Rivers State Governorship Debate, How They Performed
With all due respect to the Labour Party’s candidate who put up an impressive performance, the debate yesterday was a straight contest between Arch. Pst. Tonye Cole and his closest rival on the podium, Senator Magnus Abe. Here is how they performed and are ranked:
Section 1: Economy
The questions in this round were asked in 2 fold, 40 marks for each fold, and then a follow up question carrying 20 marks.
This question was in two fold, industrialisation and the monorail project, 40 marks for each fold.
On the first fold, industrialisation, Abe said he would work to improve power supply, access to credit, improve security, train the civil servants, build industrial parks, and be honest in governance. It was a brilliant answer, even if it was also a generic answer that we have heard countless times. Nothing new and revealing in this answer, even if it shows him to be far better than Wike. Then in a subtle jibe at Wike, he said he wouldn’t be a contractor. The subtle jibe was not necessary, but you can’t take it away from core politicians, no matter how hard they triy. So on the first fold, he scored 30 out of 40, which is very impressive.
On the second fold of the question, the Monorail project, he didn’t provide any answer, scoring zero out of 40.
On the follow up questions, which has 20 marks, he was asked about poverty reduction and unemployment.
He said to address Poverty we must improve education so that public schools can become quality yet affordable for parents, exactly what was Amaechi’s vision. He said if power supply is improved, then poor people will channel the money spent on fuel and diesel to other issues.
This is a nice answer, but the issue is that with this answer the Senator assumes that poor people are those who can afford fuel and diesel and send people to private schools, these are the people he wants to make life easier for. But poor people in our society are those who use kerosene and are looking for free education because they can’t even afford it. So from this answer you can see a candidate who looks at society from the prism of an elite, always wishing to appeal to the middle class and addressing the problems of the middle class while completely neglecting the lower class. His answer will make life easier for the middle class, but will not address the issue of poverty in our society. So he failed this answer.
In this answer, for his brilliant attempt he scored 5 out of 20.
If you add 30 plus 0 plus 5, his total score for this round is 35 out of 100.
Job creation and Poverty Alleviation:
On the first fold of poverty alleviation, He said he has already identified the cause of poverty as 1, lack of cash, 2, lack of business opportunities, and over taxing of the people. His solution is to provide access to free and affordable education, improve social investment programs for the poorest of the poor, traders, farmers, etc. He proposed a deliberate conditional cash transfer to keep them afloat of the poverty line. He proposed tackling natural disasters like flooding and insecurity that throw villagers, who predominantly are farmers, into IDPs, making them lose their ability to farm and earn a living.
His solution is basically the global standards for eradicating poverty, it is similar to the solutions provided by the Osinbajo’s led economic team for tackling poverty. If implemented correctly, it can be very effective in addressing the issues of poverty. His ability to link the issue of natural disasters such as flooding to poverty is highly impressive, and reveals a mind that is aimed at tackling poverty from its foundation. It is also surprising that a man who by every definition can pass off as an elite, who probably has never known poverty in his life, sees and understands what poverty really is and does not mistake the middle class for poor people.
On this first fold, I score him 35 out of 40.
On the second fold, on job creation:
He said the first thing is to bring back the companies that have left the state and attract new ones. To do this he said he will ensure there is peace and security, law and order, enabling environment, and to train graduates to become employable. This was a brilliant answer, even if it is a bit generic, it still speaks to the issue. On this I score him 30 out of 40.
On the follow up question, he was asked to what rate he would reduce unemployment:
He said in the first 100 days, he will bring together everybody, regardless of political affiliation, to get everyone on the same page. Wike failed miserably in this, anyone who was his opponent was declared enemy of Rivers State, which completely sets Tonye Cole apart. Tonye said he was determined to, in that 100 days, bring about 100 thousand people from each LGA (2.3 million across the state) into an employment bracket, to determine their needs and challenges, and begin to develop them out of the poverty and unemployment bracket. This is a bold and aggressive drive to job creation.
On this, he answered the question, he gave some figures, but he didn’t say exactly how many persons he will bring out of poverty eventually, if he did he would’ve taken all the score here. He scored 10 out of 20.
If you add his 35 to his 30 and his 10, then you will have 75% score out of 100.
So in the first round, while Abe scored 35 out of 100, Tonye Cole scored 80% out of 100.
Reducing Multi Taxation
He said there must be clarity of taxation, which means everyone must know what is to be paid, how to pay it, who to pay to, and why they’re paying it. He called it to simplify taxation process. He said willingness to pay increases when there is clarity, when people know why they’re paying it, and can see that the tax is actually used for their good in infrastructure, technology, education, and an enabling environment. He said there also has to be consequences for dodging taxes. He said there is no need to tax the poorest of the poor, because they struggle to pay, are unable to pay, and naturally would pursue ways to bypass it. This was another brilliant, global standard solution to tax issue.
He scored 65 out of 80 marks here.
On the follow up, he was asked about plans to reindustrialised Rivers State and what he would do to the Monorail Project:
He said Rivers State is a one City state and that needs to change. He said he would diversify industrialisation from Port Harcourt and create industrial cities. He said industrialisation around technology and logistics is one of the fastest growing area in the world today. He said we must take advantage of our agricultural lands to diversify our economy, especially in post-farm processing and exportation. He said we must tap the marine industry. For Port Harcourt, he said there has to be revitalisation of the city. (Brilliant answer, he scored 8 out of 10 here).
On the Monorail project, he said he will bring the Monorail to the ground level. This makes it cost effective as no more pillars will be built. Instead of continue upward it will continue downward and we will still achieve the same thing with far less cost. (Brilliant, he scored 10 out of 10 here).
On the follow up question, he scored 18 out of 20. It was like a lecture.
So if you add his previous 65 marks to this 18, you will get 83 marks out of 100 in this round 2.
On Multiple Taxation and improving the business environment.
He said Rivers people needs to be convinced that their money is spent in their best interest. He said he will open up the books to Rivers people. He took a swipe at politicians who are living in expensive houses and driving nice SUVs, while demanding money from the citizenry. While he was saying this, someone around me was saying that four fingers were pointing at him as well. He said people must get jobs from government without knowing anybody based on open competitive bidding. In a serious swipe again at Nyesom Wike, he said projects are done to please the ego of those in power and not based on needs and challenges. He said if the people are convinced that their money is spent in their best interest they will be in a better frame of mind to pay their taxes.
This was a brilliant answer, but he concentrated more on why the people must see the need to pay and getting their jobs fairly. His opponents had many other angles to the same question including the angles that be provided.
On this he scored 50 marks out of 80.
He was not asked any follow-up question, bringing his total score to 50 out of 100.
So on round 2 Tonye Cole scored 83 out of 100, while Magnus Abe scored 50 out of 100.
Section 2: Security
Asked about his strategy to secure environment for family, businesses and women and people with disabilities:
He said insecurity is tied to darkness, hence there is a need to light everywhere in Rivers State. He said lighting everywhere will reduce insecurity by 50%, as proven across the world. He said he would stimulate a culture of security education in homes and schools. He said physically challenged people must be respected, because if they’re disrespected then it can create insecurity.
He proposed integrating Community policing into the laws. He said local policing is the most effective, but it has to be strengthened and professionalised.
His solutions are more sustainable solutions, a bit long term, and less on the immediate issues.
I score him 60 out of 100 here.
What will he do for people to provide security for people and businesses?
He said there is need for consequences for actions. He said he would fund the police, train them, pay them to make them behave and act differently compared to the police in other states in Nigeria. And then in an attempt to take a swipe at Tonye Cole, be kicked against Community policing. But he misunderstood what Tonye said, because Tonye said community policing is very effective, as has been seen in most parts of the world, but that it has to be legalised and professionalised, which is what is lacking today in our community policing. While Abe was focused on what is happening today where the boys later become a problem to society, Tonye was talking about a more sustainable model where the boys are actually trained, supervised, backed by laws and made into professionals, just as it is with the Nigerian police, which is the same concept as state policing.
Abe said he would invite the cultist and read them the riot act, in a bid to enforce law and order. He also said, and I agree with him, that the first thing to do is to re-establish the authority of the State, and the communities will then benefit from the authorities of the state. This is admirable, and I don’t doubt his courage to achieve this, but it must be said that it is a temporal solution, it is not sustainable. Community policing actually nibs insecurity in the bud, and provide more lasting peace.
On this I give him 65 marks out of 100.
If you combine the both of their solutions, then you get the best of them.
Asked how to address soot pollution in Rivers State:
He said there is need to create alternative economy within the sector, by engaging the perpetrators in areas of their talents, and to provide technology that allows them to make money. He said he would make Rivers State WiFi capable. He said the health cost of the soot, the cost of cleaning up the environment means it is too expensive to allow it to continue. He said if you’re committed to stopping it, there are funds available internationally that will benefit the state in that area. He said the remedial money that will help the state setup the alternate economy is available internationally. I bet this is something Nyesom Wike didn’t even know about.
Here, I give Tonye Cole 60 out of 100.
How to address the soot pollution
He said the state must work with the federal government to remove the big men behind the black soot. His solution can be effective, but it is also the most difficult to accomplish, because most of these people live in shadows, and are untouchables. We have seen that there are many untouchables in Nigeria, people that even the Federal Government cannot touch, so how does an ordinary governor intend to even know them never mind take out those people? Sometimes taking out those people might even threaten your position as governor, and a typical politician like Abe is likely to weigh the cost and let it go.
As an individual, I think the solution is between pursuing the Senator’s solution and pursuing Tonye Cole’s solution as well. A combination of both solutions, one kinetic, the other sustainable, then we have a better solution.
Here I score the senator 50 out of 100.
Section 3: Open Government & Education
Magnus Abe: on Transparency and Accountability
He said he will build accounting and procurement systems that are technologically driven, where prices can be assessed, compared, and government pays same value for things as other people would pay, with agreed markup. He said people don’t have to lobby people to get jobs. Then again, in his usual manner, he took a swipe at Tonye Cole, that he doesn’t have the experience to address the issue of transparency and accountability in public spending. He said he would run a system where contractors get paid for jobs done without having to lobby anybody. He said we can do this and still favour those we want to favour, which exposes the lack of honesty that characterizes the politicians of today, they always know how to manipulate the system to their advantage.
On this question, he spoke with the experience of our local politics, and has some effective solutions to dealing with them. But then, to say you can still favour those you want to favour rubbishes the entire thing he was trying to say.
Here I score him a generous 50 out of 100.
on Transparency and Accountability
He said he has been a part of signing agreements on anti-corruption in various parts of the world. He said transparency on the global stage is a most critical thing and he has succeeded in doing it at the highest level. This was a subtle reply to Abe who said he didn’t have the experience, and from his answer, his own experience is even the highest of all the candidates. He said he has been on boards of the United Nations and World Economic Forums, especially on the Pact Against Corruption Initiative (PACI). He said as governor, he would bring transparency to budgeting, procurement process. He said in Chile, one single government policy on transparency dropped Corruption by over 90%. He said he will make the FOI Act work in Rivers State.
He proved through his answers that he belongs to the class of people who always demands for the best global practices. At the level he has operated globally, he inspires the biggest confidence when it comes to Transparency and Accountability in public spending.
Here, I give him 80 out of 100.
On financial and administrative autonomy for LGAs.
He said he will advocate for it and push it to happen. He said if you don’t free the LGAs from their governors then development can’t happen. He said most of our challenges as a people comes from a failing LGA system. He said strengthening the LGAs is at the heart of our liberation as a people and he’s 100% for it.
From his answers I don’t doubt his commitment, and it reveals his understanding of our challenges as a people. However, he seemed to leave the solutions of LGA autonomy in the hands of the federal government, I was expecting that he would’ve been more specific about how his LGA elections will be done, how his monthly disbursement to the LGAs will happen, and how he wouldn’t sack and fire LGA chairmen like the governors today are doing. If he added this his answers would’ve been 100%.
On this answer, I score him 60 out of 80.
Follow up: What he will do to raise confidence of Rivers people in government
He said the people needs to feel, they needs to touch and needs to know their governor, and he will ensure that they bonds continue. He said he will have live conversations with the people on a weekly basis. He said his policies will start from the bottom to the top and not the other way around. He said Rivers is a very rich people with extremely poor people, so money of the state must get down to the grassroot.
On this I score him 18 out of 20, it was an excellent answer.
So in this round he scored 78 out of 100.
On financial and administrative autonomy for LGAs.
He said freedom for the LGAs must start from having a political party that one man does not pick the whole candidates. This was another subtle swipe at Amaechi and Wike, but many people said he wasn’t any different. He said he wouldn’t pick any LGA Chairman and doesn’t want any boy at that level, but the evidence of things in his political life and even now as we speak speaks to the contrary. If the Senator does not pick LGA Chairmen and have boys all over the place, then who exactly is going to do that. Of all Candidates, he is the person that looks most culpable to this allegation. Most Rivers people have absolutely no confidence in this thing that he’s saying.
He said we must task the LGAs with clear responsibilities. He lamented the lack of opportunities at the LGA level. Both valid points.
On this I score him 50 out of 80 marks, primarily because his words does not match his actions.
On Restoring Confidence of the people
He said he will work with the police to show them that a government in control is around. He said he will take a proper statistics of the people to know everyone resident in the state, and to use it to make plans based on facts and figures.
This is a brilliant answer that I would certainly implement if I were governor. If you add this to the Tonye Cole’s solution, then you have a near perfect answer.
On this I score him 15 out of 20.
So he scored 65 out of 100 in this round.
He said our classrooms have not moved with the times. He laments the lack of teachers in our schools. He said we will create a technologically advantageous State to close the gap we have lost in a very long while. He said education under him will be accessible and affordable.
Here, I score him 50 out of 100.
He said we need to review and improve our curriculum, review our atmosphere of learning, we must train our teachers and improve their pay. He said there is no such thing as free education, even though most of our fathers benefited from it. He said the only people that can benefit from free education are children, but for the rest of society, they must pay for it.
In this area, I score him 50 out of 100.
As you can see, Tonye Cole won the debate clearly. Those who disagree should not just say they disagree, they’re welcome to substantiate their positions.