By Koko Dan Agaji
I just want to share with us all the great commitment of a true son of my small community, Utugwang in Obudu Local Government Area of Cross River State.
Born in the late 50s, Peter Oti has risen from being a plantation worker through being an academician to even a great philanthropist in our time. Proudly committed to the growth of his community and state, Oti has gradually become the new tower of emancipation, social development and justice in our Utugwang community. We named him the Ambassador of Utugwang because if his visible commitment to community development; how he has helped the community bring about social change and improve the quality of life in the local area in his work with individuals, families and whole communities that has in turn empowered such communities with the foresight to identify their assets, needs, opportunities as well as rights and responsibilities.
A decade ago, he engineered the initiative which through technical aid, taught a select number in the community, the art of soap making. The idea was to help create a compulsive self-reliant population in a society where paid employment is virtually non-existent. Till date, it is in Utugwang to see that lots of people in the community have created markets and jobs for themselves, the domino effect of that initiative.
As a chartered accountant and budget expert, Oti seized with both hands, the opportunity during the Central Bank of Nigeria licensing of community banks, soliciting and obtaining the support of respectable sons and daughters of Utugwang community to establish the Utugwang Community Bank. That bank has been able to give micro loans to local community members, without collateral based requirements, it is unprecedented.
Due to Oti’s initiative my Utugwang community now has men and women who, more than ever before, are now competitively involved in various marketable local trades and businesses within the LGA and beyond. He has not relented efforts at seeing to it that the community bank functions optimally to the benefit of our local community, considering too that he was the one who was able to convince and poll funds from various trustees to finance the bank and meet up the CBN’s regulations governing the establishment of micro finance banks. Let me mention here that even when people of selfish and limited development ideas could not support him, he forged on undeterred.
Perhaps too, so that it may be positively known, Dr Oti has been able to single-handedly develop activities and social services in Utugwang, that have in turn generated aspirations and galvanized confidence, even providing entertainment. His self-sponsored annual football tournament that brings together the entire community in one accord is our community’s rallying point. This tournament has enormously continued to foster solidarity and oneness of purpose in Utugwang; it is commendable and undeniably so.
The tears of widows and the physically challenged in my community have variously been wiped away by the aid he renders, in cash, kind or in the material assistance to this category of persons.
I do not know what drives his frequent involvement in addressing inequality and projects often targeted at communities perceived to be culturally, economically or geographically disadvantaged. Those who know say it is in his nature to effortlessly do good and I will not doubt that. In those communities, he has and still is actively engaged in making sense of the issues which affect the lives of the people there, setting goals for improvement and responding to problems and needs through empowerment and active participation. A good deal of the work is project based, interacting with anyone freely and encouraging everyone to strive and rise above the shackles of poverty that seem determined to bind our people to stagnation. His story about once being a plantation worker is inspirational and has awakened the innate capabilities of so many of our people.
I see this man as an epitome of fairness, committed to hard work and dedication, accessible to everyone old and young, rich or poor, setting top draw standards and challenging our often lethargic disposition to hard work and reward for it; it is the elixir my community needs to propel her to the greatness she succinctly craves.
Oti’s equal character has made him a man and a Cross Riverian beyond border. His positive ideology makes him a good listener, effectively integrated in all geographical communities or social groups where he focuses his humanitarian/professional assistance on students all over the state, providing even with very lean resources, fees and educational materials.
He has also been identifying community skills, assets and issues, ensuring that local people have their say. In developing new resources through dialogue with the communities as well as evaluating existing programmes, links are constantly being built at his instance, with other groups and agencies, further helping to raise public awareness on issues relevant to the community.
Folks, we all know that community work can be generic or specialized. Generic community work takes place in a particular geographical area, focusing on working with the community to identify their needs and issues, and formulating strategies to addressing those issues. The setting is either urban or rural, with rural community, development work increasingly attracts attention. Specialized community work focuses on either specific groups within a region (such as the homeless, the long-term unemployed, families with young children or ethnic minorities) or on particular concerns (such as public transport, mental health or tackling drug abuse) In the new world order someone like Dr. Peter Oti with clearly demonstrable interest for humanity is charting a commendable course.
His proven and driven commitment to his professional and political career makes him one of our trusted leaders. No doubt the most reliable individual with the pros and cons on how the various communities in the state can benefit from government social welfare and sustainable governance with experience in various government/political sectors like agriculture were he started from to education where he was head of department, and to governance where he has in the last seven years been in-charge of the state budgetary frame-work and planning more than anyone in recent history.
To us if leadership is about, service delivery, integrity, empathy, assertiveness, good decision-making skills, then Dr. Oti is the true democrat of our time to lead.
Koko Dan Agaji.LL.B,LL.M of Madaki & Associates, 9 Amazon Street, Maitama-Abuja, sent in this piece from the FCT.
*The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and not of calitown.com*
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