“We can only impact well when we partner well” – Rt Hon Benjamin Kalu

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I stand before you today not just as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, but as a proud son of Abia, deeply humbled by this grand civic reception. Governor Alex Otti, this outpouring of affection resonates with the vibrant spirit of Abia, and I thank you for this recognition, one I share with every Abian striving to make our state a beacon of progress.

Looking back on our journey, I acknowledge the Governor’s commitment to Abia’s advancement. We have seen, under his leadership, the restoration of critical infrastructure, especially with roads and urban renewal, in concurrence with a renewed focus on education and healthcare. These are giant strides etched in granite, testaments to a shared vision, a vision for an Abia where Michael Okpara’s founding philosophy thrives: a land where hard work, enterprise, and unity pave the path to prosperity.

As we gather here today in the warmth of this grand civic reception, I am compelled to reflect on the principles that guide my leadership and the vision we share for the great state of Abia. It is a vision rooted in the belief that quality governance transcends political affiliations and that, for Abia to flourish, we must all unite, regardless of party lines.

I am proud to assert that my leadership philosophy revolves around the idea that we can only impact well when we partner well. Irrespective of political affiliations, I firmly believe that every leader, whether in the opposition or the ruling party, has a role to play in the development of our beloved state. It is through collaborative efforts, collective wisdom, and a shared commitment to progress that we can overcome challenges and pave the way for a brighter future.

Governor Alex Otti, I must express my admiration for your patriotic mindset. Your dedication to the well-being of Abians and your commitment to the nation at large set a commendable standard. The warm and respectful relationship between you and the President of our great nation is evident, reflecting a spirit of unity that is crucial for the prosperity of our dear state. I am honored to reciprocate this respect, recognizing that, for the development of Abia, there are roles you will play, and there are roles I will play.

It is a rare occurrence to witness a sitting Governor acknowledging the collaborative efforts required for the state’s development. We have embarked on a journey together, recognizing the distinct roles each of us plays in steering Abia towards progress. I am committed to sustaining this partnership and contributing to the credit that will be rightfully attached to both the Governor and the state government. Together, we shall continue to set an example of effective governance that transcends political boundaries.

This gathering is not just a celebration of my presence here today, but a testament to the inspirational leadership of Governor Alex Otti. His foresight has inspired us all to dream big, aim high, and believe that, despite challenges, we can achieve greatness. Dee Ally, as I fondly address him, has ignited a spark in all of us to strive for excellence, and I am grateful for the inspiration he has provided.

Allow me to shed light on the transformative direction that Governor Otti has steered our government spending towards, emphasizing a commitment to prudent fiscal management and strategic investment in critical sectors. When Governor Otti assumed office, he inherited a fiscal landscape with various challenges. However, under his visionary leadership, there has been a paradigm shift in the allocation of resources, prioritizing capital projects that will yield substantial returns and foster sustainable development.

The governor’s unwavering commitment to responsible borrowing is reflected in the 2024 budget, where he has declared that all borrowing will be exclusively channeled into capital projects. This strategic decision underscores his belief that the impact generated from these projects will not only stimulate economic growth but will also generate sufficient returns to meet the state’s financial obligations smoothly. Moreover, the governor’s foresighted approach aims to ensure that these loans are paid off in due course, safeguarding the financial stability of Abia State for future generations.

In terms of sectoral allocations, Governor Otti has demonstrated a keen understanding of the state’s priorities. A significant portion, 44.76% to be exact, has been allocated to the economic sector, with a focus on critical areas such as infrastructure, land and housing, agriculture, and finance. This deliberate allocation reflects the governor’s recognition of the pivotal role these sectors play in driving economic prosperity and creating sustainable job opportunities for our citizens.

Furthermore, the social sector has not been neglected, with 40.07% of the budget dedicated to areas such as education, healthcare, and youth and sports development. Governor Otti’s commitment to human capital development is evident in the substantial allocation of 20% to education, addressing the need for a well-educated and skilled workforce. Additionally, the allocation of 15.04% to healthcare underscores the governor’s dedication to ensuring the well-being of our people, especially in challenging times.

Most importantly, Governor Otti has not only acknowledged the economic hardships faced by our civil servants but has taken concrete steps to alleviate their burdens. A pay rise for civil servants, embedded in the 2024 budget, reflects the governor’s compassion and commitment to the welfare of those who tirelessly serve our great state.

Yet, we cannot ignore the whispers of disquiet that have cast a shadow on our land. To our youth, yearning for opportunity, to those struggling with economic hardship, I say: you are not forgotten. We are building a future where your talents are nurtured, your voices heard, and your dreams a reality. The Peace in South East Project (PISE-P) is a beacon of hope, a collective effort to heal our region’s wounds and unlock its vast potential. Remember, as Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

And to our esteemed traditional rulers, the custodians of our heritage, we owe a debt of gratitude. You are the bedrock of our communities, the bridge between generations, and the source of wisdom that guides us through turbulent times. As Martin Luther King Jr. declared, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Your leadership in fostering peace and unity is a torch that illuminates the path forward.

To the Federal Government, to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his cabinet, we extend our appreciation for your support in these challenging times. We are partners in this endeavor, united by a common purpose: to build a prosperous and peaceful Nigeria for all. As Theodore Roosevelt aptly stated, “No man or woman is born into the world without having some special talent or ability to make their own. The important thing is to discover what that is and make the most of it.” Let us discover our collective talents and work together, in the spirit of collaboration, to leave a legacy of peace and progress for generations to come.

But let me also confess, Governor, that my journey to this podium began not in the corridors of power, but in the bustling markets of Aba. As a young man, I navigated the vibrant tapestry of trade, learning the art of the deal, the grit of determination, and the value of community. If a boy from Bende molded by Aba can find success through honest toil, there is hope for every single one of you. Our people are not wired to give up. We are woven from the fabric of resilience, the descendants of pioneers who carved a state from the wilderness. As Thomas Edison observed, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Let us sweat together, not in conflict, but in the pursuit of shared goals, using non-kinetic means to ensure that every Abian child has a future brimming with possibility.

Abia, in its spirit and essence, is a testament to the power of unity. Let us remember the words of Kwame Nkrumah: “What we need is a new vision of Africa, a vision of Africa working together to achieve economic and political power.” This is the vision I hold dear, a vision where Abia stands tall, not just within our borders, but as a beacon of hope for the entire nation.

Thank you, Abia. Thank you for this humbling honour. Together, let us write the next chapter in our grand story, a chapter etched in the ink of unity, progress, and an unwavering hope for a brighter tomorrow.

May God bless Abia State. May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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