By IniUbong David
With the imprisonment of Senator Bassey Albert of YPP and the disqualification of Akanimo Udofia of APC by the Federal High Court, Uyo, the governorship race in Akwa Ibom State is now a straight fight between Senator John James Udoedehe of NNPP and Mr. Umo Eno of PDP. From my assessment of the two candidates, their pedigree, background, education, political and working career, quality of blueprint and contributions to the development of the state, I can categorically state that Senator Udoedehe is more suitable, capable and better prepared for the job than Mr. Umo Eno.
First, I should note that Udoedehe is not a pushover and he’s not being sponsored by a godfather. Unlike Umo Eno, Senator Udoedehe is an independent-minded politician who will not have to settle a godfather if he becomes governor. Senator Udoedehe has a history of service to the state, right from his days in the Senate (1999-2003) when he teamed up with other senators and leaders in Abuja to fight for thje abrogation of the Onshore-Offshore oil dichotomy. The struggle led to the signing of the abrogation bill by President Obasanjo in February 2004 and that resulted in the huge revenues that have been flowing into Akwa Ibom State. It is a pity that majority of our people have not benefitted from these resources over the years.
Udoedehe’s economic blueprint is also the most comprehensive that addresses the problems of poverty, unemployment, crime, cultism and underdevelopment in Akwa Ibom. While Umo Eno is mouthing continuity and completion agenda of Gov. Udom Emmanuel, Udoedehe has designed a well-thought 10-Point Economic Agenda which aims to lift thousands of our people from poverty. He is the only candidate that has promised to established Akwa Ibom Oil Community Development Commission that will use derivation funds to develop the oil and coastal communities.
The following are a summary of Udoedehe’s 10-point Agenda:
· Implementation of a N31 Billion Economic Stimulus Package in which 31,000 persons would be selected from the 31 LGAs, trained and given a grant of N 1 million each to start or expand their businesses. Such businesses would have to be located in the rural areas so as to stimulate the rural economy in the state
· Implementation of Arms-for-Money Amnesty Program in which youths who are engaged in crime and cultism would be offered amnesty from prosecution in return for their handing their weapons to the authorities. They would also be given skills, re oriented and offered funding to start businesses.
· Create an informal fourth tier-level of government in which Village Councils would be made to supervise schools, markets and health centers in the villages. Village Heads would also recive a quarterly sum of N500,000 each.
· Launch of massive construction of rural roads to open access between the farm gate and the market and construction of modern markets in the 31 LGAs
· Establishment Ministry of Uyo Capital Territory to manage the expansion of Uyo Capital Territory and provide it with modern amenities. In addition, create well planned satellite towns out of the LGAs surrounding the Capital Territory
Establishment of Akwa Ibom Oil-Producing Communities Development Commission (AKOPCDEC) to manage the derivation funds and implement specific developmental programs for the communities. Despite the huge derivation revenues that accrue to the state, the oil producing communities remain largely poor, neglected and desolate because these resources are either spent on grandiose, fancy projects in the cities or they are just stolen and frittered away. Creating a special purpose vehicle dedicated to investing these funds in the coastal areas will stimulate rejuvenation of the areas. The recent revelations that Akwa Ibom alone has received N250 Billion as derivation refunds from the federal government has justified the need to create a development commission for the oil communities in the state.
· Provide fishing boats, engines and equipment for Akwa Ibom fishermen to free them from acquiring this equipment on hire-purchase from exploitative businessmen. Unknown to many of us, our fishermen do not own the fishing boats, engine boats and the equipment they use in their trade. They hire these things from businessmen from the neighbouring state on outlandish hire-purchase terms. It is some kind of economic slavery which Senator Udoedehe has vowed to break.
· Work with our security agencies to enhance the security and safety of our maritime workers (fishermen) and improve the security of our waterways and rivers to check piracy and criminal activities. Piracy in our waters has become a major security and economic challenge to our people in the last several years, but the state government has done practically nothing to check it.
· Creation of Ministry of Erosion Control to check increasing problems of denudation in our coastal communities
No other governorship candidate in the state has been able to properly lay out his plans for our coastal communities like Senator Udoedehe.
On a visit to Eastern Obolo LGA recently as part of his Ward Tour, as part of his Ward Tour, the NNPP candidate reiterated the above points to the people and noted that ‘’our coastal communities in Mbo, Oron, Eastern Obolo, Ibeno in addition to the oil producing communities in the other Local Government Areas like Mkpat Enin, Ikot Abasi, Esit Eket have no better partner in this race than me’’.
In terms of campaign strategy, Udoedehe is the only one that has adopted a ward-to-ward tour. Since August 9, he’s been going from ward to ward and intends to visit all of the 329 wards in the state early January. So far, he has been to 255 of the wards and met with over 300,000 core supporters.
For Umo Eno of PDP, all that he is promising the people is to continue Gov. Udom Emmanuel’s agenda, without specifying which of the programs he would modify and drop. The recent revelations that Akwa Ibom alone has received N250 Billion as derivation refunds from the federal government has heightened people’s apprehensions about the lack of probity in the state.
David, a political analyst, writes from Uyo