The Ondo Election Debate has come and gone, but the trill, passion, fear, anxiety, intrigue and emotion generated by the political talk show anchored by Seun Okinbaloye of Channels Television would go a long way to determine the out coming of next Saturday gubernatorial poll in a state proudly called Sunshine State.
Three of the four invited governorship candidates showed-up for the debate that was beamed live to both national and international audience of the multiple award winning news television station, while the rest governorship candidates of not too popular political parties numbering about twenty-four watched the programme from their homes.
The debaters included: Olusola Oke of the Alliance For Democracy (AD), Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim (CFR) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Dr. Olu Agunloye of the Social Democratic Party, (SDP), while
the fourth candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was unavoidably absent.
Seun Okinbaloye, the debate moderator reeled out the rules and regulations guiding the show after welcoming participants and the live audience at exactly seven o'clock in the evening of Monday 20th of November, 2016.
From the physical appearances and positioning of the candidates on the high podium they stood, it was very glaring that the PDP candidate, Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim will steal the show and beat the other co debaters even as the youngest candidate on the podium.
Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim was fully dressed in all white Agbada attire from the renowned designer, 'Sofisticat' standing right in the middle of the two other old colleagues of Oke, in a well tailored suit and Agunloye, in a simply white Buba and Sokoto. But of the trio, Jimoh Ibrahim appeared most relaxed, composed and ready for the business of the day.
Okinbaloye kicked off with Olusola Oke for the introductory part of the debate. This was how Oke introduced himself: "I have been in politics for 31 years. I only changed party last year when the ship of the PDP was nosediving. I left for the APC. "APC promised us transparent primary, but its primary was the most fraudulent and because of what I stand for, I had to move to the Alliance for Democracy." This was Oke reply when Okinbaloye's queried his membership of three political parties in a period of three years.
Oke continued; "I believe the Almighty God will win the election for me. Let the election be free and fair. If the election is conducted fairly and freely, and I lose, I will congratulate the winner. But if it's not free and fair, I will challenge it as a lawyer.
When it was the turn of the billionaire business man to speak, it was a rousing applaud from the audience when Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim confidently presented the most intimidating curriculum vitae beginning with first degree, master degree and doctor of business administration, all from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife; with additional master degrees from the three world top rated citadel of learning, Oxford University, England; Harvard University and Cambridge University both in the United States of America (U.S.A).
Reacting on his membership of PDP, the Igbotako born business mogul said; "I brought live to the PDP. (Olusegun) Mimiko recently joined the PDP. I'm the oldest papa of PDP in this state. "A vote for me is a vote in hope, a vote in stability, a vote in justice."
And when Seun Okinbaloye asked about his seriousness to govern Ondo State because of the fact the some people believe he was only in the race to play a spoiler role and not necessary to win election; Araba, as he is fondly called by his teem supporters simply answered "I'm not a spoiler, I'm a developer." This attracted an electrifying applaud and deafening shout of Araba, Araba, Araba from the audience who were fascinated by the intimidating CV, as the large BTO Event centre, venue of the debate was up in flame ignited by the loud applaud until the director of the programme flagged up the 'Silence' placard and the live programme went on break.
When the live show resumed on air and at the live studio, it was the turn of Dr. Olu Agunloye who comment that "The political situation in this country is in a state of flux. We are yet to reach stability. The President of this republic contested four times on the platform of different political parties.
In my case, I hate injustice, and whenever I see injustice, I fight it." That was his only comment before the time keeper rang the bell and we were back with Olusola Oke of AD for the next round of question.
And the question was "who is footing the camapign bills of Oke, is it Bola Tinubu? Oke replied; "The good people of Ondo State are sponsoring my campaign Tinubu is not funding my campaign. Our paths don't cross. He is APC, I'm in AD. Those saying he is funding my campaign are either ignorant or mischievous.
And to Jimoh Ibrahim, with his large business empire, will it not affect the running of government activies if elected? With a voice and carriage that the audience couldn't wait for any longer, the PDP candidate said; "I'm a businessman. I have no business interest in Ondo State and there will be no conflict of interest. Then his reaction to comments about his drowning businesses across the country, he has a prompt answer; There is a court judgment concerning Newswatch and you can't say I'm the owner of that paper and that I'm owning salaries. I have been honoured by this country three times. I buy dead companies and raise them up. I'm employing about 31,000 Nigerians, paying their salaries. So I'm a very successful businessman." Again, the producer has to raise the 'Silence' placard for the applaud to stop.
Now Agunloye was asked to defend the money traced to the account of his party national chairman, Chief Oluyemi Falae; and he said "Chief Falae did not get money from NSA", saying he did not collect any money from the NSA as alleged.
He said the money received was for the party which entered into agreememt with the PDP for the 2015 presidential campaign.
Jimoh Ibrahim promised to create companies and provide employment, saying it would take just three days to create a company.
He also promised to pay backlog of salaries in the first few months of taking over office. He added that his government would make the welfare of the people a priority.
Jimoh Ibrahim said he will eradicate all forms of taxes in the state. Personal Income Tax, saying it will be eradicated. "We should be talking of innovation in revenue, not federal allocation."
Oke assured that in three months, citizens will begin to see changes in the economy of the state, he will not eradicate personal income tax because it is statutory.
Agunloye on his own take on economy said Internally Generated Revenue presently means extorting money from citizens in form of taxes without providing services. He promised to move away from that and ensure the government provides services that will generate revenue.
"No more tax in Ondo from the very day I'm sworn in as governor," Jimoh Ibrahim boosted before the audience inside the live studio.
Jimoh Ibrahim insisted that he will eradicate personal income tax. "You don't take money from workers who are owned salaries for several months," he says. "We are going to eliminate personal income tax."
On minimum wage: Agunloye believed that Issues surrounding minimum wage is fraud. He said the increments are irregular and fraudulent.
Jimoh Ibrahim promised to increase minimum wage immediately he is sworn in. He also said he will increase pension in proportion to the increment of serving worker.
Olusola Oke said increasing minimum way is not feasible given the huge backlog of salaries owed workers of the state, adding that for one year of his administration, increasing minimum wage will not be on his agenda.
And again, Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim released another bomb that threw everybody in the studio, including his co debaters off balance, he said he would increase minimum wage from N18,000 to N75,000, stressing that with N2billion coming from grants, N2.5billion coming from Ondo Oil, regularly, he will be able to pay the money. "You cannot change things with workers who are hungry," he noted.
On Education, all the candidates agreed on free education from promary to secondary school levels, but Jimoh Ibrahim education pack beat them all with free education as a must at all levels, while 100 secondary schools will be converted to boarding facilities
Jimoh Ibrahim promised to set aside five percent of gross allocation to the state to be given to traditional rulers for local security and ensure development in their areas.
He noted that security vote is a fraud, saying he will not spend government funds to protect himself while his people remain vulnerable.
Olusola Oke said security votes will not be abolished, saying he will retain the fund, but reduce amount. He promised to be transparent and accountable in the administration of the security votes.
"There are things the governor does on security that cannot go through the bureaucracy,"Oke said.
Jimoh Ibrahim knocked the Federal Government over state of economy, saying the balance of trade has become negative, saying "PDP has not done very bad in the last eight years."
Olusola Oke promised to publish annual budget of the state, adding that "the budget is a public document accessible to citizens."
Olu Agunloye turns down request by Oke to align with him, to become governor, as he responded to a question by Oke to jion him since they both have similar programmes for the people of the state, but agreed that there might be need for unity government after the election because Ondo is in crisis.
However, Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim insisted that "I am the next governor of Ondo State".
After the two hours heated debate, it was unanimously decided that Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim (CFR) won the heart of over seventy pecent of the live audience which included, top members of political parties, members of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), media partners, partners with Channels Television on Ondo Debate (Enough is Enough and PLAC), Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) non-government organizations (NGOs), Faith Based Organization (FBA) and interested groups on the Ondo Election.
Yemi Akintomide, a journalist writes from Orita-Obele, Akure