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Agenda for Abia Mayors

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At last, the list of the new Abia Transition Council Chairmen/ Mayors has been unveiled. In a matter of days, they will go through the normal screening by the House of Assembly and the subsequent swearing in by the Governor. The list vindicates my earlier postulations about an intention to assemble men of records. The list also speaks of a major policy thrust directed towards rebranding the Local Government Area (LGA) administration in Abia State and creating a new LGA system that is distinct in orientation and outlook. Almost all the names are not the run-in-the-mill politicians and the expectation is that they will drive the system with a new dynamic  approach, break new barriers and expand new frontiers.

There is, precisely, a big  picture of Abia in the mind of Governor Alex Otti which has reflected in the reforms being personally driven and supervised by him. There is an idea of statehood which he is earnestly pursuing. There is a mental framework which has been translated in his novel approaches and procedures of doing things. There is an ideology of service captured in the cliché, The New Abia. There is an aspirational destination that he is heading to. There is a new Abia society that is in his mind. This ideal found expression in the processes through which the twenty-four permanent secretaries that were sworn in last Tuesday emerged, an exercise that was personally supervised by him.

The task before the new mayors is first to understand the Governor’s avowed mission in governance and then decode the mental framework which has shaped his style of reforms and administration.  They may not be expert psychoanalysts or soothsayers, but they should be able to read the mind of the king and interpret his dreams. The new mayors must get into the mood of the Governor to be able to apply themselves to his visions and become partners in progress for the successful weaning and nurturing of the New Abia. They are the direct executioners of the policy programmes as it concerns the grassroots.

Most of the mayors are obviously not men on ground. They should therefore take out time to study the politics of the grassroots, the real local politics. While trying to do things differently and drive with private-sector methods, they should not lose sight of the fact that they are now in the political domain and must understand the temperament of local politics and local people. Politics is local. The Mayors must come down from their high horses and make themselves accessible to the people and speak to the people in the language that they understand. One thing that must be uppermost in their minds is that they are the Alex Otti that the local groups and local leaders know and can feel. Their presence is the presence of government in the lives of the grassroots people.

If the Mayors fail to become “Men of the people”, the people will feel alienated from government and from their leader. They would develop a complex of being disconnected from government and the consequences could be very disastrous for the party as we itch towards the next election. Therefore, the Mayors must realize that the campaign for the next election has started in earnest and that they are now the official campaign managers, marketing their principal and the party, and preparing the government for total acceptance for continuity. I am convinced that it is in realization of this fact that Governor Otti has carefully chosen them, men whom I suppose,  have crossed certain levels and reached certain plateau on the Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; men who can stand on their feet and balance precepts and practices.

The Mayors must take off by visiting all communities in their domain and visiting all traditional rulers in their palaces. They must get an inventory of the critical needs of the communities for sustainable development planning. They must follow a bottom-top approaches in delivering projects so that the people can be involved in the things that concern them.

As I postulated in my last article, I can now confidently assert that the list of the Mayors resonates with the Governors avowed determination to midwife an independent LG system that can deliver and that can effectively serve the grassroots catchment without undue interferences. It does appear to me that our Governor intends to divest powers and grant autonomy to the third tier of  democratic administration. The LGA, indeed, is the most critical tier of government as it relates directly to the people, the grassroots. The failure of many governments or the disconnect between the people and the government is inexorably linked to the failure or improper handling of the Local Government Administration in Nigeria.

There is an intention to right the wrong, to get it right in Abia State. Thus, by the time you are sworn in, Otti would have  relived himself of some burdens of grassroots needs so he can concentrate on the strategies and actions for meaningful development of the  entire state. The Governor would have delegated functions in the area of construction of rural markets, construction of rural roads, maternities and health centres. He would have assigned critical functions like youth development, community administration, community security, rural infrastructural development to the mayors.

You are therefore the light bearers of the message of hope and the message of Abia rebirth. You are the burden bearer of the collective destinies of the people who are living with the warm expectation of a new revival and who have been told to “weep no more”.

Adindu, a media/PR consultant, writes from Umuahia

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