AMBODE, AGBAJE AND OTHERS LOCK HORNS AT DEBATE ORGANISED BY LAGOS WEST DIOCESE

Ten of the 17 governorship candidates in Lagos have outlined their plans to transform the state into one of the best in the world.

It was at a debate organised by the Diocese of Lagos West (Anglican Communion), in conjunction with the Dioceses of Badagry and Lagos Mainland. It was held at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral, GRA, Ikeja on Thursday, February 15, 2015. One wonder the crowd at the debate being a working day which is an indication that the Lagosians are really considering voting the right Governor into power.

The Gubernatorial candidates present at the debate were as follows
Akinwunmi Ambode, All Progressives Congress (APC);
Adeniji Victor of Kowa Party (KP);
Jimi Agbaje, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP);
Akele Ayodele, National Conscience Party (NCP);
Ishola Aregbesola, Action Alliance (AA);
Izuchukwu Edion, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA);
Jacobs Kayode, Mega Progressives Peoples Party (MPPP);
Lawal Omoshola, Independent Democrats (ID);
Ogunseye Bolaji, Alliance for Democracy (AD) and
Michael Popoola, the running mate of the Labour Party (LP) candidate Olulana Olurotimi.

While welcoming the participants to the debate, the chief host and facilitator, The Bishop of theDiocese of Lagos West, the Rt. Revd. Dr. James Olusola Odedeji, said it is the way of church encouraging the emergence of the best leaders in Lagos. �We seize this opportunity to call on all agencies involved in the conduct of the elections to be God-fearing in discharging their responsibilities. We call on INEC, security agencies, media and civil society organisations to be fair to all, and realise that they will give account of their stewardship one day to their creator,� Odedeji said. He also pointed out that, �for the avoidance of doubt, let it be noted that we neither solicited nor received any form of financial support from any political party, candidate, individual or group. It is a fulfilment of what we consider our corporate social responsibility�, the Bishop said.

The Bishop Theologian of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Rt. Revd. Prof. Dapo Asaju was the moderator, while Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) President Femi Adesina, Managing Director, Excel Professional Services Limited, Dr Oladimeji Alao and Managing Director, Businessworld Newspapers, Ray Echebiri, were the panelists.

After the candidates made their opening remarks, introducing themselves and the motivation for seeking to occupy the Lagos Roundhouse, the panellists asked questions on what would be the state�s relationship with the Federal Government under them; how they would ensure harmony; what they think is wrong with education, and how they intend to generate funds to develop the state in the face of falling oil prices. Members of the audience also asked questions.

Expectedly, the focus was on those considered the two major contenders, Agbaje and Ambode, who threw mild barbs at each other. Ambode leveraged on his public service record that saw him occupy the office of Accountant General of the Federation before he retired at 49 years of age, but Agbaje believes that experience in public service is not a guarantee for good Agbaje said the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and even President Goodluck Jonathan had no previous experience in public service before they won elections. He said his experience in the private sector, which includes managing a small scale business and becoming an industrialist, is enough.

�I bring to you change�new ideas with a fresh perspective to move Lagos forward,� the PDP candidate said. Agbaje who had contested the same position in 2007 on the platform of the Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA), criticised the Lagos State government for �the tax burden � on the taxpayers in the state and promised to reverse the trend if elected the governor. The PDP candidate said his vision was to create �a global megacity of well-educated, healthy, skilled people living in a secure and prosperous environment�. He added: �It is also important for the state to bring opportunities to the people, irrespective of their socio-economic background, gender, tribe or religion. �People didn�t come to Lagos to look at Eko Bridge. They have come to realise their professional, commercial and entrepreneurial aspirations.Agbaje said under his leadership, Lagos would promote transparency, openness and honesty, not �vested interests�. He said the state government had done very little to motivate teachers to put in their best. He said the schools are poorly funded and would need new ideas to turn things around in the interest of the people. Agbaje went on: �Today we have a situation where the state spends about three percent of the budget on primary education.�It means it spends little or nothing on primary education. And that is the key; once you don�t have that foundation, then you build on nothing. We�re not talking about reinventing the wheel; we�re talking about bold ideas and new opportunities.�

Agbaje said the current 1.5 per cent of the budgets spent vocational skills is like paying lip service to it. �We don�t want to create welders for burglary proof. We want to create welders for the oil and gas industry,� he added. Ambode fired back, saying of Jonathan�s lack of previous experience: �he had no previous experience, but look at the result today. We�re not going there for trial and error.�

The APC candidate said the emphasis should be on �relevant experience, not experiment. �Lagosians are looking for somebody who can take them to a more prosperous Lagos and can even make their own children more prosperous. We�re looking for a Lagos that will work for all of us. I have served under the last two governors, and you will see that in the last 16 years, we have had a tradition of excellence. It�s that excellence that I want to pursue.

Ambode said the so-called �vested interests� had made Lagos safer and more prosperous. He said those with the �vested interests� are those who have the interest of the ordinary Lagosian at heart. He added that his administration would be driven by quality service, equity and justice.�

The Lagos APC candidate said, �the state is a safer and cleaner place. It�s been prosperous. There has been steady growth and development. We are looking for someone who is going to take it to a more prosperous level. My message remains Lagos. And what does LAGOS stand for? �L� is for Leadership. We�re looking for strong leadership. �A� stands for Accountability. I will be accountable to you. �G� stands for Governance. �One of the basic tenets of good governance is to allow you to have a voice. And when you have a voice, it becomes a government of inclusion. We'll create opportunities that will allow you to thrive. Everybody wants a comfortable life, and the government is ready to create more opportunities than ever before. stands for Service. We'll give you selfless service. The three major issues in my mission are security, to create more jobs, and integrate other sectors to allow the economy of Lagos to thrive.

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