NNPP Governorship candidate, Senator John James Udoedehe made a spectacular performance on Sunday at the Governorship Debate organised by the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).
It was held at the Ibom ICON Hotel and lasted from 5 pm to 9 pm. Udoedehe and three other candidates appeared on stage, while one, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan joined by Zoom. Akpan’s legal status has prevented him from attending public events since December last year. PDP and APC were expectedly not represented at the event because of the crisis that has engulfed the two parties. A federal high court in Abuja had last week removed Umo Eno as PDP’s candidate, and replaced him with Michael Enyong. The replacement of Eno with Enyong, a man of dubious antecedents, has undoubtedly destabilised the PDP and diminished the morale of its supporters. APC has been ridden by an internal crisis since 2019 and does not have a candidate.
The debate, therefore, provided an ample opportunity for Udoedehe to prove his mettle as the leading candidate. In fact, Senator Udoedehe is now the front-runner and preferred choice of the voters. He has visited all 329 wards in the state and met with over 800,000 supporters across the state. The session opened with each candidate using five minutes to introduce himself and his agenda; but Udoedehe’s decision to speak in Ibibio, the dominant language of Akwa Ibom people, wowed the audience and sent them cheering, despite the ground rules that forbade applause. When the moderator tried to get Udoedehe to use English, the audience protested loudly. Throughout the five-hour debate, Udoedehe spoke mostly in Ibibio. He captured the attention of the over 300 people in the hall, and over 400,000 people tuned in. An opinion poll I took among the people in the hall, gave Udoedehe a 75 per cent approval and favorability rating.
The moderator asked over 20 questions on a wide array of topics like: education, poverty reduction, jobs, debts, infrastructure, local government autonomy; the Worship Center, the 21-storey building, and Ibaka Deep Sea Port. It was Senator Udoedehe who gave succinct, concise, and articulate answers to each of the questions, putting him ahead of the pack as a man who is prepared to lead from the first day. He was clearly well prepared, and besides, his Blueprint contains all these and others.
Udoedehe’s witty answer to what he would do with the 10,000-capacity Worship Center the state government is building sent the audience rolling on the floor with laughter.
He said: “Well, Akwa Ibom is a very religious society. We believe in the Bible, and the Bible teaches that the second coming of Christ would be marked by the destruction of the earth. The Worship Center should be left in place so that God would have one thing in Akwa Ibom to destroy.’’
I commend the State NUJ Chairman, Mr Amos Etuk, and his team for a job well done for organising the debate. It was a splendid event. This is the first time a debate has ever been organized for gubernatorial candidates in Akwa Ibom State.
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