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Soludo, Uba, Ozigbo Spar on Agenda for Anambra at ARISE News Debate

The three frontrunners in next Saturday’s governorship election in Anambra State, on Monday, faced off at a debate organised by Arise Television, sparring over their agenda for the state. It

The three frontrunners in next Saturday’s governorship election in Anambra State, on Monday, faced off at a debate organised by Arise Television, sparring over their agenda for the state.

It was an initiative supported by a pro-rights group, “Enough is Enough.”

Candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Professor Charles Soludo, his rival in the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Andy Uba, and their counterpart in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, spoke on how they intended to improve the deteriorating security situation as well as revamp the education, environment and the health sectors in the state.

Soludo, a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), given his background, was expectedly big on data, while Uba leveraged his experience as a politician, and Ozigbo, a chartered accountant, sold himself as the most youthful and untainted of the trio, having never been in government.

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On the regional agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), all the candidates declined to take sides or condemn the proscribed group.

Soludo, who restated his position as a pan-Nigerian Igbo, however, insisted that the reasons for the agitation by the group needed to be discussed, rather than the deployment of force. He noted that he was on record as having visited Nnamdi Kanu at Kuje prison to dialogue with him and asked for his release, adding that he believes in a democracy, everything should be put on the table.

“There is a consensus that we need to have a dialogue on IPOB,” Soludo declared.

Uba noted that the secessionists had become very vocal because of growing unemployment, while Ozigbo held the view that the popularity of IPOB was clearly due to leadership failure.

During the debate anchored by former Presidential Adviser, Dr. Reuben Abati, and Ngozi Alaegbu, both of Arise TV, Soludo maintained that what Anambra needed at the moment was a transformational leader, with an unblemished record of public service.

Describing himself as a village boy, Soludo recalled that in his 30s, he accomplished virtually everything he needed to accomplish, including consulting for over 20 international institutions, serving three governors, and being bestowed with the third highest national honour in the country due to his track record in public service. He explained that following his global and national experiences, it was time to come home and give back to the Anambra people the kind of modern, 21st century life, they deserved.

 

 

While blaming Uba, partly, for the insecurity in the state, Soludo said insecurity was a recent phenomenon in the state and that all the security agencies were under the federal government’s control. He argued that the upsurge in crime and killings were partly politically motivated to create fear in the state.

According to Soludo, “And in terms of how we go, I see three buckets; the first bucket is really the formal cum the local security architecture, the intelligence gathering, the equipment, the military, the police, the DSS, and so on and so forth.

“And then you add the local vigilante and that has to happen. The next bucket is dialogue and reaching some harmonious agreement with the non-state actors. The third is in our manifesto, which is prosperity through jobs.”

Under the APGA government, Soludo stated that Anambra currently had the lowest unemployment rate in Nigeria, and lowest underemployment, quoting figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). He admitted that there was a “road challenge” that needed to be fixed in the state, adding, however, that APGA’s Dr. Willy Obiano had done a lot in that respect. He vowed to continue from where the governor stopped.

Soludo said his agenda was to separate the roads into tiers 1,2,3, look at those for concession and those for direct government financing, emphasising that even the state’s entire budget cannot fully fund road construction and maintenance.

On the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), he pledged to block all leakages with the technology and set up the Anambra Development Fund with a seed amount of $200 million.

To attract investment, Soludo promised to enhance the ease of doing business, leverage information technology, human capital development, create industrial parks, build captive power to encourage industrial clusters, fix road infrastructure and establish a venture capital fund of N5 billion as well as create 1,000 millionaires.

Soludo promised to promote “Made in Anambra” agenda, make it a digital tribe, make the state a cheap cost of production area, ensure 72-hour business registration as well as fast settlement of industrial disputes.

He identified the environmental issues, including flooding, as an existential threat, pledging to build embarkations and form partnerships among all the tiers of government to deal with the menace.

On health, the former CBN governor said he would embark on a lifestyle change campaign, fix public health infrastructure, working with private sector in the diaspora, promote health insurance system, and carry out training and proper remuneration of health workers.

In the area of education, he noted that his government, if elected, would fund scholarships, review the school curricula to bring them in tune with the digital age, regulate private schools more effectively, and make public schools more competitive.

“I offer to you my life. I want to serve you with my excellent health, to use what is left of me to serve you. God has blessed me; I do not want your penny. I am a great reformer, I am prepared to give you my best,” he concluded.

Uba, while detailing his own plan, stressed that voter apathy had always been an issue in Anambra. He alleged that Obiano had refused to engage anybody on the insecurity in the state.

“The governor is the chief security officer of the state. Let me tell you, in this case, the governor has not done what he is supposed to do,” Uba said.

He expressed belief in dialogue, adding that if he wins the poll, he would set up a security response team and have a public phone number that people can call instantly to report cases.

Uba explained that instead of condemning or supporting IPOB, Nigeria needed to sit down with the agitators to know what they wanted.

“I won’t support or condemn IPOB,” he said.

He pledged to declare a state of emergency on Anambra roads, get the airport to operate, set up industrial parks and ensure people made money from there.

He described Soludo as a manager and not a leader, saying the economy collapsed immediately he left the CBN.

To attaract investors, Uba said he would improve security and give tax incentives to allow them invest in the state. He vowed to conduct local government elections within six months of his government and ensure that whatever accrued to the third tier of government got to them.

Uba described the issue of erosion in Anambra State as catastrophic, saying he would solve the problem by planting trees and building public drainage systems.

For his plan on health, Uba explained that there would be three clusters, adding that his government would not build new health institutions, but upgrade existing ones and attract the diaspora to invest.

While alleging that education had collapsed in the state, Uba promised free basic education and employment of more teachers.

Ozigbo, in his submission, argued that what Anambra State required was a young vibrant, trendy person, who was passionate about the state. He said he had served in the private sector and grown businesses all over the world.

Ozigbo stated that the security agencies needed more intelligence to tackle the worsening insecurity in the state, regretting that nobody is being brought to book for committing crimes.

He said, “But above security, there is a lot we can do. There is, indeed, a lot we can do. Just even go back to when Peter Obi left it. Just providing money monthly to these vigilantes, paying them, providing vehicles and making sure that they are well empowered, because there is no community that doesn’t know the criminals around them.”

He stated that both the APC and the APGA had failed the state, and promised to provide resources for vigilante groups, create employment and engage agitators.

Ozigbo maintained that there was a better PDP now, which he said was moving away from the dysfunctional party of the past. He described Anambra as a broken state that needed to be fixed.

The PDP candidate stated that the reasons for agitation by IPOB were not unfounded and demanded the release of Kanu as well as the de-proscription of the group.

He described Soludo as a theorist, who had held high positions without solving problems. Ozigbo said he would leverage on the private sector and allow competition.

The former Transcorp president promised to cut waste, run a people government, curb touting, make Nnewi an industrial hub, and make Awka a true capital city.

Ozigbo said the state under him would attract aid from multilateral institutions to curb erosion, embark on recycling, and ensure process improvement.

He said people would be rewarded, when they do the right thing, and would be punished when they do wrong. He said his government, if elected, would partner communities, reduce brain drain, build mega diagnosis systems, provide access for the vulnerable, and improve mortality rate, while disease prevention would be a major campaign in the state.

Ozigbo claimed APGA had done nothing to improve education, promising to embark on training of teachers, partner private sector, solve the affordability problem, pay bursaries, and build an ecosystem, where there would be educational support even for those in the Igbo apprenticeship system.

Emmanuel Addeh, Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Vanessa Obioha

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