A keen observer of most Igbo political leaders in recent times will readily acknowledge that there is a big disconnect from the interrelatedness and communality of the Igbo people that once characterised our leadership orientation as a people. This was commonly expressed in such words as “Onye aghala nwanne ya” which is the core of Ubuntu philosophy – “we are because you are, and you are because we are.”
Nonetheless, the emergence of Governor Alex Otti in Abia state heralds a redirection and reconnection of leadership in Igbo land to its umbilical cord as showcased by the likes of Dee Sam Mbakwe and Dr. Michael Okpara.
As explicitly captured by Chief Kenneth Ifekudu, “Dr. Okpara was an enigma, an extraordinary administrator and manager of men who left enduring legacies and indelible imprint on the sands of time through his programs and policies which redefined social services in the old Eastern Region forever.”
Dr. Michael Okpara was famous for his efforts at building industries, addressing unemployment, creating wealth opportunities, and transforming the economy of the old Eastern region. He was also praised for his frugality and prudence in public resource management and transparency. These twin characteristics of frugality and prudence in managing public resources made him a responsible leader and enabled him to set up the Trans Amadi Industrial Area, Hotel Presidential and Michelin Tyre Factory both in Port Harcourt, a shoe industry in Owerri, Obudu Cattle Ranch in Calabar, and the Aba Textile Mill with industrial gas piped from Port-Harcourt to Aba. He was also the brain behind the Port Harcourt seaport expansion and other laudable projects for which he is praised and respected till today.
Similarly, Dee Sam Mbakwe, as he was fondly called, was elected to power in 1979 as the Governor of Imo State. He was a patriotic and people-oriented leader who understood that the people he had been elected to govern were war-torn, with completely devastated infrastructure and a comatose economy.
Consequently, his agenda was clear, and without delay, he embarked on an aggressive road infrastructure revolution in Aba, Owerri, Umuahia, Okigwe, and Afikpo. Some of the roads Dee Sam built are still standing today.
Satisfied that he had constructed a large network of roads that could support and sustain the economy of the state, Dee Sam then migrated into agriculture, education, tourism, aviation, and industrialisation. In his first four years in office, Dee Onunaka Mbakwe established two gigantic farms: Imo Modern Poultry Farm, Avutu in Obowo, and Ogwe Golden Chicken in Asa.
Conversely, most Igbo leaders in recent times have been all about themselves, milking their states, constituencies, and the people dry without any qualms of conscience. The people of Abia will not forget in a hurry such words as “Flyover ogbasara unu” and other cliches used by leaders who had no iota of concern for the welfare of their people.
However, to the glory of God, Governor Alex Otti has shown obvious signs of growing above the narrow confines of his personal considerations to the wider consideration of the human family, hence re-instituting a leadership of quality service delivery for the good of all.
Governor Alex Otti’s deviation from a visionless and clueless leadership style which seems to have become a norm among most Igbo leaders in recent times is an indication and an affirmation that in every epoch, under diverse circumstances, and amid various challenges, there emerges a cadre of leaders whom God appoints to intervene and liberate His people. These leaders, recognising their success as a divine calling and privilege, bear the responsibility of shepherding their communities toward progress. In our time, Dr. Alex Otti stands out clearly as one such leader, a treasure trove to the people of Abia.
Engrained in Otti’s leadership philosophy is the indomitable Igbo spirit, characterised by resilience, tenacity, care, concern, and compassion. His commitment to the welfare of ndi Abia mirrors the enduring qualities embedded in the Igbo bloodline. Drawing parallels with historical figures, Otti could be likened to Dr. Michael Okpara, a visionary leader whose impact resonates beyond the immediate.
In the pantheon of Igbo leaders, Otti’s deliverables align with the legacy of Dee Sam Mbakwe, known for his transformative governance. Much like Mbakwe, Otti is in the process of resetting the administrative landscape in Abia, laying down foundations that are designed to endure across generations. His strategic approach to infrastructural development is not only as aggressive as that of Dee Sam, but also ensures that the structures being established today will stand for ages to come as a testament to administrative excellence.
Through Otti’s leadership, a new standard is being set in Abia state as he is fostering administrative structures that reflect accountability, transparency, and efficiency. This paradigm shift in governance has established a precedent, sending a clear message that future leaders must adhere to these high standards and not deter from them.
From all indications, it is glaring that Otti’s leadership vision, like that of our heroes past – Dee Sam Mbakwe and Dr. Michael Okpara – extends beyond his tenure, as he is creating a legacy that subsequent leaders will not only follow but aspire to surpass.
In the wake of Otti’s administration, there arises a collective awareness that no leader in Abia should take the people for granted. The groundwork laid by Otti becomes a benchmark, a measure against which future leaders will be evaluated. The expectation is that every subsequent leader will not only walk in Otti’s footsteps but also build upon his remarkable legacies, striving to surpass the high standards he has set.
Dr. Alex Otti can be seen as a beacon of leadership in our time, blessed and divinely appointed to guide and uplift the people of Abia state. No doubt, his pragmatic leadership style reflects the indomitable spirit of the Igbo race, echoing the resilience and determination that characterise their history. Otti’s transformative approach is resetting the administrative landscape in Abia, leaving an indelible mark for future generations to follow and surpass.
Every well-meaning Abian must, as a matter of fact, embrace and understudy Otti’s leadership style to ensure its survival as a leadership model for future leaders. In Abia, history is being made before our very eyes.
Anokwuru, C. U., Ph.D.