by Emmanuel Osanedum
Y! was Media Partner for the country’s first youth-focused gubernatorial debate hosted by EnoughisEnough Nigeria in partnership with the Cross River-based Aftershool Peer Mentorship Project.
The immediate past governor Liyel Imoke (People’s Democratic Party) declined to attend and the candidate of the All Nigeria People’s Party cancelled attendance following the ex-governor’s absence. However, Pastor Usani Usani of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Dr. Theo Onyuku of the Hope Democratic Party and Mrs. Nsa Adegoke of the Labour Party were present at the Cultural Centre Complex venue in Calabar.
Unfortunately, as the non-PDP candidates had predicted, the Cross River Broadcasting Service, which had been paid for a live broadcast, suddenly refused to cover the event – either live or recorded. It was instead streamed live over the internet and had an audience of hundreds of young people.
Our reporter shares some of the striking highlights from the trip.
1. Young people don’t trust the political process
Yes, they came out for the debate, but there could have been more of them (there were thousands at the PDP rally a day earlier). And speaking to the young people in the state, there is a strong sense that the entire political process is viewed as already hi-jacked by the “powers that be”, whether they be the Presidency, the Independent National Electoral Commission or the ruling party.
2. Election turnout will be low
No doubt about that. It might not be as bad as what happened when President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP conquered Bayelsa two weeks ago, but there is a preponderance of anecdotal evidence from our interviews that citizens will vote with their arm-chairs on Saturday. This election, as far as many are concerned, has already been won and lost.
3. The PDP will likely win
Two of the questions at the debate spoke directly to the lack of rigorous opposition campaigning, in terms of funding, mobilisation and reach, and while the candidates opposed this assumption, it is one that seems supported by the facts of PDP’s well-developed and state wide machinery. We won’t certainly be surprised if Imoke carries the day when results are announced Sunday – and carries it big.
4. Everyone hates Tinapa
It’s amazing the scorn and disgust with which the much-talked-about resort launched by the charismatic Donald Duke (who remains largely popular) is viewed. Now distinctly defined by inactivity, the resort (and its attendant debt profile) is widely regarded, even within government, as a significant altar to government waste.
5. The Devil’s Carnival?
We heard it first from one of the young people – who claimed that the general lax atmosphere and free money from the carnival has led many young people astray. We thought it was a fringe view, until one of the candidates actually linked the Calabar Carnival to “moral decadence” as well as increase in HIV/AIDS. Don’t ask us, we’re still in shock.
6. None of the other candidates are ready
It’s sad, but it’s also true. The debate showed passionate, perhaps borderline competent candidates, but beyond the usual rhetoric and Dr. Onyuku’s compelling bombast, there was no stand-out performance that stood in sharp contrast to the PDP option in the state. The candidates also couldn’t, after all said and done, show how exactly they have cleared their paths to victory.
7. Imoke is working (sometimes)
You’d think with the apathy, the now-familiar animosity towards the PDP and everything else, there’d be a uniform dislike of Liyel Imoke, right? Wrong. Interestingly, young people in the state have a clear sense of what he’s done right and what he’s done wrong. He has been impressive with education infrastructure, rural electrification and other things for instance, they will tell you.
8. Freedom of speech? Check the neighbouring state
Candidates routinely complain of media space manipulation by ruling parties – but in Cross River State it is no exaggeration. There is no free media in the state and that is a fact. Opposition candidates are unable to place advertising in the state’s only radio and TV stations. And ultimately, the General Manager of the Cross River Broadcasting Service flat-out refused to air the debate.
9. We like Nsa Adegoke
Ok, this is most likely what Nigerians call ‘out of point’, but can we just say we absolutely heart the Labour Party candidate? She said nothing out of this world, that much we’d admit, but there’s just something about her debate performance and her carriage that’s regal and dignified. When she speaks, you just want to sit at her feet and listen. Bless her heart.
10. #InCaseYouMissedIt: There’s no more oil!
A small detail for people who mightn’t know – Cross River is really no longer an oil producing state; which is why it gets the least allocation of all the South-South states from the federal purse. For one, General (all puns intended) Olusegun Obasanjo ceded all that oil to Bakassi many years ago, and then in the first term of Liyel Imoke, the courts have ordered almost all of the remaining oil fields to neighbouring Akwa-Ibom. Sad, we know. Well at least, they have palm-oil!