Abia Global Economic Advisory Council: A Manifestation of Gov Otti’s Strategy of Thinking Outside The Box
An Assemblage of High Calibre Economic and Financial Experts Puts Abia State in Good Stead to Become Investment Destination
By Kazie Uko
That Governor Alex Otti of Abia State came prepared for his gubernatorial job is no longer in doubt. This is evident in the overwhelming positive public opinion that has greeted his performance, barely seven months into his first term in office as Governor of a state that had the unenviable reputation as the worst governed, prior to his coming.
For several years, the astute banker, who became a prolific writer and eventually took a leap into the murky waters of Nigerian politics, spent every fortnight discussing, lecturing and counseling on how governments at various levels can better the lots of citizens by building the nation’s economy.
The back page of Thisday newspaper, where he held a master class series under the column, ‘Outside the Box’, every other Monday, offered him the veritable platform to espouse issues on economic development of Nigeria, Africa and the world in general. And, indeed, he dealt with several issues ranging from that of his primary constituency, banking and finance, to those of governance, politics, infrastructure, culture, education, music, sports, fashion, Nollywood, oil and gas, and so on. It would not be out of place to believe that Governor Otti, through his writings, availed both the political and corporate leaders of his wise counsel at no cost to them.
One may not have conducted a research to ascertain how many of those “targeted” audiences took away nuggets of wisdom from the plethora of economic theories propounded then by Governor Otti, a first-class economist. But one thing was certain: the column was hugely popular and very well received as it was read by a large number of people, going by the feedbacks in the comment section.
It should be noted that many of the issues that Governor Otti tackled in his now rested ‘Outside the Box’ column were issues that he has had to deal with in his banking career, especially as the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the erstwhile Diamond Bank Plc (now Access Bank), which he took from the valleys as a loss-making entity to the glorious heights of profitability and one of Nigeria’s systemically important banks. So, they were not just mere academic exercise but products of experience, garnered over several years of solving critical business cases, just by providing the right solutions.
Now, sitting behind the desk as the Chief Executive Officer of Abia State, Governor Otti has little or no difficulty thinking outside the box! After all, the ball is in his court and the buck stops at his table. Expectedly, he has reached into the reservoir of his published works in Thisday and other media channels, not to experiment but to provide answers and solutions to the nagging issues of bad governance and underdevelopment that had retarded growth and prosperity in Abia State, prior to his coming to power.
Upon assumption of office on May 29, 2023, Governor Otti declared emergencies in security, health, education and environment. This was notwithstanding the firm promises he made, regarding the payment of salaries of civil servants and other public sector workers in the state, on or before the 28th of every month; setting up a special purpose vehicle to drive the redevelopment of Aba, the commercial capital of the state; lifting Umuahia, the state capital, from its glorified village status to a modern capital city.
Seven months down the road, the story of Abia State is already changing for good. Abians and their state are no longer the butt of jokes, when analysts gather over drinks or meals or even on social media and conventional media spaces, to discuss issues of politics and governance in the country. It was so bad that at some point, during the last administration, all that Abia could be remembered for was a state where the government supported women with five hundred Naira, when they give birth or the state where the then Governor boasted that a fast food outlet was the biggest investment attracted by his administration into the state, after almost eight years in office. It was bad news to hail from Abia State, before May 29, 2023.
So, when Alex Otti happened to Abia, fortune smiled on the state and its citizens. The dignity of the Abia person was restored, almost instantaneously. It became cool to be an Abian. All it took, within a space of just seven months into a four-year tenure, was competence, character, capacity and political will to do the right things by living true to promises made during the campaigns. Despite every attempt by some of the opposition parties in the state to distract him with election petition matters in the courts and barrage of falsehoods published on social media, the Governor remained focused and never faltered.
Governor Otti hit the ground running from day one. From flagging off the cleaning up of Aba and Umuahia, where mountains of refuse had taken over the roads and streets to handing over dilapidated roads in Aba to reputable companies for reconstruction; from renovating and retrofitting the healthcare facilities and schools across the state to lighting up the streets in major towns of the state with solar-powered lights; from defraying outstanding salary arrears and payment of salaries and benefits to Civil Servants on or before the 28th of every month to the launch of Operation Crush, arresting the spate of insecurity in the state; from sanitising the internally generated revenue system and clearing the path for ease-of-doing business to providing the structure for the establishment of the Abia Innovation and Industrial Park; Governor Otti knew he had his job cut out and had to think outside the box.
With the recent launch of the Abia Global Economic Advisory Council (AGEAC) in Umuahia, capital of Abia, Governor Otti has once more shown the kind of mettle that he is made. AGEAC brings together some of Nigeria’s finest and internationally acclaimed, who have distinguished themselves in economics and finance across corporate and public sectors. Those appointed are: Ms. Arunma Oteh, Co-Chair; His Highness Khaleefa Muhammad Sanusi II, Co-Chair; and Mr. Bolaji Balogun, Co-Chair.
Members include Mr. Victor Onyenkpa, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui Okauru, Mr. Chidi Ajaegbu, Mr. Uche Orji, Mrs. Ndidi Nwuneli, Mr. Chika Nwobi, Dr. Olugbenga Adesida, Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe, Mazi Clement Owunna, Dr. Uzodinma Iweala, Mrs. Ezinwa Okoroafor, Mr. George Agu, Mazi Uzo Nwankwo, Mr. Chinedu Azodoh and Prof. Peter Tufano of Havard Business School.
World Trade Organization (WTO) President and Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Afreximbank President, Dr. Benedict Oramah, will serve as Honourary Advisors.
The Abia Global Economic Advisory Council, according to a statement from the Governor’s Office, is a key advisory body, offering strategic insights and recommendations to guide the state’s economic and investment policies. It is part of Governor Otti administration’s strategic plan to ensure the overall economic development of Abia.
“We are certain that many commentators in the days to come would be wondering how or why we have assembled this special team to advise a state government on investment opportunities. We understand the concern but the quality of the individuals we have in this Council speaks to our vision. We want to make our State economically viable, create wealth for genuine businessmen and women and expand the frontiers of opportunities for our youth population. We are a government that is committed to leveraging the opportunities available to it to do things in new ways,” Governor Otti said, while inaugurating the team at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Umuahia.
Looking at the array of intellectual and corporate giants lined up as members of the AGEAC, one cannot but agree that these accomplished ladies and gentlemen have reposed tremendous confidence in Governor Otti, the reason, I believe, they have opted to serve, in the first place, even at no pecuniary benefits to themselves. Like one of them confessed, only Alex Otti would make him stand up to swear to an oath when there has not been any prior discussion about payment for service.
Whatever these ‘Angel Investors’ saw in Governor Otti, to devote precious time in the service of Abia State, it must be the same that the people of Abia saw, when they hired him on March 18, 2023, when he presented himself for the job of a Governor at the polls.
*Uko, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Abia State, wrote from Umuahia.