For many decades, and without prejudice to the commendable and cumulative effort of past Nzuko Aro leaders, the Aro Civic Centre fast degenerated into a “White Elephant Project”. As it stood there, gangling with pieces of rods, half- roofed top and wire mesh litter the place, conjuring images of hopelessness and despair about its eventual completion, the project became “red meat” for informed and uninformed gossips among Aro people. Once, I overheard an average aged man with sufficient “bad mouth” lament “They were advised to bite the much they could chew, they refused. Now the Aro Civic Centre has become “One year one block”. Conspiracy theories were flying all over the place about its abandonment. If it was not because past Nzuko Aro leaders embezzled the funds meant for its completion, it will be that the architectural concept was faulty and therefore unimplementable.
The 2016 Aro Day Celebration was about ending like its predecessors of similar years and dates in the past- high profile microphone recognition of community leaders (Ugwu Aros and Adaukwu Aros), black SUVs strolling into the arena to drop high net worth Aro sons and daughters, a few dance and cultural displays and a speech from President General Nzuko Aro followed by ineffective efforts to raise funds, until something happened. The President General Nzuko Aro, Mazi George Ezuma, in his speech dropped what seemed like a bombshell “My Administration will ensure that Aro Civic Centre is completed in the nearest future” he promised. A sparse round of applause that suggested “we have heard all that since our great-grandfathers hunted birds with bows and arrows” and nothing ever happened afterwards.
Pronto! It was time for Dr. Alex Otti to speak. Like a strategic stealth bomber he is, no one knew what he was going to say or how he was going to say it. A few guesses were playing around in people’s brain – console his supporters for the past elections and set the stage for the next one? Sermonize on Aro peace, progress and development – which had become an alibi for those who wish to do nothing about our parlous infrastructure state or just mention some token donations as his contribution to the annual ritual of fund raising at such events!
He was brief, brisk and to the point in his speech. “This Civic Centre will be completed and handed over to Aro by next December”. Though the applause was thunderous this time around, many struggled to grasp the real content of his message. How? Many asked. Was he going to use his own money? Knock it down to a manageable size unbefitting of the Kingdom? or what? This was evident when one of our illustrious sons, Mazi Ike Okoronkwo was handed over the microphone to name his donation. “ I will no longer talk about Aro Civic Centre since my brother Dr. Alex Otti has taken over the project” he sincerely and humorously quipped. Yet another thunderous applause, but like a true leader he is, Dr. Alex Otti left everyone guessing as to what next. With mixed interpretation of his pronouncement, he was now free to deploy his strategies aright without giving room for ambush. But one message was clear to him from the response he got; Aros were sick and tired of this community embarrassment! He mirrored it through their despair over the years and vowed to provide the leadership to end it.
Now, that brings me to the real message of this piece- leadership in atmosphere of despair and uncertainty. For me the most crucial element of leadership in such situations is the ability to mobilize the people through sacrifice. A few examples will suffice here. Alexander The Great while crossing the Arabian Desert with his troops en-route Catharge, had endured without drinking water for several weeks because there was none. Unknown to the Great Commander, his aides had preserved a calabash full of water for him which was handed to him to drink as their leader. Holding aloft the Calabash before his troops, he drew his sword and smashed it with all the water wasted. With that singular act, he mobilized his troops across the Arabian Desert and accomplished his mission without a single drop of water to drink both for him and his troops for weeks- Leadership achieved through sacrifice and mobilization. Napoleon Bonaparte was determined to conquer Britain at all costs during the Napoleonic Wars. When his troops disembarked from the only ship that took them to the British Harbor, he turned his Guns on the ship and destroyed it- Gentlemen! He roared, conquer Britain or we all perish!- Leadership through mobilization and sacrifice!
I am sure that when Dr. Alex Otti made his pronouncements he had no clue of how much completing the Aro Civic Center would cost.He, however, was not deterred by such calculations, for this is exactly the consideration that had scared many Aro sons and daughters from taking the “Bull by the Horns” on the project. Right at the back of Dr. Otti’s mind was an instrument more potent than money in completing the project – Trust! For him, trust is priceless and would always triumph all obstacles in leadership including lack of money. He was fully aware that Aro sons and daughters have all it takes to complete the civic entre, but their greatest draw back was who to trust with their money to deliver on the project. Dr. Alex Otti saw that opportunity and grabbed it with both hands and redefined the history of Aro Civic Centre.
When recently, I got his email soliciting for funds from well-meaning Aro Sons and Daughters to contribute their “Widows Mite”, after he had left no one in doubt about the possibility of achieving the target, it promptly confirmed my hunch on the trust question and I applauded his strategy.One significant point must be noted here and that is by asking UmuAro to contribute, he is marketing his trust and integrity for them to invest in for this has been the missing link in the execution ofthe Civic Centre project. I therefore sincerely urge all Aro Sons and Daughters to hearken to this call without reservation for this is the stuff that defines True Colour of Leadership and we are proud to have him. Ndeewo Nu!