By Onyebuchi Ememanka
Factional Candidate of APGA in Abia State, Alex Otti and his supporters have struggled over the years to create a near perfect image of their man.
They present him as some Knight in a shining armor who has come from somewhere in outer to clean up Abia State and turn it into Las Vegas overnight.
Otti himself, in practically all his public speeches presents himself as a spotless and political new fellow who is fed up with “bad politics” and seeks to turn things around.
If you base your impressions of Otti on what he and his supporters say about him, you may be tempted to believe that he has never come near politics in Abia State and has had absolutely nothing to do with the Abia political economy. They make us believe that here is a first class banker who left his job out of concern for the good of our state.
But is that true? Absolutely not!
The truth is that Alex Otti has been a major player in the political economy of Abia State since 2008/2009.
I usually have a good laugh whenever I hear Otti disparage former Governor of the State, Senator TA Orji, the man who brought him into the mainstream of the politics and economy of Abia State.
In the early days of the TA Orji’s first tenure as Governor, Alex Otti had just been appointed Executive Director (South) of First Bank Plc.
Otti set out to endlessly court the former Governor. He developed an ingenious strategy. First, he came, cap in hand, to appeal that the State FAAC Accounts, then domiciled in the defunct Bank PHB be moved to First Bank, as a way of assisting him shore up his credentials as a man who has the ability to make things happen. In specific terms, he told TA Orji that his ultimate plan was to emerge the MD/CEO of First Bank Plc and that such humongous accounts, such as the Abia FAAC will assist him. TA, moved by a desire to help his brother from the same state, obliged him and approved the transfer of the Abia FAAC Accounts from Bank PHB to First Bank.
By then, Otti was a regular visitor to the Abia State Government House. No single month passed without him visiting his friend, the then Governor. He was usually accompanied then by the Umuahia branch Manager of First Bank.
Few months after, Otti took the revered title of UGWU ARO, a title reserved for successful sons of Arochukwu Community. He rolled out the drums for that event. First, he built a grandiose mansion at Atani, Arochukwu and on the day of the event, he moved the entire Corporate Nigeria to his brand new palatial residence in the ancient town. His good friend, TA, was top on the guest list as Governor. He used that opportunity to formally open his mansion where he wrote clearly on the gate, NO PLACE LIKE HOME.
Otti’s chubby relationship with TA kept blossoming. Otti was happy. He had the Abia FAAC Account in his bag. He was not just a personal friend and close confidante of the Governor, he had a big say in the financial transactions of the State Government. As banker to the State Government, he made heavy direct inputs into the running of the finances of the state government and directly supervised key disbursements.
Otti was pushing seriously to become MD of First Bank. Then, cash rolled in Abia State. Excess Crude cash was coming in on a regular basis. However, the guys at First Bank decided not to make Otti their MD. They chose someone else. I think it was Sanusi they chose then. Otti was disappointed. He changed plans. He decided not to remain in First Bank as ED. He set his eyes on another Bank. He wanted to be MD.
Diamond Bank was his next target. By then, Emeka Onwuka was completing his tenure as MD/CEO. Diamond Bank was head hunting a new Head. Otti dug in. One of the credentials he presented was his ability to move Abia FAAC Accounts from First Bank to Diamond Bank, if they made him MD. Again, he came to his friend, TA and pleaded with him to kindly approve the transfer of the Abia Account to Diamond Bank. Again, TA, his good friend, obliged him. He gave his word that if they made him MD at Diamond Bank, he will approve the transfer.
Shortly, Otti was named MD/CEO of Diamond Bank. TA kept his promise and moved the Abia Accounts to Diamond Bank. Otti also moved the then First Bank Head at Umuahia to Diamond Bank and shortly made him Regional Manager.
Life was good then. Then, Abia was a heaven for Otti and TA was the best man ever created by God.
Trouble started in early 2014 when Otti started making plans to become Governor. He was no longer satisfied with being accounts manager. He wanted to be accounts owner.
Unknown to TA, Otti had started raising teams to further his plans to be Governor. Series of meetings were being held in Lagos. Otti was pumping heavy cash into the PDP then, even while he was still MD.
I personally recall an incident that happened while I was still in Samsung Lagos. I got a call from a very close friend of mine. He was and is still a Senior Management Staff of Diamond Bank. He invited me to a meeting of young Ngwa guys who worked in the corporate world in Lagos to garner support for Alex Otti who was still MD at Diamond Bank then. The meeting was to hold twice. First in Lagos and then at Otti’s village.
At Arochukwu? Aro is far o! I told my friend jokingly.
We won’t hold it at Aro. That won’t be convenient. We will do it at Isiala Ngwa. My friend responded.
Isiala Ngwa k’anyi? Why? I asked. My guy went on and on about Otti and his double lineage. He specifically told me that part of the role this new group of young Ngwa professionals was to play was to push the Otti – Ngwa narrative. I that I told my friend who, by the way is from Isiala Ngwa that the next Governor of Abia State must come from the UkwaNgwa area and that under no circumstances will I support another person. We are part of this state too. I told him that I will not be part of any scheme by anyone to deny our people our due. He never called me again on that issue
So, back to Otti.
When TA got wind of the situation, he had a meeting with Otti who indeed confirmed that he wanted to succeed him. A startled TA told him pointedly that it wasn’t going to work because the political mood in the state was majorly in favor of a power shift and he was determined to ensure that an Ngwa man emerged the next Governor. That way, TA told Otti, all parts of the State would have had a shot at the office of Governor. He advised Otti as a personal friend to face his banking career, serve out his term as MD and then join politics later if he wanted. TA told him that as an Arochukwu son, it will be unfair to the people of UkwaNgwa to deny them Governor and take it back to Abia North for the second time. Otti made an almost irresistible and mouthwatering financial offer to TA and assured him that he if he supported his emergence, he would ensure that he was well taken care of. Besides, he told TA that he had enough money to fund the elections. TA refused.
Otti was devastated. His plans were falling like a pack of cards. He had set up political structures across the state. He changed plans. He suddenly recalled that he was born at a village called Umuehim in Nvosi area of Isiala Ngwa South LGA. He quickly rushed to that place and started building another mansion and completed it in a few months. He wrote a letter to the State PDP Headquarters requesting for a “transfer of membership” from Atani Ward in Arochukwu to Ehi Na Uguru Ward in Isiala Ngwa South.
He came back to TA and told him he was now an Ngwa man and invited him again to the opening of his new mansion in Umehim Nvosi. TA was startled and told him that a man cannot have two ancestries at the same time and that having followed him to Arochukwu to Commission his Country Home with pomp and pageantry, he would not make a fool of himself by following him again to commission another Country Home in Isiala Ngwa.
Besides, TA told him as incumbent Governor, there was no way he would support the emergence of his successor from the same senatorial zone.
By then, the PDP Abia State clarified their position on the zoning process. They clearly said that the position of Governor was zoned to Abia South and not just UkwaNgwa. That decision nailed Otti’s plans. Isiala Ngwa South is in Abia Central.
At that point, he decided to quit his party, the PDP. He looked for an alternative platform and saw APGA as a good place. APGA then was visible in the state and had taken second position in the 2011 elections. He muscled his way into the party, using his deep war chest, filled with millions of dollars. He completely bought over the then APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh who assisted him to dislodge the entire APGA apparatchik in Abia State.
He kicked out the serving State Chairman, Barrister Nnanna Ukaegbu and took his Deputy, Rev Ehiemere and made him Chairman. By then, APGA had two major Governorship contenders, OchiaghaReagan Ufombaa and Chief Chikwe Udensi. He outmaneuvered them and within a few weeks of his joining the party, he suddenly emerged their candidate.
Then he started a systematic demonization of his friend, TA, painting him black and blaming all the woes of Abia on him, something he continues till date.
Otti and his goons will have you believe that he is a spotless political reformer. They will never tell you his real story and the roles he played in the Abia economy and her politics.
Abia State may not have reached our target but Otti is not the man to take us there. A man driven by an insatiable personal ambition will do us no good.
If you follow developments in corporate Nigeria, you will be familiar with the story of how Otti surreptitiously almost bought over Diamond Bank, just before he left the bank. ACTIS, an offshore investment firm which had controlling shares at the bank wanted to resell their stake in the bank and leave. Otti, as MD, wanted to secretly buy the shares. He almost succeeded. He never informed Paschal Dozie, founder of the bank, of the plans. When the Dozies and other key shareholders discovered this, everybody was shocked at the audacity of Otti.
Today, Diamond Bank is dead and will be buried in a few months. Banks don’t just die overnight. Unsecured loans given and other sundry funny transactions during the Otti reign at the bank were major contributing factors to the death of the bank. Forget all the PR on facebook, what Otti handed over was a near comatose bank painted in sepulchers of cooked figures and robust financial statements.
Otti is a guy man. Confirmed Onye Guy!
He has a way of wriggling himself out of situations he created and blaming others for it.