The Ondo governorship election debate on Monday raised new controversies ahead of the polls, as Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy and Jimoh Ibrahim of the Peoples Democratic Party expressed divergent opinions on the abolition of personal income taxes and security votes.
It was a straight fight between Messrs. Oke and Ibrahim who toed different paths in proffering solutions to the problems facing the state.
Although Mr. Oke showed more understanding of the workings of government and had a clearer focus on how to deal with the problems, Mr. Ibrahim’s propositions appeared to be more innovative and sometimes bogus.
Mr. Ibrahim, while answering the question on how he would deal with the economic recession in the state, said he would approach the problem by abolishing personal income taxes of workers.
He said it was unreasonable to tax workers who had not earned salaries for several months.
“It is a common knowledge that you cannot fight recession while taxing the people, so when we come into office we will immediately abolish personal income taxes,” he said.
It was Mr. Ibrahim’s argument that instead of raising revenues from taxes, the workers would be made to contribute in such a manner that the amount realised would be used for infrastructural development.
Mr. Ibrahim also said he would increase minimum wage from N18, 000 to N75, 000 as soon as he takes over as governor.
“You cannot achieve the required development with workers who are hungry,” he said.
He said in his companies, the entering pay package for staff was N75, 000, arguing that the state had enough to pay workers.
According to him, more workers would be hired to drive the needed development, saying the economic revival of the state would need more men and women.
Mr. Oke, who disagreed with Mr. Ibrahim’s propositions, said removing personal income tax would not be advisable in curbing the ongoing recession.
“I will not abolish personal income tax because it is statutory,” Mr. Oke said. “What we will do is to ensure effective ways of collecting taxes.”
Mr. Oke said increasing minimum wage would not be feasible given the huge backlog of salaries owners.
He said for one year of his administration increasing minimum wage would not be on his agenda, but would focus on clearing the backlog of salaries owed the workers.
The candidates also had a contention over the administration of security votes. It was the submission of Mr. Ibrahim that votes for security was unnecessary and a product of corruption.
“Security votes is a fraud,” he declared. “I will not spent government funds to protect myself.”
Instead, he said he would provide five percent of gross federal allocation to the state for traditional rulers to help administer security and development at the local level.
On this, Mr. Oke disagreed again with Mr. Ibrahim, saying he would retain the administration of security votes.
He noted that he would ensure that the amount voted for security was reduced and its application transparent.
“There are things the governor does on security that cannot go through the bottlenecks of bureaucracy,” he said.
Olu Agunloye of the Social Democratic Party, who was in most part evasive in answering direct questions, did not offer any solutions on the security.
He however said the minimum wage issue was a fraud, arguing the increments were irregular and fraudulent. He had no time to offer solutions.
He said he would be tough on insecurity and would ensure herdsmen abide by the laws for peaceful coexistence.
Mr. Agunloye said he would ensure pensioners get paid without difficulty. He said corruption was causing poverty in the state.
On funding of elections, Mr. Oke denied being funded by the national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu. He did not declare how much he had spent so far in the campaigns.
Mr. Agunloye also denied receiving any funding emanating from corruption, and defended his party’s leader, Olu Falae, on the N100 million received from the Jonathan administration for the 2015 presidential election.
He said Mr. Falae did not collect any money from the office of the NSA, as alleged, but was a product of an agreement between the PDP and the SDP.
The candidates were in agreement on the need to involve the private sector in the revival of the economy. They were also on the same page on the issue of creating jobs through revamping moribund industries in the state.
The candidates advocated free education at primary and secondary levels, with a twist from Ibrahim, who promised to covert 100 government schools to boarding system, and reinstating the order of seniority I’m the schools to restore discipline.
The candidates, when asked to ask themselves questions, were preoccupied with having the support of their opponents if they emerged winner on Saturday.
The fourth candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu, of the All Progressives Congress, did not attend the debate.
His media office in a statement on Monday, said Mr. Akeredolu could not be part of the debate because he was away in Ilaje local government for his campaign.