From Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
The need for qualitative education, health systems and enduring poverty alleviation schemes dominated talks on Monday at a debate session organised for Kwara Central senatorial district’s candidates by the Correspondents Chapel of the state’s council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
The speakers at the novel event included the candidates of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mal Bolaji Abdullahi, the Labour Party, Mal Umar Faruq Akanbi and Social Democratic Party (SDP), Dr Ridwan Apaokagi.
While Abdullahi is a media guru and former minister of Sports, Akanbi was former chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the state and Apaokagi is a medical practitioner and owner of a private medical facility in Ilorin.
The candidates were unanimous in their submissions that if Nigeria must regain its lost glory and be where it ought to be among the comity of nations, the education sector must be made to work again.
They rued the over eight months of industrial action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which has rendered the students redundant at home.
The debaters also decried the alarming rate of insecurity and poverty in the country, resulting from youth unemployment.
The PDP’s candidate, Abdullahi said: “Nigeria is at great crossroads. We are going through challenges that we have never experienced before. While Nigeria has the largest economy in the African continent it’s also home to the poorest people in the world. Poor higher education is hindering the country’s progress. 2023 provides the opportunity of resetting the button if Nigeria should remain a strong united nation.
“I want to give Kwara Central a strong voice at the National Assembly. I have the education, I have the experience as a former minister. I’m going to be part of the people that will use the instrumentality of legislation to move the country forward.
“I will empower my people to be able to take decisions to be great. We have too much property in Ilorin because youths are not employed. We must give education the desired priority. We must protect our vulnerable people, especially the aged.”
For his part, the LP’s candidate, Akanbi condemned the recruitment of youths by politicians as thugs, lamenting that lack of leadership has dwarfed Nigeria’s development despite being endowed with abundant natural resources.
He added: “Nigeria’s economy is in shambles, students are at home because of ASUU Strike. Refineries are not working, yet we continue to budget for the turnaround maintenance ( TAM), the NNPC staff and we still import refined oil.
“We have all this problem because we do not have a legislature that is up to its billing. We need a strong legislature that will put the executive on its toes on anything that the executive is doing against the interest of Nigerians. This is the kind of representation I want for my people.”
In his own submission, the SDP’s candidate, Dr Ridwan Apaokagi submitted:” What do you expect in a country where the president and ministers cannot be treated even for malaria? The roads are bad because public officers do not travel by road. Most patients die because they cannot afford N3,000 for medical treatment.”
Apaokagi, who canvassed for the participation of civil servants in partisan politics without losing their jobs, said: “Nigeria is going to collapse if we don’t all rise to salvage it. God will never come down to change a people’s condition unless they change it by themselves. No to money politics. We should chase away those who have ruled this country before and now out of power come 2023 by electing a new set of trusted leaders across the board.”
Earlier, the chairman of the Correspondents Chapel, AbdulHakeem Garba, had said the essence of the debate was to give the candidates the opportunity to meet with the large gathering of newsmen to sell their programmes to the public.
He commended the Biodun Fagbemi-led organising committee for a job well done.