On its part, the APC also conducted two parallel primaries, using direct and indirect modes. The faction that used indirect primary produced Chief Ikechi Emenike as governor with 672 votes, while the other faction that used direct primary, as directed by the party’s headquarters and produced Uche Ogah as candidate.

Dr. Otti, who is from Arochukwu in Abia North, the zone billed to produce the next governor by the zoning arrangement, will hope to take advantage of the fact that he is running on a platform not afflicted by internal crisis, even as he appears to have the backing of the neutrals who see him as the most qualified to bring about the kind of transformation the state needs at this point.

“Abia State needs in 2023 is an individual equipped with the necessary economic, political and social leadership skills, training and intellect to drive the engine of growth and development so as to move the state forward, having stagnated, indeed regressed, for the past 23 years under PDP,” a group of Abia technocrats, professionals, businessmen and religious leaders under the aegis of Abia Freedom Alliance (AFA), declared in a statement recently.

“AFA finds such quality of candidate in the person of Dr Alex Otti, OFR, a consummate first-class economist and accomplished former Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Bank Plc; a man who through his Alex Otti Foundation has touched and continues to touch the lives of residents of Abia State, through award of scholarships for university students, building and equipping of medical centres, provision of financial supports for small and micro enterprises, Churches, widows, orphans and the down-trodden.”

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