Building the New Abia: One Year After

Building the New Abia: One Year After

Being the Text of a State Broadcast by Governor Alex C. Otti OFR, on May 29 2024, to Mark His One Year Anniversary in Office

Building the New Abia: One Year After

1. Umunne m Ndi Abia, I address you today with a deep sense of gratitude, first to Almighty God for preserving our lives and for His divine guidance over the past 12 months. I am also thankful to you, fellow Abians, for your unrelenting support. Thank you for the great faith you have reposed in our government since we took office on this day in 2023.

2. Let me also appreciate our friends and development partners for their consistent show of goodwill. We continue to receive a lot of enquiries on how we can be assisted to support our development drives. We cannot take this for granted.

3. May 29 2023 was not significant for the mere fact that there was a change in baton from one administration to the other. While it is very noteworthy that an opposition party came to power for the first time in our State since the return of democracy in Nigeria 25 years ago, the most remarkable import of the events of that rainy Monday at the Umuahia Township Stadium, 12 months ago is the message we sent to the world that the will of the people will always triumph no matter how hard their traducers try.

4. While the State had existed for almost 32 years before May 29 last year, the joy on the faces of our people at home and abroad tells the story of freedom on one hand, and great expectations on the other. The excitement that greeted our swearing-in ceremony was more telling because of the anxiety that had gripped the land a few days earlier following an attempt to derail our course through a strange judicial pronouncement from Kano, even after our resounding victory at the poll.

5. I want to thank you umunne m for your unyielding faith in democracy — for believing that the power of the ballot is the strongest force for the social and economic transformation of a society. You are the real heroes of the New Abia and deserve the admiration of the world for what we have collectively achieved. You refused to give in to despair and the cynicism that would normally follow a long period of disappointment.

6. It has been 12 long months and today presents us two unique opportunities: one, to pat ourselves on the back for moving away from the old system that pauperised the majority, to a new order that places the interest and welfare of the people at the centre of decision making. This day also presents us an opportunity to take stock, evaluate what has been achieved, identify where mistakes have been made because ultimately, there are no human endeavours without errors, and then plan for another 12 months.

7. The beauty of democracy, beyond the demands of periodic elections, is the opportunity it affords leaders to regularly interface with the people and feel their pulse. In the last one week, we have toured all the Senatorial Districts in the State to talk to and learn from our people at the grassroots.

8. The interest and enthusiasm shown by Abians across the zones point to the evolution and expansion of the democratic space in our dear State. It is heart-warming to know that our people have become more passionate about democracy, using every available opportunity to make their views and sentiments on the important issues of the day known.

9. I am glad to have interfaced with several community and religious leaders, youth and women groups, and of course, the political leaders who shape opinion in various parts of the State. I can assure you that the inputs received shall be carefully considered and factored into our programme as we begin the second year of our administration.

10. The last 12 months have presented a special learning opportunity for us because leadership is essentially about learning. Ours so far has been the story of the man in the arena as Theodore Roosevelt captured it. We do not seek perfection but to make things better for the ordinary Abian who first believed in the beauty and prospects of democracy.

11. We strive valiantly but again and again, we come short, not because we so desire but because it is the nature of human endeavours. Our modest success in the last one year has come from waking up with new enthusiasm each morning, believing that we shall achieve better outcomes in the new day, having learnt from the mistakes of yesterday.

12. In the last one year, we have rehabilitated and reconstructed over 80 different stretches of roads across the 17 LGAs of the State. While we have committed the bulk of our resources to the urban centres of Aba and Umuahia because of their strategic importance to the economic and social trajectory of the State, the truth is that our road infrastructure development agenda has been spread to all parts of the State because whether urban or rural, every community in the State is important to the economic ecosystem of Abia.

13. Even then, our most significant stride in the restoration of the State’s Road infrastructure network has come from taking on long abandoned stretches of roads. Port Harcourt Road, Aba was in terrible shape for almost three decades; today, the story is changing very rapidly and it is easy to see why the people fought so hard to move away from the mediocrity of the past. The on-going reconstruction of the Osisioma-Ekeakpara Road, abandoned for more than 20 years, is another strong testimony to our commitment to the restoration of the economic glory of our dear Enyimba City.

14. Residents, businesses and visitors to Omuma, Cemetary, MCC by Aba-Owerri Road, Shalom, Udeagbala, Umuimo, Ehi, Kent, Old Court Roads and several other places in the city can testify to the difference that has been made in the last one year.

15. Across Umuahia, motorists and commuters now move round the city and across the suburbs with greater ease, unlike what was obtainable 12 months ago when the major roads in the city were littered with potholes that posed multiple dangers for road users. Later today, we shall commission the 6-lane, 3.5 kilometre Ossah Road which was reconstructed and expanded to ease traffic flow and enhance the aesthetics of the Capital City.

16. The reconstruction of the Umuahia-Uzuakoli-Ohafia, Arochukwu-Ndi Okereke- Ozuabam Roads, and the construction of the Nunya Isuikwuato Road, covering five different local governments across Abia Central and Abia North Senatorial Districts are designed to expand the frontiers of opportunities around our major agricultural zone, increase access to urban markets for farmers and expand the investment corridor beyond the urban centres.

17. Our road restoration project in Obohia and Ohanku areas of Aba will stretch into several communities in Aba South, Ugwunagbo and Ukwa East Local Government Areas, opening up new pathways for multiple economic activities including manufacturing, real estate development, agriculture, metal fabrications, and local crafts.

18. The reconstruction of the Obohia and Ohanku Roads highlights our commitment to the welfare of the common man on one hand, and very significantly, a fulfilment of our promise that no community shall be neglected as we work to build a society where the opportunity to dream, and become, is available to all, irrespective of their economic and social backgrounds.

19. To be clear, we are not just expanding and improving the network of roads to score some political points. Our objective is more profound and as I had said on many occasions, roads for us are gateways to economic prosperity. This is why we have so far focused on roads with direct economic importance to our largest populations.

20. Beyond roads, we have also taken the bull by the horn in the area of security, making very strategic investments to keep our communities and neighbourhoods safe and secure. Twelve months ago, our roads, markets and forests in Umunneochi and Isuikwuato LGAs were playground for kidnappers, armed robbers and sundry criminal groups who made life unbearable for our people through incessant kidnapping for huge ransoms, robbery and in some cases, murder.

21. Right from the inauguration podium, we served quit notice to the criminals, making it clear that no inch of space in the territory of the State shall be accommodating to them. Weeks later, we launched the Operation Crush Joint Security Force with a clear instruction to take the battle to the criminals. Today, the situation is completely different and our people are now free to go about their legitimate endeavours without fear of attacks, or harassments.

22. In the few cases where our resolve has been challenged, we have also responded in a manner that left no one in doubt that we are not prepared to compromise on the security of our people and businesses. I want to specially thank our security team, the leadership of the various security and intelligence agencies working in the State, and the operatives for their hard work and commitment.

23. One critical front where great improvements have been recorded in the last one year is in the area of urban waste disposal. 12 months ago, it was difficult to walk through the streets of our urban centres and breathe freely. One of the first steps we took on assumption of office was to declare an emergency on waste management.

24. We set up a crack team with a clear directive to rid the streets of the mountains of refuse that had become major landmarks. 12 months after, things are looking better and we intend to keep improving until we reach the point where the initiative is entirely driven by the people.

25. The Labour Party government in Abia emerged in large part because of the untiring support of the workers who believed our promise that we shall pay them their entitlements as at when due. At our inauguration, we made a firm declaration that every legitimate employee of the State Government shall be paid on or before the 28th of every month.

26. I am glad to report that in the last 12 months, we have honoured our promise to the workers as not for once have we defaulted on our commitment to pay on a deadline that became the new standard.

27. We promised earlier in the year to raise the take-home pay of our hard working civil servants in the light of the present economic realities. Our proposal had been delayed by the difficulty in reaching an agreement on the new minimum wage between the organised labour unions and the Federal Government.

28. We are, however, conscious of our promise and as soon as a headway is made, Abia will be amongst the first to pay whatever becomes the new national minimum wage. The patience, understanding and sacrifices of the workers are very much appreciated, and shall never be taken for granted.

29. We have kept our bargain with our senior citizens through regular and full payment of their entitlements. Recently, it became a policy of the State Government to pay pensions before the 28th of every month and we have kept faith with that important obligation. The present Government in the State appreciates the place of the senior citizens and shall continue to prioritise their welfare.

30. A very important promise we made during the campaigns was to provide soft loans for our micro-, small- and medium-scale entrepreneurs to support, and grow their businesses. I am glad to announce that I recently gave approval for N1 billion revolving loan scheme for micro-, small- and medium-enterprises across the 184 wards in the State.

31. Through registered local cooperatives, our women, youths, and other demographics who run, or intend to start businesses of their own can apply and get the funds they need. We encourage the beneficiaries to be faithful to the terms so that others can also benefit.

32. Our efforts at reviving the health sector are already yielding great dividends with the resuscitation of the State Specialist and Diagnostic Centre in Umuahia. Presently, the eye centre at the facility has become a major reference centre in the region, providing quality services to patients from far and near places. Before the end of last year, we fixed the hitherto dilapidated Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH) and got its accreditation restored after 3years of its suspension.

33. Do not forget that we had earmarked 15% of the entire budgetary outlay for the 2024 fiscal year for the development of the health sector. The goal is to increase access, and quality of care that our people get at the various primary, secondary and tertiary health facilities in the State. In that wise massive rehabilitation is going on in several of the facilities.

34. In the same vein, we have also launched several initiatives to make education an integral part of our development agenda. In the 2024 fiscal year, 20% of the entire public sector spending shall be channelled into the education sector. At the moment, we are rebuilding and remodelling 173 primary and 54 secondary schools across the 17 LGAs of the State.

35. Our target in this regard is to improve the physical environment to support effective teaching and learning. We are also building staff quarters within the school premises to provide suitable accommodation for our teachers. Many of these structures will be completed and ready for use in the next three months.

36. Also in education, we recently commissioned a full audit to determine the staff needs of our primary and secondary schools. By the time the audit is completed, it will be easy to identify areas of critical needs, particularly in Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). When we have our data sent in and carefully considered, we shall open the door to bring in graduates with requisite qualifications to join the employ of the State Government as teachers.

37. Ndi Abia umunne m, it may also interest you to know that we have launched major initiatives to make teaching more attractive, including raising the retirement age for teachers from 60 to 65. An improved pay package for them will be announced as soon as the details are concluded.

38. In the area of sports, let me gladly inform Abians that grassroots sports have received good attention in the past one year. Our professional sports teams at national and international levels are flying the flag of the New Abia higher at every outing. We are also seeing a revival of schools’ sports, investments in sports equipment, and rehabilitation of sports facilities for professional and recreational uses.

39. We are presently in discussion with several partners who have indicated interest to work with us to develop the College of Sports Excellence within the Nsulu Games Village. This facility when operational will be the best of its kind in the region and will serve to nurture sports talents from the State to become excellent professionals.

40. From ICT to Emergency Services, Agriculture, Trade and Commerce, judicial reforms, poverty alleviation, women empowerment and protection of the most vulnerable groups in the society, our administration has shown great resolve to do things differently and achieve results that impact positively on the life of the people.

41. Fellow Abians, permit me to tell you that the most important achievement of the Government in the last one year is the new sense of optimism that has been created amongst our people at home and abroad. People now see clear direction in leadership and are filled with new belief; the conviction that we shall get it right.

42. In the New Abia, collaborations have become a very important philosophy. This can be seen in our relationship with the legislative and judicial arms of government. I want to very respectfully thank the leaders of the two very important arms of government in our State, Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Emeruwa, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, and Justice Lilian Abai, the State Chief Judge, for being effective partners in the push to build a state where the principle of inter-dependence are leveraged upon to achieve better outcomes. Thank you for being very supportive, without being subservient.

43. We have made the business of governance at the Local Governments a very serious endeavour and so far, the results speak for themselves. I am very pleased with the performance of our Mayors. We are seeing new roads being opened to support agricultural development and improved food production, LGA secretariats are being retrofitted, and community development projects now get steady government support through the Mayors. There is also a grassroots-driven security architecture that is supported by the Mayors. This has made our communities much safer and peaceful.

44. I want to thank members of our team, especially the Deputy Governor, Engr Ikechukwu Emetu, and other senior officials of government for the great sacrifices and commitments of the last year. Abia is better today on the strength of your efforts, and posterity will never forget.

45. Gratitude is also due to members of the fourth estate of the realm, the media, for being very effective watchdogs, asking questions where they need to, and pointing us to where we have come short. You shall remain worthy partners in the New Abia project. We are not unmindful of the blackmailers and hired agents of opposition who dish out lies and half truths daily hoping that we will invite them for settlements or be distracted. Our response to them is that their demands will remain unmet no matter the number of videos they churn out and we will never be distracted. Our loyalty is to the generality of Abians not a handful of selfish individuals and groups

46. As I conclude, may I specially recognise our friends from far and near who support us by telling our story to the world, highlighting the positive things we have done using their social and traditional media platforms.

47. As we begin another lap of our journey, one thing I can assure you is that we shall continue to work hard not to disappoint you. We shall daily strive to meet your expectations and at every point, you shall be treated with great respect as worthy partners in the efforts to build something great for the present and future generations.

48. The next 12 months promises to be more rewarding because the fruits of much of the investments we have made in the last 12 months must have started coming forth, especially in the health, education and transport sectors.

49. Even then, we shall continue with our aggressive road infrastructure development in many more communities. Furthermore, we shall also unveil series of initiatives to cushion the storms of the present economic realities on individuals and families. Additionally, we shall train thousands of Abia youths in marketable, in-demand skills which shall give them the leverage to establish themselves economically wherever they go. Arrangements in this regard are already concluded. Our dream is to make Abia a major hub for quality skills for the global market.

50. It shall be challenging but if there is one thing I have learnt from our history, especially since the beginning of the 4th Republic 25 years ago, it is the fact that we are built to conquer, and win, irrespective of the opposition we face.

51. Thank you for listening and may God bless you.

Dr Alex C. Otti, OFR,


Source: Ferdinand Ekeoma

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