Appreciation and commendations have continued to flow in, following what many have judged a successful gubernatorial debate yesterday in Umuahia, Abia State capital, organised by a group of online publishers and some broadcast media firms, under the auspices of ‘Abia State Election Debate Team’.
With strong points and rebuttals from the four candidates who attended the debate, the major corners were those of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and incumbent governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, and the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr Alex Otti , who also was the runner-up in the last election
Among many flashpoints was the scenario that made a dent on the orderliness of the debate, when supporters of the governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, held up proceeding for close to 10 minutes to protest what they termed injustice mete out on their principal regarding not giving the governor enough time to respond to rebuttal thrown at him. After a brief consultation, the governor was given extra 3 minutes by the organizes to answer all other questions.
The debate was more of a theatre of rebuttals, humorous quips and soft verbal jabs between the main contenders in the 2015 election (Drs Otti and Ikpeazu).
According to a statement by the director media and publicity of Alex Otti Campaign Organisation, Kazie Uko, Otti drew the first blood when he described Dr Ikpeazu in the most unsparing terms as one sitting on a stolen mandate. “I won the governorship election in 2015, but the mandate was stolen”, Otti said. Pushing further, the APGA candidate reminded the governor of his promise not to seek re-election, if he did not complete all projects started by his government and wondered if he was going to keep to his word now that the Osisioma Bridge, which the governor had showcased as his landmark project, had become abandoned.
Ikpeazu, responded to Otti’s question. “Well, I’m going to run for re-election because the money I was supposed to use to complete the Osisioma Bridge, I have used it complete the Okobo Bridge, on the Abam-Arochukwu Road. At least, I have completed that one bridge, the only thing that is left is to do the road”, Ikpeazu responded to a cheering audience.
Governor Ikpeazu who did not fail to describe areas where his performance should be applauded and characterized as sterling, cited several projects that should be considered ground-breaking: The Enyimba Economic City; his promotion of products made in Aba; the agricultural revolution; infrastructural projects going on all-round the state, especially the complete rehabilitation, remodelling and building of infrastructures in places of learning across the state.
The governor who pleaded for his time to respond to questions thrown at him by the three other candidates and also question them, narrowed his shot at Dr Otti, taking two direct punches: the first, questioning the intentions of Dr Otti with respect to the Abia Charter of Equity, and secondly on Otti’s time as the chief executive officer of Diamond Bank.
Otti was resplendent in his response. He said: “I would have been surprised if after building the road that leads to Akwa Ibom State, from where we know that some people (apparent reference to Ikpeazu) ancestrally hail from, so thank you very much for doing the one going to Arochukwu.
“Now, on the issue of Diamond Bank, there is a transaction that’s going on, so I will not talk much about it. But I will like to remind him that banking business is not like government business, particularly in Abia state. I left banking in 2014, that’s five years ago. I can give an account of what I did in the four years that I stayed in Diamond Bank. Once I left, I left. It’s unlike what we find in some governments where a governor leaves and he doesn’t leave; he continues to manipulate his successor. I do not know what happened in Diamond Bank because I had left. But my records are very clear and they’re there to show”.
On equity, Otti replied: “Equity is important, particularly if you’re coming with clean hands. Abia State is in trouble. Abia is in comatose, so it’s like a man who’s on life support and a doctor shows up and he says he wants to know where the doctor comes from. We need to cure the state. We need to deal with the problems of the state and it goes beyond where somebody comes from ancestrally or where he comes from, by birth. We’re looking for competence, we’re looking for people who are straight, we’re looking for people who have skill, we’re looking for people who have past records of performance and we have seen four years. We are not impressed. Thank you very much”.
The debate featured strong points from the candidates of the Acord Party and Social Democratic Party, Barr. Emeka Uwakolam and Honourable Dr Blessing Nwagba.