Being Text of A Press Conference by Dr. Alex Otti, OFR, the 2019 Governorship Candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance in Abia State.

Gentlemen of the Press, I bring you independence anniversary greetings.

Just a few days ago, our country, Nigeria celebrated her 59th Independence Anniversary, an occasion that gave us the opportunity to reflect on our journey so far as an independent nation.

As part of the celebration, I issued a release felicitating with the government and people of Nigeria, and also reminding governments at all levels on the need to prioritise the welfare of ordinary Nigerians in line with what is obtainable in advanced democracies.

Today, I have invited you specifically to once again make a case for good governance in my dear state of Abia; a state abundantly blessed with human and material resources, but lacking in almost all the indices of development, because the state has been very unlucky with leadership.

I have not convened this press conference to advance any selfish personal interest, neither to seek cheap publicity, nor to demonize the government in power; I have no reason to do any of those.
With every sense of humility, I believe that most of you know where I was in the corporate world before I took the audacious decision to step into the ring in a bid to halt the destructive leadership onslaughts on Abia and Abians. Therefore, the essence of this press conference is to once again appeal to well-meaning Abia sons and daughters to carefully and critically examine the unfolding sad developments in Abia state, and consider stepping out of their shells so that we could as brethren come together with sincerity of purpose and selflessly salvage the state which is faced with imminent collapse.

In 2018, I wrote an open letter and organised press conferences during which I called on Abia state government to pay workers and Pensioners their accumulated arrears, and reminded the government in Abia of the importance of salary payments in the economic health of the state, and also highlighted the far reaching consequences of non-payment of salaries and pensions. I knew that the Okezie Ikpeazu led government was incompetent, but shortly before I wrote the said letter and held the press conference, I reviewed the volume of requests I was getting through phone calls and text messages on a daily basis from ordinary men and women from Abia and realised that the astronomical increase in such requests was predicated on the rising poverty levels in the state, which the government is a major propeller.

A serious minded government that is not preoccupied with thoughts of petty politics would have carefully looked at the posers I raised at that time and digested the message even if it didn’t like the messenger. Sadly, political sycophants and social media miscreants were recruited by the government to attack my person. Unfortunately today, their misrule, emboldened by medieval anti democratic arrogance has finally brought a disaster of immense proportions as we feared, to the extent that different institutions of government are presently being shut down, facing strike actions, protests, or merely existing in theory while lying comatose.

While the government takes pictures from God knows where and spends millions on celebrities projecting Abia falsely on Television, radio stations and in the newspapers as one that is experiencing massive infrastructural development and environmental turnaround, residents and visitors alike are confronted by the misfortune of impassable roads and heaps of refuse that make life nasty, brutish and short, like Thomas Hobbes would say.

Also while the present government in Abia state has consistently lied to the world that there is a state government sponsored agricultural revolution in Abia, including the nonexistent Abia rice and Abia mushroom products, the government faced its biggest embarrassment a few days ago during its kangaroo media tour when the picture of the governor commissioning a dirty and substandard two-room local rice mill was released to the world, causing outrage and condemnations. Today, unlike the propaganda promoted by Ikpeazu, there is nothing like Abia rice anywhere. The government knows it and the populace knows this as well. So, what were the lies for?

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The same government that would be quick to take credit for the success of our pupils and students in different academic endeavours, has abandoned most academic institutions in Abia to rot away through non-payment of salaries to staff, and failure to develop infrastructure in such institutions, ludicrously branding the staff “non-core” civil servants.

Our academic and health institutions are daily in the news because of one government induced crisis or another, and as I address you here, Abia State Polytechnic has been shut down by angry NLC leadership, because dozens of staff of the institution were sacked by the government while being owed 13 months salary arrears.
Just a few days ago, thousands of students of the institution barricaded major roads around the school as they rained abuses on the government and tore the posters and banners of the governor which were hung by sycophants in every nook and cranny of the institution. The students protest was said to be in solidarity with their oppressed teachers who are victims of government’s insincerity.

Abia State College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu (ASCETA) presently looks desolate and deserted, with no signs of serious academic exercise, because staff are being owed 21 months salary arrears.

A few weeks ago, pensioners barricaded the entrance gate of Government House Umuahia to protest the non-payment of their 32 months pension arrears, and two days later, staff of Hospital Management Board (HMB) staged a massive protest against non-payment of their 13 months salary arrears.

Just last month, Sahara Reporters reported the protest carried out by staff of the Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH) over non-payment of their 14 months salary arrears by Abia state government.

Also, a few days ago, Abia State University Uturu (ABSU) was in the news for the wrong reasons, after the acceptance fee payable by new students was increased from N50,000.00 to N150, 000.00. Same increment has been effected on school fees waiting for the new session to commence. These are fees expected to be paid by students, some of whose parents are civil servants and Pensioners owed by the same Abia state government.

The case of Aba is most heartbreaking. The famous Enyimba city occupies a pride of place in the heart of all Abians and many Igbos. After suffering years of neglect in the hands of successive governments in Abia state, many expected that under Ikpeazu, a so called son of the soil, Aba will regain it’s lost glory. But what’s the situation today?
Aba has deteriorated badly. In short it has been abandoned and betrayed. From a thriving commercial city of old, it has today become worse than an urban ghetto with mountains of refuse, broken roads pockmarked by gullies, craters and potholes! Indeed, Aba has become a monument to the abysmal failures of Ikpeazu. Many businesses and residents who have alternatives have taken flight and the Governor doesn’t seem to care.

All over Abia state, the tragic failings of the Ikpeazu government are self evident. His ineptitude, lack of vision and indifference to the task of governance, are legendary. Obviously his core interest in government appears to be jolly jolly ! He is permanently on a charted flight jetting out of Abia to frolic with friends and associates. Most of the time he is abroad, deceiving those that listen to him that he is in search of foreign investment, while the few existing local ones are closing shop. The drive to better the lot of the masses does not matter to him. Like the Roman general, Nero, he keeps fiddling while his kingdom burns.

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Gentlemen of the Press, between the time the present Okezie Ikpeazu led government came on board and today, the state has received over Three hundred and Fifty five Billion Naira (N355 Billion) in Statutory monthly allocations and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). These funds are aside the bail out funds, Paris Club refunds, ecological funds and loans from Commercial banks taken by this government. Permit me to document the breakdown of these figures.

Year FAAC LG Allocation IGR

2015 (May- Dec) N25.6B N15.42B N9B
2016 N30.7B N20.96B N12.7B
2017 N38.9B N20.96B N14.9B
2018 N55.33B N33.42B N14.84B
2019 (Jan-July) N30.7B N18.98B N8.75B *
Total N181.23B N110.15B N60.19B
GRAND TOTAL N355.29B
*This figure is estimated

These figures are exclusive of the Bailout funds of N14.15B and the 3 tranches of Paris club refund, totaling over N20B. Sadly, Abia doesn’t look like a state that has seen twenty percent of the above mentioned funds, forcing one to ask; where do Abia funds go to? We are left with the sad conclusion that these resources meant for the development of the state and empowerment of our people are deployed into frivolities, diverted for self enrichment, shared to some unproductive political allies, and are wasted for the settlement of election rigging thugs and sycophants.
In addition to the above funds, Governor Ikpeazu inherited an external debt profile of $33.79m and Domestic debt of N25b in 2015. Regrettably, this government had ramped up our debt to $100.2m and N63b in external and domestic debt respectively. This means that the state has increased total borrowing from N35b in 2015 to over N100b at the moment if the entire loan was to be expressed in local currency.

Some of you will recall that on the 16th of August 2017, I had organised a similar press conference to raise alarm over the approval granted by the Presidency and the National Assembly to the Ikpeazu government to plunge the state into a fresh loan of $200m from African Development Bank. I had noticed some irregularities in the documentation for that loan and raised a few posers. I had stated that documents sighted by me showed that the National Assembly might have been misled into approving a loan that is different from the one recommended by the Presidency. I had indicated that on May 25, 2017 a Presidential request for $100 million regarding Abia State Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) was sent to the National Assembly, however, on July 18, 2017 the then Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun sent a request for $200 million to the National Assembly in respect of Abia State Integrated Infrastructure Development Project (ASIIDP) which curiously, is exactly the same request that Abia State Government submitted in October 2015. I had gone further to ask
1. How Abia State Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) became Abia State Integrated Infrastructure Development Project (ASIIDP)?
2. How $100 million became to $200 million? And
3. When the request was presented to the Abia State house of assembly which should ordinarily have approved it before it made its way to the National Assembly.
Instead of answering the questions, the Abia State government went up in arms against me, abusing and mudslinging me. But the good news is that my opposition to the loan paid off as the authorities saw merit in my posers and disallowed the loan.

Recently, the state government has been boasting that it was going to secure the $200 million loan that I stopped them from accessing two years ago. In fact, this is one of the major reasons for this Press conference.

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At this point I would want to call the attention and reawaken the consciousness of some well to do and respected citizens and elders of Abia state, especially those who have access to the government in Abia to intervene and save this government from itself as well as save the future generation from being mortgaged.

In line with the adage that an elder doesn’t stand idly by and watch, while a goat delivers in tethers, I therefore call on Abia elders, senior citizens, royal fathers, captains of industry, serving and former lawmakers at the state and national levels, elder statesmen and political stakeholders across political party lines, human rights activists and opinion leaders to rise to the challenge posed by the current destructive leadership ravaging Abia state. I call on our Clergymen and women to speak out positively. There comes a time when silence is no longer golden. Your subjects are being owed salaries, your members are living in abject poverty and in filth. People are dying prematurely out of hardship and lack of good medical facilities. Businesses are closing down and some are relocating making it difficult for our children to get jobs. Crime is on the increase and life is becoming unbearable. A few has spoken up, but majority are either sitting on the fence or preaching peace. The word of God says in Jeremiah 6:14 “they dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. Peace,Peace, Peace they say, when there is no peace”. Again we are reminded of Ezekiel 13:10 “Because they lead my people astray, saying, Peace, when there is no peace, and because when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall”. My prayer is that this will not be our portion! To all those who can speak but have chosen to be silent, I remind you of the words of Frantz Fanon thus “every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor”

Abia is too big and rich in human and material resources to be surrendered to jesters for destruction on the alter of sectionalism and petty partisanship while vulnerable men and women who look up to us as leaders wallow in daily pain and penury. The truth is that the ordinary people in Abia seem to have been defeated and resigned to fate. They cannot help themselves. All well meaning Abia people should leave their comfort zones and recover their voices so that a genuine conversation on rescuing our state can begin.

I expect the government as usual to call me those names that bear no semblance to who I am and what I stand for, which includes a liar, but I challenge those who have been buying the stories consistently told by Abia state government on tv and in the newspapers to kindly take a trip to Abia to see things for themselves, and confirm who the true liar is.

If previous humble appeals on behalf of suffering workers and dying pensioners could attract hostile reactions, insults and infantile defamatory attacks from the Ikpeazu led government, then I don’t see any reason why I should not expect something worse from the sycophants and idle e rats recruited by the government. However, they should know that the resolve to get Abia out of the present mess has become stronger than ever, and no kindergarten tantrums can dampen it. I also wish to state again that this is not political. It is about the love of our state and our people. We must rise to the challenge now as ours is now virtually a failed state.

God bless Abia state
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Signed


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Dr. Alex Otti OFR
07/10/2019.

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