As the nation’s political attention shifts to Ondo State for the October 10 governorship election, some candidates in the poll participated in a debate on Thursday evening to share their vision and sell their objectives to the people of the state.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission, 17 political parties fielded candidates for the election but analysts have opined that the poll would be a three-horse race amongst the All Progressives Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Zenith Labour Party.
Five candidates were invited to the debate organised by BBC News Yoruba and its partners but while Dotun Ojon of the Young Progressive Party, Adekunle Adeleye of the African Action Congress; PDP’s Eyitayo Jegede and APC’s Rotimi Akeredolu attended the virtual debate, the candidate of the Zenith Labour Party, Agboola Ajayi, was absent at the over two-hour debate.
Ajayi was elected on APC’s platform in 2016 as Akeredolu’s running mate but the deputy governor defected to PDP earlier in the year when he fell apart with his principal. Ajayi later defected to the ZLP after he lost out at the PDP governorship primary.
The YPP candidate criticised the Ondo State Security Network Agency codenamed Operation Amotekun and the law that created it. He argued that “those who started it don’t really understand it.”
Ojon said if elected, he “will create an arm within Amotekun Corps to address the serial kidnapping in the state. The section won’t use weapons but deploy technology to identify security threats per time and transfer the intelligence to the Nigeria Police Force.”
Before now, Akeredolu had inaugurated the Amotekun Corps to tackle kidnapping, banditry, herdsmen attack, amongst other security challenges in the state.
Responding, the governor said the YPP candidate was ignorant of the law that created the Amotekun Corps, noting that intelligence gathering through the use of technology is an integral part of the operations of the security network.
Also, the PDP candidate said if elected, he will build police stations and army barracks in the localities notorious for crime in the state.
The former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state said he will activate the state Anti-Kidnapping Law that stipulates death penalty for murderers and life imprisonment for kidnappers.
Jegede, who was also the PDP candidate in 2016, pledged to reduce the tuition paid by students of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko.
Reacting, Akeredolu said his government had already reduced the tuition, noting that students of the varsity pay the same tuition as their counterparts at the Lagos State University.
Akeredolu explained, “Ondo State can’t be different from other states in the country. At the beginning of my tenure, the university’s governing council increased the tuition and the students’ representatives approached me.
“I told them to go to all universities in the South-West and let me know wherever they pay lesser tuition than ours. They came back and sad the Lagos State University tuition was lesser and I told the governing council to put it at that.”
On economy, Akeredolu promised to bring the proposed Ondo deep seaport to life if re-elected. He said the project would provide more jobs for the youths of the state, adding that his administration would consolidate on all its programme of action if re-elected.
The four candidates also pledged not to abandon any project started by the present government if elected.
Meanwhile, in a bid to ensure a violence-free election, INEC has said candidates of the 17 political parties contesting the governorship election would sign a peace accord Tuesday next week.