Being A Speech Delivered By the Governor of Abia State on the Occasion of the Swearing in of New Transition Council Chairmen/Mayors in Umuahia on Thursday, November 30, 2023.
1. It is with a great sense of fulfilment that I welcome everyone to this very important event which marks yet another strategic step in our steady push to meet the developmental needs of our homeland; harnessing the extensive opportunities that abound in every part of the state for the material wellbeing and prosperity of the people.
2. I want to begin by congratulating the newly appointed Transition Council (TC) Chairmen also called Mayors and their deputies for being found worthy by a cross section of stakeholders to serve as the vanguards of the New Abia in the 17 LGAs. Very importantly, I am very glad that you have accepted to bring your extensive wealth of experience in various fields of human endeavours to bear in the service of your communities.
3. Commendations are also due to the leadership and members of the State House of Assembly for fast-tracking the screening process and doing so much to ensure that the exercise proceeded without hitches. Thank you for being partners in progress as we work collectively to build a better society where the riches of the land are deployed in honest service to the present and future generations.
4. It is also appropriate that we say a word of appreciation to the Labour Party leaders and stakeholders across the 17 LGAs and the 184 wards in the state for actively participating in the process that led to the selection of these accomplished individuals who would take over the mantle of leadership in our various local governments for the next six months in the first instance as the Constitution stipulates.
5. The diligence, efforts at consultations and negotiations that attended the selection process for the mayors and their deputies are pointers to what is possible when we appreciate the true responsibility of leadership in our dealings, serving our communities with fairness, sincerity and an abiding sense of inclusion.
6. We may not have made the most perfect of choices but if the feedback we have gotten since the names of the would-be mayors were announced are anything to go by, there is no doubt that we have made very quality judgement in the choices of the individuals selected. It is my hope that the optimism that attended the announcements would be matched by the quality of your performance and dedication.
7. We are also not oblivious of the fact that there are a few leaders who may have some misgivings about the people that have been selected. Your concerns, expressed and unstated, have been duly noted but we must re-emphasise that there are no perfect arrangements. The beauty of democracy is that in the long run, opportunities and platforms for service present themselves to everyone in diverse capacities.
8. To the new mayors and deputies, may I remind you that this is a call to serve and not to be served. We do not expect you to get everything right on the first day but you must be willing to learn, keeping your mind open to new ideas and possibilities.
9. While the State would give each of you the freehand to manage the affairs of the council responsibly, it is very important to design your programmes in ways that align with the general development philosophy of the present Labour Party Administration in the State. Our priority at all times must be the security and welfare of the people.
10. We are currently working with an amalgamation of critical stakeholders to guarantee the safety of life and property in all parts of the state. So far, the efforts have been very fruitful because as many observers have noted, Abia has become one of the safest places to reside in, travel to or set up a thriving business enterprise.
11. Your first task as leaders of the various LGAs shall include strengthening the security architecture in the towns and villages within your domain, especially as the yuletide approaches. As we have said on many occasions, no part of Abia, not an inch, shall be ceded to any group of criminals, whether they are armed robbers, kidnappers or any individual or group, whose actions threaten the peace in our communities.
12. Beyond the security of life and property, our administration is working with multiple stakeholders, including multilateral and donor agencies, global IT companies and local financial institutions, to develop a robust framework for addressing the critical challenges facing our people including endemic poverty, restricted access to basic amenities including potable water, access roads to the farms and markets; limited skills for enhanced earning and unequal access to the boundless opportunities of the 21st century global economy. The State Government cannot wait to accommodate the LGAs as new strategic partners in the development Projects.
13. The tasks before us are daunting but we must remain resolute. Abia electorates chose us above all other political groups in the State because the people believe that we have the most credible, competent and development-oriented men and women in our ranks. We have now been given the opportunity to prove the electorates right and further consolidate the appeal of our great party amongst all demographic groups.
14. I have heard people ask why we chose certain class of people for the mayoral positions and my response is simple: we need the best hands and heads to drive the development of the state. We are in a hurry to elevate the standards of leadership to accommodate strictly those who have something to offer.
15. While I would be the first to admit that the road ahead is still far, I am, however, satisfied that we are progressively setting a new template for governance in the state; the people now know how and where their resources are being channelled to and Abians can look to the future with great optimism.
16. We are not just reconstructing and rehabilitating roads to score cheap political points, our overarching objective is to improve the economy of the state by working on the fundamental enablers for economic prosperity, especially in the towns with the most potential for accelerated growth and development. Quality road networks for us are not just end in themselves, but a pathway to something more profound.
17. The philosophy is the same for education and health where we are working very hard to improve access and quality of output. Our goal is to have the healthiest and most educated population and ultimately, create a mass of healthy and wealthy citizens.
18. Your primary task as mayors and deputies shall be to make the local communities and towns conducive for active production and rapid growth. We expect you to quickly develop holistic frameworks for improving agriculture and light scale production in ways that enhance outputs and attract domestic and foreign investors. As you may be aware, Abia has become the most beautiful bride amongst investors and you would do well to position your LGAs as a top destination within the state.
19. You must realise that while the task ahead is enormous, you do not have unlimited resources in money or time. You must therefore get your priorities right, build networks that can help you drive the development agenda of our Party in your LGAs and discern where more would be achieved through partnership with relevant agencies of the state.
20. One thing you are encouraged to guard against is the distractions that are bound to come from internal wrangling and needless power tussles. You have been called to serve the people and that must be your most important priority. While we expect the party leaders, traditional and community leaders to give you all the necessary support you need to succeed, you must also recognise that they are critical stakeholders whose input should be sought when it comes to taking far-reaching decisions.
21. As I conclude, may I assure you that my doors will constantly be open to welcome and offer you all the support you need to succeed as mayors and deputies. Do not hesitate to call when you need clarity or guidance on knotty matters. With your pedigree and accomplishments, I have no doubt that the promise of the New Abia shall now become a reality, even in the remotest parts of our communities.
22. I wish you God’s guidance and wisdom as you begin. Thank you for accepting to serve.
Dr Alex C. Otti, OFR.