The candidates of three of major political parties contesting Saturday’s Governorship Election in Rivers State have vowed to transform the state’s economy if they are eventually elected governor.
The candidates who spoke at the NUJ Governorship Debate 2023 held at the NUJ Press Centre, Port Harcourt, were Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs of Accord, Dr. Dawari George of Action Alliance, and Mr. Tekena Iyagba of Boot Party.
The debate was organized by the Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in collaboration with NewsAfrica-London, Kebetkache Women Development Organisation, and the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt Eco District 9141, with live broadcast support from Atlantic Television Network, Wish FM, Love 97.7FM, Today 95.1FM and Wave 92.7FM.
Dr. George of AA captured his thoughts and plans for Rivers State in “four major strategic pillars” namely: Security, law enforcement and peace building; Skills development, job creation and poverty alleviation; innovation, industrialization and infrastructure; and Good governance and quality service delivery.
The AA candidate Dr. George said the philosophy of his programme is anchored on the people’s vision, which will integrate the people into participating in their own development.
“If you say people are poor, the people should be allowed to define their poverty and give them a platform to define their poverty.”
He said all the programmes and projects that his government will execute will take into view how such programmes would create a safe and prosperous Rivers State.
“If you want to build a road, if you want to build a bridge, the question is will it reduce poverty, will it create wealth, will it also create new jobs and put money in the hands of Rivers people?” he said.
Chief Lulu-Briggs of Accord, who summed his programmes for the development of Rivers State under the theme, “Prosperity for All,” promised to transform the economy of Rivers State from a GDP of $20 billion to a projected GDP of $350 billion in not more than 16 years, all things being equal.
He admitted that he might not be in office in that time, but the foundation he would have laid would be such that succeeding administrations would approach governance with the same level of industry so that they can achieve the target he would have set.
“The major thrust of my talk here today is how to rebase the economy of Rivers State. What I am presenting is quite bold and audacious. What we are looking at is how many persons, how many households we will be able to take out of poverty into prosperity.” Chief Lulu-Briggs said.
He said he would invest massively in agriculture and tourism in addition to the present oil and gas investments to further expand the economy. “When you look at the enormous resources and the potential that we have you begin to wonder and worry. What we want to do is to take us to that place, the great destiny that Rivers State is designed to be.”
Mr. Iyagba of Boot Party said that all his five-point agenda is centred around development of human capital in the areas of industrialization, urbanization, structure empowerment, health and education.
He said he will start by reviving the civil service, revamp the secretariat, pay outstanding salaries, effect due promotions to increase productivity in the public sector before moving on to the private sector where jobs can be created by expanding production base and the downstream sectors of the economy.
He said to open up the state for further development, he would consider creating eight more cities, each of which will be noted for a purpose. “I am looking at Bonny. We’ve got beauty and we are not doing anything about it. And Bonny could be one of the biggest tourist attraction centres not just in Nigeria but in Africa,” Mr. Iyagba said.
He promised to create avenues where young people can assess huge capital up to N25 million to jumpstart their businesses and help the economy to grow.
In the area of health, he said, “I have this plan to revamp the health sector not only in infrastructure but to create a system where people don’t have to die because they don’t have money. So, we will partner with the NHIS (National Health Insurance Scheme) to provide insurance for civil servants and people in the private sector,” the Boot Party candidate said.
The debate provided opportunity for a panel of interviewers to ask questions.
Questions were also taken from members of the public who were following the debate live on radio and the social media.
The Vice-President of the NUJ, Comrade Opaka Dokubo, said the debate was the first of its kind organized by the union in Rivers State and congratulated the Rivers State Council of the union for putting together the debate.
Before the debate took off, the Chairman of the NUJ in Rivers State, Comrade Stanley Job, and the State Chairman of National Association of Women Journalists, Mrs. Serekara Nwikhana, presented a Charter of Demand for the state-owned media organizations to the candidates.
Though eight candidates were invited to the debate, the candidates of Peoples Democratic Party (Chief Sim Fubara), Social Democratic Party (Senator Magnus Abe), All Progressives Congress (Pst. Tonye Cole) and Labour Party (Comrade Beatrice Itubo) did not attend.