Cross River 2015: The Imperative For All Candidates BY PETER OFFEM UBI

In Columnists, Opinion, Politics

by crossriverwatch admin

Peter Offem Ubi
Peter Offem Ubi

After disturbing revelations by Mr. Venatius Ikem on the amount of money given to the state government through the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to augment Cross River State revenue for the loss of Bakassi and the hot debates on social media trailing the news of government plan to raise a 40Billion Naira Bond and an impending court action by Barrister Okoi Obono-obla seeking further explanations on the Bond, there is a stressing need for answers.

In election years, politics is normally heated up as it is supposed to but, Cross Riverians must not shy away from confronting candidates with questions. There should be a determination to root out fraud, abuse and corruption within the state system, so it is relevant to know where the candidates stand.

And generally, any credible change agent for a candidate will naturally win the minds of our people—behind the backdrop of recent activities in the state, let’s have the debates.

We are in mid-September already, elections are fast approaching, yet the political parties, PDP and APC are not ready to put their various houses in order.

The formalization of their respective flagship candidates seem to face uncertainties especially for PDP were more than 22 individuals from the Northern part of the state have shown interest.

In respect to party primary process, isn’t it time already for the candidates to have a face off debate? Let’s determine who fits the bill?

Having closely followed the known candidates on the PDP platform, personally, I come to the conclusion that there are three very serious campaigns to watch out for in the state. After a close monitoring of the candidates, and their support base; I label these three campaigns as:

1. The true Trojan Horse of Cross River politics – Ntufam Fidelis Ugbo

2. The Cross River insider in none other than State Commissioner for Works, Legor Idagbo

3. The known charming Dark Rider – Mr. Goddy Jedy Agba

These listed persons through their campaigns seem more determined to make head way as they’re engaging the public.

Election seasons are supposed to provide an opportunity for campaigns, aspirants, and sitting officials to explain their records, and for all challengers to question each other. It is for the public to intensely scrutinize campaigns and candidates based on policy proposition or revelations of incidents in relationship to governance.

In the aftermath of reports regarding the 40Billion Naira Bond the Imoke administration is seeking to raise and the handling of monies from RMAFC, the need for election season accountability is that much greater.

Cross River voters will decide based on proposed policy areas, and they must be informed by the campaigns.

As an observer watching various state political actors from the sidelines, drawing people’s attention the campaigns is important to me. How the various campaigns edge out clear differences will depend on a lot of factors. However, it will be pleasing to see the campaigns answer the following questions to help Cross Riverians make informed decisions:

1. What are some of the useful plans that can feed our state for the next several decades?

2. Is investing on the 40Billiion Naira Bond a real way forward?

3. Are we better off now, than four years ago? If anyone of the candidates is elected governor, would their entire governorship focus on building a middle class for our families so we can live a life in Cross River as we want to live?

4. On the level of poverty in the state, the incumbent governor is presumed to have made in road in the agricultural sector, but farmers are still struggling and still consider irrigation as a big problem. What do the campaigns see as further solution?

Give figures in terms of cost, to be more honest in line with the new measures that will be taken to helping the people. And what would you say to the growing numbers of people who aren’t considering agriculture as an alternative way of sustaining their life but would still need State assistance. They are struggling just to get by. What will candidates implement for a State Assistance Program?

5. Teacher Shortage in Cross River State: Many believe our State is lagging behind other states in the nation like Lagos, Edo, Rivers, and Osun in the area of education. Meanwhile, we are facing a shortage of teachers and the profession is becoming less attractive. What are you as governor going to do to stem this decline in recruitment of qualified teachers and keep the teaching profession attractive for our State citizens?

6. On Energy – particularly demands for more electricity, it will seem none of the campaigns or candidates so far have pushed for our state to be energy independent using available new alternative ways of providing energy to generate electricity. The Governor has made moves with General Electric (GE) as it relates to boosting electricity supply, with the promising new alternative like solar, wind etc. the cost of the governors’ plan would be high and the solution would only be temporary to the people. Providing electricity sounds good, most especially to communities out off adequate linkage to the grid. Was the move by the governor a sound policy, and is it really achievable for Cross River State or is it another scheme like Tinapa under Duke? What would you as governor do to improve on this?

7. The Longevity Gap: A new study by the MacArthur Foundation shows a widening gap in life expectancy in the past 20 years, with those at low education levels living up to 10 years less than people with higher education levels. How would the aspirants reverse this trend considering that an educated citizen in the state contribute to a productive Cross River?

8. We have Cross Riverians in service of our nation in the military including those who have lost their lives already in the war against Boko Haram, many retired service members from the state cry out for their pensions due to them, they have serve the State and the Nation, will the new governor be an advocate on behalf of Cross Riverians in our Armed Forces and those already in retirement?

9. Vision for Cross River State: Periodically our Governors have inspired Cross Riverians to think out new frontiers. Since the Federal Government short changed the state in respect to oil wells, what’s the new frontier for Cross River as it relates to economic and technological advancement?

10. Will the aspirants commit to the creation and funding of two more state agencies like: Cross River State Development Authority and Cross River State Housing Authority – to address and concentrate the state development?

There is need for openness in the lead up to elections so citizens don’t instill what plagues our democracy where a special class of insiders, connected through financial and political clout have immunized themselves away from the public rights to know the plans for the future.

Let aspirants take these questions and elevate them to new levels. Debates are supposedly good for democracy; we should engage the candidates because our citizenship exchange is not a mere exercise in civic duty.

Debates are essential for the airing of complex state issues facing the people, personal and political integrity can never be adequately addressed in attack ads or social media forums.

A debate, preferably, multiple debates before gubernatorial party primaries, and thereafter, between flagship candidates representing the various political parties is essential.

It is my firm belief this would allow capable candidates an opportunity to wrestle not just with questions about what they will implement and fund programs, but also the amount of money in politics today with a range of pressing issues.

Peter Offem Ubi writes from New York, USA

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