Governorship candidates of All Progressive Congress(APC) Obong Alan Udofia and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart in the forthcoming governorship election were conspicuously absent at the just concluded debate organized by Akwa Ibom state council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the state last Sunday.
In his opening remarks the chairman, Political Committee of NUJ Aniekan Udofia who planned the event said pastor Umo Eno of PDP had earlier assured the council of his participation but later change his mind while the APC governorship candidate Obong Akan Udofia also made a u-turn with a letter of withdrawal sent to the organizers of the debate few hours to the commencement of the debate.
“The governorship candidates of PDP and APC assured us that they will participate in this debate but sent in withdrawal letters in the morning while Akan Udofia of APC is absent on health grounds. ”
Udofia, who spoke in tears said despite the absence of key candidates of the two political parties he was happy to contribute to his fatherland through the debate.
However, all the governorship candidates in Akwa Ibom State excluding those who shunned the debate have kicked against the payment of pensions to former governors and have promised to discontinue it if elected into office.
Fielding questions on what would be his position on the payment of pensions to former governors if elected, Ezekiel Nya-Etok of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) said he would have nothing to do with it adding that any governor who has spent four or eight years in office should be able to take care of himself after leaving office.
“I will stop and have it abolished, the time has come for the people to elect good people who will think about the development of the state and not their selfish interest,” he said.
For the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) candidate, John James Akpanudoedehe, who was the immediate past interim secretary of the APC and former governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), he would approve a special benefit to former governor Victor Attah for his visionary leadership of the state but would abolish the payment of pensions to other governors.
According to Ekere Essien, a medical doctor and governorship candidate of the Action Democracy Party (ADC), “governance is for service, it should not be for making gains or profit. Some of the governors want to grab it. Some of them don’t have experience in the private sector, that is the reason they want to grab and grab. As for me, I will not allow this bogus pension to continue, it is unfair and insensitive. I will not allow it to stand under my watch. A governor does not need a pension. I will never do that.”
While Obong Bassey Albert also known as OBA of the Young Peoples Party (YPP) who joined the debate through a zoom link said he would only support medical reimbursement for former governors and not the payment of pensions, as Iboro Otu of the African Action Congress (AAC) said it was a not a reward seat promising to abolish pension payment to former governors.
On the development of a deep sea port in the state which has been on the drawing boards of successive administrations, all the governorship candidates said it was a doable project which they would implement to create jobs and expand the economic frontiers of the state.
Otu said it was the responsibility of the Federal Government to construct the deep sea port in the state adding that he would only support the efforts and initiatives of the Federal Government.
“Developing the deep seaport is not a priority, it should be delayed for at least 20 years, I will support the Federal Government to develop the port, we will develop our people first before developing the port, let the Federal Government construct the seaport,” he said.
The governorship candidates who also answered questions on other issues including whether they would obtain more loans for the state and what they would do with the growing debt stock of the state government said if elected, they would reschedule the debts and would resist the urge to secure more loans.
“We will reschedule the debt, we will look for experts to advise us on the issue of debts,” Akpanudoedehe said.
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