By Itoro Bassey
Senator John James Akpan-Udoedehe, the governorship candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, in Akwa Ibom State, has promised that his administration would set up empowerment schemes across the 31 local government areas of the state to tackle poverty and unemployment if elected governor.
Within the first two years, Akpan-Udoedehe said his administration would start creating business people by empowering 31,000 women and youths with N1m each, totalling about N31b, to run small and medium scale enterprises so that they could become self-sufficient and generate employment for others.
He made the pledge on Sunday, January 29, while responding to a question on job creation at the governorship debate organised by the Akwa Ibom State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
The debate, held at at Ibom Icon Hotel and Golf Resort, Uyo, was supported by ActionAid Nigeria, Ibom Peoples Congress, USA, INC., Nigeria Labour Congress, Nigeria Society of Engineers, Asis Global Mall, Clement Isong Foundation, Yiaga Africa, Youth Alive Foundation, and Policy Alert, among other notable organizations
The governorship election, as scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), will be held on Saturday, March 11, 2023.
Akpan-Udoedehe said the focus of his administration, if elected, would be on mega empowerment of people through human capital investment and job creation.
He explained that most of the jobs would be created through massive investment in agriculture, adding that agriculture would be moved from subsistence to commercial agriculture.
He further pledged that his administration would create an opportunity for 10,000 Akwaibomites to be engaged as policemen, while an additional 1,000 persons would be needed to secure the state’s waterways.
“I have spoken with about eight hundred and sixty-something thousand people and when I asked them, ‘how many of you are rich’, not one person answered in the affirmative.
“We need to use Akwa Ibom money to better the lives of our people. We must invest in our people because a lot of them are poor and uneducated, and many are without employment.
“I will bring prosperity and cash flow to Akwa Ibom communities so that our people can prosper. That is the need of Akwa Ibom people”.
Akpan-Udoedehe said that if elected governor, his administration would give prominence to women empowerment and ensure that they received free financial grants to restore and grow their businesses.
While responding, alongside other candidates who attended the debate, on the issue of how he would use his security vote as governor, Akpan-Udoedehe said:
“I have been privileged, before, to use security vote as a minister in the Federal Capital Territory. When I become the governor, I will use my security vote to provide free grant for market women to restore and grow their businesses, place all policemen working in Akwa Ibom on special salary and also share part of it to the village heads to use in securing their communities”.
He assured Akwa Ibom people that his administration would support local government autonomy, abrogation of the existing pensions law for former governors and former deputy governors in the state and also ensure that every child of school age in the state has access to qualitative education.
“I want to take government back to the villages. We will provide monies to build schools and hospitals in our rural communities. That’s what the fourth tier of govermnment means, that is before the authorities would travel from Uyo to the communities, certain problems affecting the people would have been addressed”, he added.
Akpan-Udoedehe said the challenges of the time demand that the best hand is engaged to address the economic problems of the state, adding that he would rely on his understanding of the state and its people as well as his experience in government to pilot well the affairs of the state.
At the well attended occasion, the chairperson of the organising committee, Aniekan Udofia, informed the audience that the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Pastor Umo Eno, and his counterpart in the All Progressives Congress (APC), Akanimo Udofia, had withdrawn their participation.
“This morning, after a firm confirmation from the PDP gubernatorial candidate, Pastor Umo Eno, we received a letter addressed to the NUJ chairman stating his withdrawal from the debate,” Mr Udofia said.
“Again, this afternoon, while we were also preparing for the debate, the committee had met with the APC gubernatorial candidate, Obong Akan Udofia, and he said he is indisposed and not feeling too good, so he will not be at the debate.”
Four other candidates who participated in the debate were Ezekiel Nya-Etok of the African Democratic Congress, ADC; Ekere Essien of the Action Democratic Party, ADP; Iboro Otu of African Action Congress, AAC, and Bassey Albert Akpan of the Young Progressives Party, YPP, who joined the programme via zoom virtual platform.
The NUJ Chairman in Akwa Ibom, Comrade Amos Etuk, said in his opening remarks that the debate session was an “evening of history” in the 35-year-old state.
He thanked the participating candidates, saying the debate would help Akwa Ibom people to make informed choices.
“Nigerian media, especially in Akwa Ibom State, will continue to set agenda for good governance and hold the government accountable,” Mr Etuk said