Nigeria’s famed ‘third force’ political organization, the Labour Party, campaigned as the forerunners of a ‘new Nigeria’ in the last general elections. But no sign of that has emerged in Abia State, the only state where the party managed a disputed victory in the country. Alex Otti, its governor, has maintained the old and widely criticised tradition of waste, abuse of government processes and non-transparency, disappointing expectant voters who thought his election would prove a turning point for the poor state.
Although Otti promised to prune down the size of government by abandoning the practice of appointing numerous aides, many without an office or assigned portfolio; he opened this week with an appointment spree, taking the number of his personal aides to over fifty (50). Many of those appointed have not been assigned any portfolio and no explanation has been offered on why he betrayed a central campaign promise only a few months into his tenure as governor.
Even worse is the fate of civil servants who were promised a new dawn of prompt and full payment of salaries and other entitlements. Instead of payment notification at the end of every month since Otti’s emergence, the governor has offered excuses, putting the blame for his failure to meet that basic obligation on his predecessor’s alleged wasteful management of the state’s resources.
Angry members of the state workforce have questioned if he lacked an appraisal of the state’s finances before making his grand promises during the campaign and whether finger-pointing at this predecessor will be the familiar tune of his administration at every failure to meet self-imposed targets.
More cynical members conclude that the governor merely lied his way into office. Their cynicism is informed by pronounced failures in other areas. As opposed to a clear, methodical approach to governance, Otti is flailing and scampering from one public issue to another, unable to commit to a coherent agenda.
On infrastructure, for example, the state government has encouraged its band of praise singers online to celebrate the construction of “thick” concrete drainages as early signs of seriousness. Citizens are genuinely concerned if such mediocre standards are what Otti holds himself to.
At the state assembly, despite lacking a clear majority, Otti allegedly sponsored scorched-earth tactics to obtain illegal control of the branch of government. Opposition members have lamented targeted harassment and attacks, a development that points to Otti’s unwillingness to surrender himself to the checks and balances necessary that distinguish democracy from other dictatorial forms of government.
There are also concerns about unilateral decision-making, with no transparent account of the management of government resources and expenditures. Otti perhaps considers himself a 16th-century monarch over and above scrutiny.
All of these make certain that Abia remains in the low rung in key development ratings and projections. Whereas other state governments have announced and implemented economic relief measures to cushion the effects of the removal of fuel subsidies on their residents, Abia State has declared no package and presented no plan.
Contrary to the initial belief that the Labour Party would prove its readiness for governance through competent management of the state, Otti’s poor performance has become a sore point and a disappointing revelation that Labour Party’s marketing claims do not correspond with its reality. Buyers are both remorseful and disenchanted.