Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
The Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has tasked the Abia State Governor-Elect, Dr Alex Otti, on transparency and accountability.
Okonjo-Iweala who gave the charge while speaking at the formal inauguration of Otti’s Transition Council, noted with regret that Nigerians had lost confidence in Government.
Delivering a virtual keynote speech at the event, the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, said the erosion of confidence in public office holders was as a result of lack of transparency among those in power.
According to her, many Nigerians no longer believe that their government can do anything for them.
“Nigerians have lost trust in government, you know that. Many Nigerians, especially on our side in the South-East, don’t really believe that government can do anything for them.
“On the one hand, maybe it’s a good thing because everybody then becomes their own government. You dig your own borehole to get water, generate your own electricity, do everything for yourself.
“That is entrepreneurial but on the other hand maybe that is not the best way to run things.”
The WTO boss who advocated transparency as the panacea, admonished that for Government to regain its lost confidence among the populace, it “must get a tight and better and cleaner governance that must be transparent.”
She advised the Abia governor-elect to do things differently so as to regain the confidence of Abians and set the pace for a new order in the country.
The former Minister of Finance noted that she lived by example while in office, and challenged Otti to inspire hope in the people by doing things right, saying that the expectation on him is much.
She noted that she as Minister, decided to publish monthly allocations to states in order to counter the lies of some State Governors who were ready excuse their poor performance on imaginary zero allocation from the Federal Government.
“We used to publish the finances of every state, what the Federal Government gave each state every month because I found out governors were telling their people, “oh, we didn’t get any allocation from the federal government this month that’s why we cannot pay salaries, that is why we cannot pay teachers, that is why we cannot run our health system. And when I visit a state, they will be so hostile.
“When I was Minister of Finance in 2003 and started asking, why are people so hostile to the Federal Government, when I would hold meetings or town-halls people would tell us, Federal Government didn’t give us allocations, therefore, salaries have not been paid, teachers are not paid and I found out that they were being told things that were clearly not true.
“Then I went to President Obasanjo and said, can I start publishing what states get each month so their people will know they’re getting this money. He said, yes.
“So we started to publish it in the newspapers of every month after the FAAC meeting and then put it on the Internet so you can go to the Ministry of Finance website and see.
“This helped change people’s attitude. Because people could see and say, oh my state got this 60 million or 100 million this month.”
Okonjo-Iweala charged Otti to be transparent and not copy the ways of bad leaders, insisting that he cannot afford to betray the confidence reposed in him.
“We want our state government to set an example by being transparent about its finances.
“This is a governor that everybody is looking up to. His Excellency is educated, knows how to manage cost because he’s been a bank manager, he’s done so many things.
“So, can we set an example in Abia for good governance, transparency because he has what it takes?”
In his speech, Otti thanked the WTO boss for accepting to honour the invitation, and for her wise counsel.
Promising not to disappoint her and millions of those who believe in him, Otti declared the dawn of a new era in Abia.
“I have listened to our sister, Ngozi. Every time I speak to her, she says: ‘congratulations, but I don’t envy you. In fact, I sympathise with you because the expectations are high. You can’t afford to disappoint us because at least let’s have one good thing happening in Abia State.’
“The truth is that there are lots of good things happening from Abia people but not in Abia State. What we never had was great leadership and this is the time.”
Otti equally promised to cut the cost of governance which he identified as one of the major pipelines to drain public funds.
“I believe very strongly that part of the problems for this country is the cost of governance. I’ve written extensively about it, I’ve condemned it and I can’t be caught dead doing the same thing that I have condemned.”
Otti who acknowledged that the expectations on him were much vowed not to disappoint the people, saying he is prepared for the job.