Democracy it has been said is not a spectator sport hence it requires the participation of everyone and that includes those of us from Abia state who are resident here in the United States . In the last 2 election circles a majority of us resident here in America have been bystanders to the process, just content to watch events from afar with little or no interest. This nonchalant attitude appears to be changing as the next Nigerian election circle approaches. This change I tend to believe is from the sudden realization that events back home, the quality and competence of the people elected , the performance or failure of our elected leaders does affect us in some way or form . They affect us by way of a relative who after graduation from college cannot find a job, an uncle, aunt or parent who as a teacher does not get paid at months end, a sister who is turned away from the hospital and left to die because she cannot pay for a medical procedure , a businessman in the city of Aba who has to dodge potholes to get to his store in Ariaria market. For many of us here we are personally affected when we visit home and have to sneak around from one hotel to another so as to avoid kidnappers and those who might harm us or those who want to set up business venture but have to reconsider due to the lack of basic infrastructure such as constant and uninterrupted water and electricity supply, bad roads , transportation system etc.

With this sudden realization of the impact elections could have on our lives I was therefore not surprised when a large cross section of Abia citizens living in the tri-state area of New York, New jersey and Connecticut on Friday the 3rd of September 2014 gathered in the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce building in Queens, New York to hear Dr Alex Otti (Ugwungwa), Managing Director and CEO of Diamond Bank Plc announce his candidacy for the governorship of Abia state under the platform of the PDP. Though most of the people present had never met or heard of him, the general consensus was that they left at the end of the meeting immensely impressed. For me personally it was indeed very refreshing to see someone run for office without the notoriety of a professional politician. He did not only sound very sincere but was also believable.

Before an audience of eminent Abia citizens Dr Otti shared his dream for a transformed Abia state which he said he was going to do if he became Governor by tackling 4 main areas, namely Agriculture, Industry, Education and Security. For the purpose of brevity I am not going to elaborate on his plans in the aforementioned areas but will however discuss the issue of Aba which he spent a considerable amount of time on. An indication of the importance of that issue to him and to me also since Aba is a city of my youth. He promised, should he win ,to create a Ministry Of Aba affairs. In his own words he said “If you lose Aba ,you cannot rescue the South-East or the South-South. ”He described the Enyimba City as a ghost of its yesteryears adding that Aba could be made the center of commerce for the entire west African Sub-continent, where people from Ghana, Cote D'ivoire ,Cameroon, Togo and Guinea could come to buy goods to resell in their home countries. He promised to transform and rehabilitate the Ariaria market to world class standards.

As he spoke Dr Otti reminded me of Aba as it used to be. Just like Dr Otti himself, a great many us here in the United States and in other parts of the world , the accomplished and not so accomplished grew up in Aba. We went to school there . We remember with fond memories the Aba of our youth and we long to visit again, with our wives , husbands and children. We desire to show them the streets and houses where we lived in, the schools we attended, the playgrounds we played in etc. What we do not want them to see are the potholes as wide as trenches, the piles of garbage on the sidewalks etc. Aba is of great interest to me because I grew up there. Back then, which was decades ago, everything seemed possible and hopeful . Aba was a city of Commerce , spectacular ,bustling with sophistication. An efferverscent metropolis of exposition, excitement and exploration. Like a blossom, Aba was attracting a host of social butterflies, from far and wide. Craftsmen who were eager and who were willing to import and sell anything that would yield them profit.

In those good old days enterprise was flourishing in Aba . A burgeoning web of goods and services sprawled across the city entrapping the discerning and unaware alike. Friends were afoot and afar. The atmosphere was always electric. It was truly a city of the possible. But all that has changed .Aba is presently a ghost of its glorious past. The city has been a victim of unmitigated neglect and would need the kind of attention Dr Otti is promising to reverse its deteriorating condition. So as I listened to Dr otti share his plans for Aba, for that singular moment the universe stood still for me. It was as if there was a sudden equilibrium in my hitherto hesitation to visit. The indecision to visit has suddenly established a balance and was now on the right axis.

What do I think of Dr Otti and his candidacy one may ask? While I cannot claim to know him personally , in my opinion I believe he is as genuine as they come. His confidence , his unshakable sense of self esteem awed me and boosted mine. Listening to him , the man was in his own sanctified realm. He was refreshingly an uncomplicated man , who knows who he is , where he has been and where he is heading. His enthusiasm for the job he is seeking reflects his reserve, his confidence and unexploited resources. His optimism is contagious as optimism as we all know is the ingredient that leads to achievement. As the chief Executive of a major Nigerian bank, there is no doubt he possesses the skill set for the job. You do not get to that position in life by chance. You must have a great deal of intellect and ability. Most of the attendees of his meeting in New York saw it in his presentation which was meticulous and impressive. His response to questions posed to him were factual, empirical and incisive, earning him an aura of credibility in a profession whose members are not universally believable.

When the French call something “formidable” they mean tremendous, terrific, awesome. These are the words that come to mind in describing Dr Alex Otti. When you meet him, you are struck by his energy and clarity. He has the quiet assurance of an expert who knows his subject. He is in my opinion a modern day freedom fighter who is willing to abandon the comfort of his job in the banking industry to engage in the muddy trenches of Nigerian Politics in the attempt to rescue his home state from continuous decline. Like Warren Buffet, an American billionaire once said “life is not about the values we seek. It is in the values we stand for”. I would want to believe that Dr Otti stands for the values we all seek in our elected leaders. Those of honesty, hard-work, dedication to duty, justice and fairness to all. As my old boss the late Ikemba, Chief Emeka Ojukwu used to say “You are only as good as your reputation”. I am well aware that morality and ethics has no place in Nigerian Politics. All the same I expect that Dr Otti will be a new kind of Politician. A transformative leader, who will lead Abia state in a new direction. If and when he wins , I expect him to be a fearless crusader for his state, adopting a distinctive style of advocacy for them. Always cajoling, probing, challenging and unapologetic in asserting his views for his state. As he campaigns for the job I will expect him to drastically eliminate all vestiges of the systemic incompetence and outstanding intellectual bankruptcy that is abound in most Nigerian Campaigns by surrounding himself with people who will offer him good advice even though I am well aware that hypocrisy and sycophancy are crimes that are not punishable by law. Most leaders make decisions and reach conclusions based on the sources they trust. I hope he will surround himself with people whose competence , integrity, honesty he can rely on.

As an Ibo man I regret to say we have not always made the right choices in recent years when it comes to choosing our leaders. We cannot continue to sacrifice excellence, integrity , competence and experience on the alter of zonal arrangements. Election after election we continue to select people whose claim to prominence is the size of their bank accounts without questioning the source of their wealth. How do you expect a thief to stand guard over a bank building or a fox to guide a hen house? We continue to pick as our leaders, people who have no experience of any kind on how to run a large establishment and then we turn around whining and complaining about the administrative failures and incompetence. The Ibo people have never been victims of destiny. We have always been masters of it and we must not be part of a generation that fails that premise. As Ibos it is time for us to seize the promise of the future and break away from the prison of the past in our choice of leaders by choosing a candidate and a governor who will transform and modernize and revitalize our state.

As an Abia state resident here in the United States I believe I speak the mind of most of us here if I say I look forward for a Nigeria that will honor excellence over mediocrity, place emphasis on character over charisma, embrace competence over ethnic origin, celebrate wealth accumulated by honest means and personal initiative over that derived through corrupt means. In Abia State we must demand and expect the best from our leaders and from ourselves. What is incredible to others should be our everyday average. We must expect the best from our educational institutions and from our students, rewarding the best with loyalty and pride in their accomplishments and holding their successes and credentials close to our hearts and for all to see. We must learn to hold our leaders accountable, applauding them when they do right by us and condemning them to the high heavens when they fail. We have a chance in the forth coming elections to make better choices for our state, ourselves and for our families, and it is my hope that a great majority of my fellow Abia State citizens will choose Dr Alex Otti as the next chief executive of our state for he in my opinion is the 'Man Of The Hour'.

Who Lives in New York was a former
Special Assistant to CHIEF EMEKA OJUKWU

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Articles by Nnanna Ijomah