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Otti’s troubleshooting diplomacy

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Barely a week after the brutal murder of five soldiers and six civilians at Umuobiakwa junction, Obingwa Local Government Area (LGA), on 30 May, by bandits who have since been apprehended, Abia State Governor Dr. Alex Otti stepped out of his comfort zone and embarked on an empathetic troubleshooting shuttle to military formations across the state.

He first paid a visit and commiserated with the widows of the fallen soldiers.  The governor then visited the 144Battalion Asa in Ukwa WestLGA, where he was greeted by the Commanding Officer, Major K. P. Duniya, on behalf of the Commander of the 14 Brigade Ohafia, Brigadier General Olusola Diya, who arrived later.

Otti continued his troubleshooting mission for the Army by visiting the 144th Battalion’s Forward Operation Base at Ngwa High School in the Osisioma LGA, near Aba. He continued his empathetic gesture by paying a condolence visit to the family of one of the slain soldiers, Corporal Ikechukwu Lucky Ikpeamain Nvosi of Isiala Ngwa South LGA.  Last Thursday, the governor paid a condolence visit to the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja.

Otti emphasised the gravity of the Defence Headquarters’ press release following the unfortunate killing of the five soldiers, which stated that the Army would retaliate.  To avoid reprisal attacks, which had already begun with the mass arrest of innocent civilians, the governor used the power of empathy in leadership to manage the precarious and tense situation.

Otti prioritised the Army’s well-being and perspectives, and promoted trust, collaboration and mutual respect.  His empathetic presence and communication style not only demonstrated understanding and compassion but also provided comfort and emotional relief to the distressed soldiers.  A first-rate troubleshooter, he communicated love and care to the military during his visits.

He put himself in the Army’s shoes and expressed genuine concern. In addition to announcing a N25 million (later N30 million) bounty on anyone with useful information that would lead to the arrest and prosecution of those who committed the heinous act, the governor also announced the awarding of scholarships to the children of the late soldiers, as well as ensuring that the widows have everything they required.

Otti, a diplomat, also used the occasion to politely and tactically appeal for the release of innocent civilians encountered by the Army, who might not have been involved, as well as to emphasise the importance of treating people with dignity and respect.

He stated that, based on credible intelligence available to the state, the criminal act might have been carried out by people opposed to the state’s progress and positive developments.  He assured that his administration was working hard to find the criminals apprehended a few days ago.

Otti’s empathetic troubleshooting diplomacy undoubtedly had a triple effect. For one thing, it calmed the aggrieved soldiers’ rage and temper because, unlike in the past, the Army did not ruthlessly attack innocent civilians.

Again, the visits promoted a social order that enabled the military to collaborate and work in tandem with the state government to apprehend the previously unknown gunmen.

However, one thing still needs to be done. Otti should, as a matter of necessity, extend his sympathies to the families of the six civilians killed alongside the soldiers by the bandits.  They, too, deserve to be treated with compassion and encouragement.

Isiakpu is a media consultant based in Umuahia, Abia State capital

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