The recent governorship debate organised by the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, at the Ibom Icon Hotel and Golf Resort provided a veritable platform for the governorship candidates in the 2023 election to market their manifestoes to the electorate.

Senator Bassey Albert Akpan(OBA), CON, the governorship candidate of the Young Progressives Party, YPP joined the debate via Zoom with about four other candidates. PDP and APC were absent.

The debate provided OBA, whose public rating has been on the rise for months now to prove that he’s the candidate to beat as the 2023 election countdown begins.

So far, his emergence as the YPP governorship flag-bearer has enlivened the hopes and expectations of many Akwa Ibomites who are desirous of improved conditions of living and enhanced lifestyles through the provision of basic amenities.

He has campaigned in all the wards in the state more than once and interacted with thousands of supporters, followers and admirers across the state. The ward-to-ward tour has afforded him the opportunity to appreciate the development challenges the communities are facing.

The NUJ debate provided an opportunity for the candidates to market themselves. And, when OBA introduced himself as a “homegrown” candidate, the audience cheered with excitement. “Having schooled, worked, and served in Akwa Ibom state, I believe I am homegrown – a product of Akwa Ibom and project of Akwa Ibom” he declared, adding: “I believe I have the trust and a fair understanding of the Akwa Ibom challenge”.

And many who watched the debate agreed with him when he said: “I believe I come wholly with experience; I have the credentials, capacity, exposure, and knowledge to serve Akwa Ibom. Before we came out with our manifesto, we had done a NEEDS assessment of what Akwa Ibom needs, and our solutions are ready”, Akpan assured.

To buttress the fact that he is the most prepared candidate of all the contenders, he distributed copies of his manifesto captioned, “Positive Impact Agenda”, anchored on five strategic development pillars, to the people in the hall. The well-documented economic blueprint was developed and articulated after years of research on the felt needs of the Akwa Ibom people. As a philosophy, the document seeks to rescue, restore and reposition the state – (the 3Rs) via operation basic amenities (OBA).

Apart from providing answers to many of the questions fielded by the moderator, the Positive Impact document contains the solutions to the development challenges facing Akwa Ibom state. The solutions are doable and implementable strategies that can be achieved within frames of time.

The document explains in detail how the challenges in various sectors can be tackled, namely, education; poverty reduction; jobs; debt management, infrastructure, local government autonomy, security, healthcare, agriculture, administrative reforms and governance, payment of pensions, electrification, rural development, tourism, and the knotty issues surrounding the Ibaka Deep Sea Port.

Also, OBA’s answers to the questions at the debate were intentional, real, smart and analytical, factual, and got high applause from the audience.

On the controversial issue of humongous pensions paid to former governors and their deputies, OBA promised to discontinue the practice which he reasoned was insensitive of any government to continue with such a scheme when millions of the citizens were languishing in abject poverty. The continuous payment of billions of naira to former governors and their deputies in the present circumstances amounted to “irrational pampering and condonable injustice to many pensioners and retirees who had put in 35 or more years of service to the state, yet, were still being owed pensions and gratuities”

Describing the Ibaka deep seaport as his “baby’, OBA promised to ensure the completion of the project in view of its importance to the economic and industrialisation aspirations of the Akwa Ibom people. “Ibaka Deep Seaport will be our trump card for making Akwa Ibom state a destination. If the current government had continued from where we (Akpabio’s government) stopped, we would have made much progress. We will give attention not just to the seaport, but, to the industrial city too. We seem to forget that the main catch is the Ibaka Industrial city”, Akpan submitted.

On stimulating the Akwa Ibom State economy, Senator Akpan proposed an economic prosperity fund that will encourage business financing and boost entrepreneurship development.

“We are proposing the sum of N50billion Akwa Ibom prosperity fund for the people to be funded 50 percent by the state government and 50 percent by Bank of Industry, BOI, Bank of Agriculture, BOA, and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, etc”.

Under the Operation Basic Amenities (OBA) scheme, the incoming administration of Senator Akpan intends to link communities to roads, and provide healthcare and educational facilities across the state. “We should break the jinx and have a health insurance scheme. It takes the love of a leader for his people to take care of them”.

Already, his investments in the education of Akwa Ibomites have been widely acknowledged by stakeholders in the education sector. “I was part of the government that offered free compulsory and qualitative education in Akwa Ibom state and the results were visible in national examinations. Over the years, I have given scholarships to over 481 students, 31 are already first-class graduates, and over 250 graduated with second-class upper. I think this demonstrates my passion”, OBA disclosed.

He promised to cut the cost of running the government and to initiate policy reforms in the civil service in order to maximise productivity, efficient and effective service delivery, as well as optimise the welfare of workers. He also promised prudent management of resources, in order to stem irresponsible borrowing and reduce the debt profit of the state which is currently over N400 billion.

He rooted for local government autonomy and frowned at the state governor receiving huge sums of money as a security vote in disregard to the rising cases of security challenges in the society, and promised to commit a greater part of the security vote to equip funding and training of security personnel for maximum results.

Akpan’s performance at the debate has been adjudged as impressive and satisfactory, as his submissions completely align and situate well with the aspirations and expectations of the Akwa Ibom people who earnestly are asking for a better state.

Etoro-obong Inyang is a public commentator and streamed the article from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State

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