Godfatherism, Biafra agitation, inter-party disagreements were some of the highlights of the 2017 Anambra State gubernatorial debate held in Awka, the state capital, on Sunday as five candidates vying to become the next governor put across their plans to the public.
Economy, education, infrastructure, power generation, industrial development, security, unemployment and alternative ways of generating revenues for the state dominated discussions.
Though members of the audience were thrilled as candidates took subtle shots at each other at the slightest opportunity in a bid to sound convincing, their overall performance did not match previous debates.
All the candidates were not very specific in detailing their plans for the state.
The debate was organised by Channels Television and kicked off at about 7 p.m. Although 37 political parties and candidates will participate in the November 18 election, only the candidates of the five major parties took part in the debate.
The participating candidates were: Willie Obiano of the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA; Tony Nwoye of the All Progressives Congress, APC; Oseloka Obaze of the People's Democratic Party, PDP; Osita Chidoka of United Progressive Party, UPP; and Godwin Ezeemo of the People's Progressive Alliance, PPA.
The incumbent governor, Mr. Obiano, was the first to throw shots at every other candidate.
"What Anambra need is someone that can drive the process. I'm the only guy here that can do that. Tony(APC) doesn't have the executive capacity; he hasn't even worked in his entire life. Obaze(PDP) worked in the UN, but the best place for him to work right now is in Syria. He should be distributing relief materials. My other fellow with executive capacity is Chidoka (UPP), but the only experience he has is in checking number plates and controlling traffics (referring to when Mr. Chidoka was road safety boss)," Mr. Obiano said.
Mr. Obiano said contrary to claims that his predecessor left N75 billion in government coffers before he left, what he met on ground was N35.5 billion.
"I hate to think that we came here to ridicule people, this is serious business. Under Obiano this state has been broken and we need to fix it. Let's get serious, the challenge is that this incumbent governor has in the last four years spent almost N600 billion without any commiserate work on ground to show," Mr. Obaze said in response to Mr. Obiano.
He was, however, quick to dismiss the speculation that former governor Peter Obi was his political godfather.
Mr. Obaze said he left APGA for PDP and also came out of retirement from partisan politics because he felt the state has been hijacked.
"I have to speak up, I have to come back to fix things," he said.
"The first shock I have is that the governor thinks saving for future generation is a waste of time and I think that is scandalous. That is disastrous. What is lacking is focusing on the people, the human beings," Mr. Chidoka, a former aviation minister, said referring to Mr. Obiano's earlier statement on state reserves.
Below is our analysis of what the candidates presented as their plans for the state and our assessment of how well they performed. Candidates are rated on a scale of 1 to 10 on how articulate their plans were. The scores only represent our review of how the candidates performed at the debate and not how they would perform as governors.
1) Tony Nwoye (APC): Adorned in a black suit, Mr. Nwoye appeared calm and diplomatic contrary to his antecedents as a radical activist. He hinged his plan for the state on power, road and security. He said the major challenge bedevilling the state is lack of electricity and portable roads which he described as the drive for foreign investors.
"If we can have steady power supply and good roads, our industries will grow, we are going to manufacture more. Most of the power lines in Anambra are 33KVA instead of 330KVA. I will do more on power if am elected governor, I willalso work on many roads and I will make security a topmost priority because all this will create an enabling environment for foreign investment," he said.
On education, Mr. Nwoye said he will ensure easy access to primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational studies within the state. He said he will transform the health sector by upgrading community based health centres.
Mr. Nwoye said his government if elected will create employment for the youth especially IPOB members agitating for Biafra. He, however, failed to throw more weight on agriculture, trade and commerce which are some of the strengths of the state.
2) Godwin Ezeemo (PPA): Unlike the raucous response some of the other contestants elicited from the audience, Mr. Ezeemo was more relaxed in martialing his points. He started by saying that Anambra is a trade driven economy that can be boosted by creating an enabling environment for foreign investment. He spoke on power generation stressing the need for a sanitized power distribution system. He gave insights on his exploits in empowering students in the education sector.
Mr. Ezeemo said his government when elected will be anchored on locally made products. "We do not need to import things we need to generate what we need immediately. We have good soils for agriculture. We need to invest in agriculture, generate raw materials and food. All this will create more employment opportunities, more finance and revenue will be accumulated. He, however, failed to lend voice to critical issues like security, health among others.
3) Osita Chidoka (UPP): By far Mr. Chidoka was one of the stars of the debate. He literally took other contestants to the cleaners with masterful delivery and oratory dexterity. He used data and statistics to buttress his points, although like another contestant observed, he did not provide sources for most of his debatable statistics. Mr. Chidoka, however, leaned more on self-determination and the need for the renegotiation of the Nigerian state. "Any party that do not subscribe to the right to self-determination and the rights of component parts of Nigeria to express themselves freely, that party does not approximate my philosophy. I believe that Nigeria is a product of negotiation, we must negotiate, we negotiated and got independence we negotiated and created the mid-western states. Nigeria is a subject of continuous negotiation."
On education, Mr. Chidoka promised to provide and make the use of mandatory technology among students. "Only 13 per cent of our students in JSS are computer literate. The education our children are getting is the education of yesterday, I will take them get the education of tomorrow."
Mr. Chidoka emphasised that human capacity development would be the major focus of his administration if elected. He said he will run a digital government that will be practically based on the people where jobs will be created for the unemployed, roads and infrastructure will be built and protection of the lives and properties of the people will be topmost priority. Mr. Chidoka said with technology, his government will drive a robust foreign and local investment campaign in Anambra. He said he will also stand as a bridge between the angry IPOB youth and the Nigerian state. He said IPOB's problem is not just employment but getting a better deal from the government.
Though he failed to mention key areas like power and health, he was smart enough to place his policies side by side the incumbent's and allowed listeners to quickly appraise the better.
4) Willie Obiano (APGA): As the incumbent governor, Mr. Obiano put out quite an impressive show. Instead of being on the defensive as widely expected, he was rather on the offensive as he seized every little opportunity to taunt his opponents verbally, accusing them of lacking information and being unprepared. He hugely relied on his achievements over the past three and a half years.
He said his government is up to date in payment of salary, pension and gratuity. He said he met 101 projects when he took over and he has completed 51 of them. He also said he awarded 94 projects which included 12 bridges.
"Under my watch we are now self-sufficient in trade and agriculture. We now export rice, vegetables and yam," he said.
He said the former governor made N40 billion internally generated revenue in 8 years while his government has generated N551 billion; although in reality his government has only generated about N50 billion.
On infrastructure, he said two buildings will be built in every community in the state after the completion of his eight years in office.
"Every community got N40 million already in my first tenure, each community will get N200 million in my next four years in office."
On IPOB, he said he will create more jobs to keep the youth busy and end the agitation. He however did not give his take on security, health, power among other issues.
5) Oseloka Obaze (PDP): Mr. Obaze articulated his views well but spent most of his allotted time either attacking or responding to the incumbent. He has a personal history with APGA. He was the secretary to the state government, SSG, under former governor Peter Obi who led the state under APGA before he defected to PDP. Mr. Obaze also served as SSG under Mr. Obiano for over a year.
He seemed to have allowed personal differences to affect his delivery. His key words was that the state has been hijacked under the current governor and needs to be fixed. He was, however, critical of the Nigerian government for proscribing IPOB on one hand while Niger Delta militants and Fulani herdsmen are left out. He said if elected, his government will create more jobs especially for the IPOB youth.