Between Peter Mbah and Alex Otti: When Experience and Character Make the Difference -John Okiyi Kalu

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Three days ago I watched on a TV live broadcast the Enugu State Governor, Peter Mbah, present his 2024 budget estimates to the state house of assembly and went into deep thoughts about obvious lost opportunities in Abia State.

Throughout his speech I did not hear Mr Mbah blame his predecessors or display signs of congenital bitterness associated with pathological disdain and hatred for others. He did not complain for once but demonstrated cogent signs of readiness for the job as well as strong knowledge of the socio-political milieu of his state. He exhibited strong vision and mission including readiness to accomplish things rather than seek refuge in funding propaganda as against substantive performance.

Governor Mbah reminded me of former Governor Sullivan Chime of the same state who hardly traveled out of Enugu State throughout his 8 years in office, reputedly spent near-zero Naira on media and propaganda but was always with his people whom he goes to meet at notable joints daily without owning a single bullet proof vehicle, to the best of my knowledge. Correct me if I am wrong, Governor Chime was never associated with private jets and rarely was he seen in Abuja for any reason at all.

Sullivan was reputed to have positively turned the corner in Enugu State governance and achieved so much with near-zero noise that today he is well respected even though there were people before and after him that occupied Lion Building in Enugu. Indeed, based on what I’ve seen so far, I will be surprised if Governor Mbah is not modeling his leadership style after Sullivan even though it was amiable Rt Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi that supported him to emerge despite intense pressure and fire from several unfriendly quarters.

To understand my interest in Governor Mbah vis-à-vis my beloved Abia State and the current occupant of the seat of Governor, Mr Alex Otti, you need to first see the following data related to the two states whose current administrators started work same day (May 29 2023) with one making so much positive news while the other is making so much noise without substance.

Facts Speak for Itself

1. While the population of Enugu State is estimated at 4.7m (2022 projections) with land area of 13,161 square km, Abia has a population of 4.1m with land area of 6,320 square Km.

2. According to Q3 budget performance report published by both states, Governor Mbah (PDP) generated a revenue of N9.4bn while Governor Otti (LP) generated N3.3bn within the same period.

3. Governor Otti collected security vote of N2.8bn while Governor Mbah utilised N1.15bn as security vote.

4. While Governor Otti claimed to be saving cost of governance in Abia State, he spent N5.32bn in three months to run the office of Governor which he operates from his private bedroom in his village whereas Governor Mbah who lives and works from Enugu State Government House spent N3.32bn to run the same office. Governor Francis Nwifuru of Ebonyi state who assumed office same day as Otti and works from Ebonyi State Government House in Abakiliki spent N0.85bn to run same office.

5. In running the Deputy Governor’s Office, Governor Otti of Labour Party spent N252m while PDP’s Mbah spent N7.5m. Yes, Seven Million and Five Hundred Thousand Naira in 3 months.

6. To run Abia State House of Assembly, Governor Otti “graciously” spent N799.4m whereas Governor Mbah spent N476m. Interestingly, Governor Mbah did not publicly interfere with the inauguration of the house of assembly in order to foist rubber stamp principal officers on them but allowed them to run their affairs without let or hindrance whereas Governor Otti physically took security men into the hallowed chamber of the Abia State house of assembly to intimidate PDP legislators who have a majority of members and denied them all the principal offices due them including majority leadership thereby making a member of one of the minority parties occupy the seat of majority leader for the first time in the history of the state and Nigerian legislative affairs cum democracy.

7. Governor Otti of Abia State spent N542.8m on information (propaganda) within the same period that Governor Mbah spent N33.7m on same ministry because of its pure intentions rather than propaganda. The implication is that while Governor Mbah is quietly doing his work Governor Otti is loudly doing nothing other than funding propaganda. No wonder his government even claimed that they executed the Ariaria remodeling project that Governor Ikpeazu implemented under my supervision. Otti even went as far as using his minions to share fake photos of a supposed “skyscraper with 130 stories that is under construction in Aba, Abia State, Nigeria.”

8. On Tuesday, 5th December 2023, Governor Mbah of Enugu State presented the state’s 2024 budget estimates of N521.56bn while Governor Otti presented fake allegations of diverting N500m against his predecessor to media houses in Lagos and Umuahia. Go and verify!!!

In truth, I’ve only laid a background without going into the meat of why I delayed my attendance to an important event in order to watch fully Governor Mbah’s presentation on Tuesday. For once in recent times, I saw a Governor who was focused and not in any need of defending why he consumed food and drinks of N927m in 3 months. What struck me most was not as much about Mbah’s ongoing ambitious plans as it is what he listed as completed projects since he came on board on May 29 2023.

“We have recently launched the ultra modern water scheme at Ninth Mile which has a daily production capacity of 70 million cubic meters (70,000,000m3) of clean water, combined with the production of 50 million cubic litres from Oji River. This gives a total volume of 120 million cubic meters per day as against less than 2,000,000m3 we met on resumption of office. This achievement disrupts over two decades water scarcity in Enugu urban, and also fulfils our promise to Ndi Enugu to provide Enugu urban residents with water within 180 days.

“We have awarded contracts for the construction and rehabilitation work on the over 81 roads, including several urban roads as well as some priority non-urban roads such as the dualization of Enugu Airport flyover, to Eke Obinagu and Ebonyi border, approximately 22km, and also the construction of Owo-Ubahu-Ama Nkanu-Neke-Ikem road of approximately 45km. As you may be aware, work on these roads has since commenced.

“We have also expanded the National Cash Transfer Register of the Federal Government from 43,000 to 260,000 beneficiaries. The expansion was to accommodate more poor and vulnerable residents in the state in line with our vision to eradicate poverty.

“We have commenced the accumulation of 300,000 hectares of land for our land bank, which will be made available to corporate farmers for massive cultivation of agro produce. In line with this, one partner firm is already planting cassava under the pilot scheme of Cassava to Ethanol Programme in Aninri, Nkanu East, and Uzo Uwani LGAs. Related to this, we are advancing conversations with key development agencies for the development of Special Agro Processing Zones (SAPZs) in the 3 senatorial zones of the state.

“We also held the Enugu State Investment Roundtable which attracted the best of the private sector as well as development partners such as AfDB, AFREXIM, FCDO, the WB, etc, thus signalling our government’s zeal to transform Enugu State into private sector driven economy.

“In line with our commitment to reinvent our education system in Enugu State, we are constructing 260 Smart Model Basic Schools across the 260 wards in the state which will rank amongst the best in the country. The pilot Smart Model Basic School in Owo, Nkanu East Local Government Area is now ready for commissioning and similar Schools will be replicated in all the 260 wards across the 17 LG councils in the state.

“We are also in the process of constructing 260 Type-2 Primary Health Centres across the 260 wards in the state to cater for the health needs of rural communities which are paramount in our health care agenda.

“Last but not least, in recognition that no economic growth is possible without security, we have ensured the discontinuation of the ignoble Monday sit-at-home campaign and boosted the security framework within the state with the introduction of the Distress Response Squad, which has recorded several successes, effectively bringing the crime rate in Enugu State to a bare minimum. We are going further by commencing the installation of a CCTV surveillance network around the state. Work is at an advanced stage on this initiative.”

If not that I am a strong-willed man I would have been weeping at this point knowing that while some Abians susceptible to being manipulated by the propaganda machinery of Alex Otti are busy clapping for him for awarding a 6km Port Harcourt Road Aba project at N32bn with a publicly acknowledged “discount of N2bn” given personally to him after contract award, Governor Mbah is already working on a 40km dual carriageway, 71 Urban roads in Enugu city and planned delivery of 10,000km of roads in 8 years with 400km already flagged off.

Yes, you read me right: Governor Peter Mbah has already flagged off construction of 400km of roads and among the contractors is grade A rated China Communication Construction Company, CCCC, that has the mandate to deliver a “functional New Enugu City between now and the next 24 months”, according to the Governor.

I suspect Governor Mbah didn’t consider regular payment of salary and additional salary award of initial N10k-N25k to Enugu civil servants across board as an achievement, hence, he did not list that among his feats.

But our own Labour Party Governor in Abia State will most probably also forget to mention among his achievements the sacking of more than 15,000 workers and non payment of 11,000 other workers because they are yet to complete online verification made extremely cumbersome and difficult by a technically flawed platform supplied by Otti’s vendors. He also will not have any reason to mention that he has been paying only 30% to the same pensioners he hitherto mobilized to campaign for him and promised heaven on earth.

Hopefully, by the time Mr Otti appears at the state house of assembly to present his budget he would have corrected the anomaly and refunded them all they have lost in addition to clearing all their outstanding in December as he vowed with the Bible in his left hand on May 29th.

Obviously, Governor Otti is too busy calling press conferences to malign his predecessor that he did not bother with early preparation of his 2024 budget estimates for Abia State. Or may be he does not need to bother himself knowing full well that in the state house of assembly the rubber stamp principal officers he swore to oath of puppetry will help to promptly approve whatever he sends whenever he sends it without any scrutiny.

Who dares to question whatever budget an Emperor who knows all and is always right presents to the house? Eze Onye Agwalam 1 of Abia State!

In reality, there are 3 major distinguishing leadership attributes that separate Governor Mbah from Governor Otti:

1. Mbah is experienced in public sector administration whereas Otti came from a command and control banking background.

2. By nature, Mbah is not a rancorous and/or bitter person whereas Otti’s major public leadership challenge is how to unlearn ingrained bitterness and rancor propensity that has been in him for decades.

Finally, Governor Otti is elitist by nature hence incapable of feeling the pains of others or listening to advice, whereas Governor Mbah grew up within a political environment where everyone matters regardless of the size of your bank account.

But it is not too late for Governor Otti to change course and still become a good enough leader for the period he will superintend over Abia. Everything he needs to change are within him and in his quiet moments they speak to him better than the voice of sycophants seeking to destroy him with unsolicited poisonous love and obeisance akin to what Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar enjoyed.

If Governor Otti ever looks hard in the mirror and decides to refocus, he might as well begin to match Governors Mbah and Nwifuru’s strides instead of beating other Governors only at social media propaganda and mischievous features in the pages of newspapers or nationally acclaimed gluttony.

I am sure Otti knows he has not achieved anything worthy of applause in reality unless he now believes his own lies, in which case Heaven will take control because power belongs to God and should be used for the greater good of the people of Abia as against personal aggrandizement.

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