Otti’s Aba Mayoralty Dilemma: Navigating Identity and Unity

By Milcah Tanimu

In a recent interview with the Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Lanre Issa-Onilu, the issue of national identity and unity in Nigeria was candidly discussed. Issa-Onilu acknowledged the absence of common objectives among Nigerians even after 63 years of independence.

The complex citizenship dilemma persists, reflecting the challenge of establishing a unified national identity. The situation extends to the state level, where ethnic and tribal distinctions often overshadow a collective Nigerian identity. The appointment of “Mayors” (Chairmen of Transition Committees) by Dr. Alex Otti in Abia State, particularly in Aba, exemplifies the intricate interplay of identity politics.

Otti’s decision to appoint Anambra indigenes as Mayor and Deputy Mayor in Aba, a city known for its diverse population, sparked controversy. Ide John Udeagbala and Nnaemeka Ogbonna, both born and bred in Aba, symbolize the unity Otti seeks to foster. Their selection, despite being non-indigenes, underscores Otti’s commitment to inclusivity and development.

Otti’s own background, marked by a cross-cultural upbringing, informs his approach to politics. Having faced discrimination based on his family’s migration history, Otti understands the importance of overcoming divisive narratives. His political journey, influenced by experiences as a banker in Lagos under Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s influence, further shapes his perspective on unity and inclusion.

The Lagos model, championed by Tinubu, emphasizes Yoruba “unity” but has also led to the marginalization of the original indigenes. Otti, belonging to Igbo elite groups advocating for Igbo unity, takes a different approach. While the Igbo strive for unity, internal divisions sometimes escalate to extremes, as seen in the contrasting approaches of Governor Chukwuma Soludo and Otti in addressing issues of criminality and insecurity.

The broader challenge in Nigeria lies in reconciling the constitutional right of all citizens to settle, work, and live freely with the indigene/settler dynamics embedded in local politics. Otti faces the delicate task of balancing the law mandating the appointment of indigenes with the principle of allowing eligible citizens to participate in governance, particularly in Aba.

Ultimately, Otti’s Aba Mayoralty dilemma reflects a broader national conversation on identity, unity, and governance. As Nigeria grapples with these complex issues, the call for inclusive development and governance remains crucial in fostering a sense of belonging for all residents, regardless of ethnic or regional origins.


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