Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Nigeria: Issues that Will drive presidential debate

After the Vice Presidential debate held on Sunday, Nigerians are now looking forward to that of the Presidential candidates billed for tomorrow.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has already said it would not be part of the debate presidential debate, just as it was absent from the Sunday event.

The party’s Director of Strategy, Dele Alake, said its presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, would not attend the debate organised by a section of the media and owners even as he accused the organisers of bias. He stressed that he could not vouch for the independence of some of the organisers.

He, however, did not disclose those he claimed have been compromised.

The Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation (PDPPCO) is insisting on the participation of the Buhari in the debate with President Goodluck Jonathan, its candidate for the February 14 presidential election.

Director of Media and Publicity of the PDPPCO, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, in a statement, in Abuja, said that the PDP was ready to attend any debate, anywhere in the country with the APC candidate even if that debate was organised by the APC’s spokesman, Lai Mohammed, and the APC itself, as long as it would be televised live.

“The decision of the APC not to participate in the debate organised by the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) on the grounds of alleged bias is baseless and absurd. The decision of the APC to boycott the debate provides ample evidence of their cowardice and their unrelenting contempt for the Nigerian people,” Fani-Kayode said.

Meanwhile, Labour Party (LP) has urged Buhari to participate in the debate.

The party said Buhari’s participation in the debate will dismiss doubts on his ability to administer the nation.

In a statement by its National Secretary, Mr Kayode Ajulo, the LP pointed out that the debate would help put issues in proper perspectives, devoid of propaganda.

According to him, “the excuse given by the APC candidate that the organisers were Federal Government agencies is not tenable because INEC too by law is a Federal Government agency. It then follows that if Buhari should boycott the debate, then he ought to also boycott the election since it is being organised by a federal agency (INEC).”

The party scribe noted that the expectations of Nigerians and the international community will be dashed if Buhari should stay away from the debate. He stated that the major contenders in the election should take advantage of the debate platform to clear all doubts about issues raised against them by their opposition.

Speaking on the importance of the debate, media consultant and a member of the Nigerian Election Debate Group (NEDG), Taiwo Alimi, said about 85 % of Nigerians made up their minds on who to vote for after the NEDG organised debate in 2011 presidential elections.

However, even as Buhari may make good its decision not to participate in the debate, just like his running mate, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Nigerians have some expectations on the issues that should dominate the exercise.

A political analyst, Haruna Lawal, posited that ‘‘it is important to ask them about the state of the nation, particularly issues relating to security and corruption. Certainly we need to ask them for a blueprint for the development of the country because we don’t have one. We need a well-articulated national development plan”.

Another analyst, Maina Magomya said: ‘‘Issues relating to how to turn the economy around; our reserves, the issue of job creation, security, what can be done differently from what is presently obtainable, which has not helped. Issues about corruption and punishment for those that have looted us blind, provision of basic infrastructure, power, our refineries and manufacturing sector. I think these are the questions that we want them to answer’’.

John Nyior submitted that the main questions should be on how each candidate will create jobs, provide security and how they intend to eliminate corruption.

Vincent Nzemeke, a Nigerian based in Germany said: ‘‘Insecurity has become the most persistent threat to Nigeria’s unity in the last few years. As a result of that, I would love to hear presidential candidates talk about how they intend to tackle the problem, if elected. They should not just make promises but come up with a workable plan that will end the menace’’.

‘‘More importantly, they should talk about how they intend to rebuild the northern economy which has been crippled by the terrorists’ activities over the years.

“Secondly, the Nigerian economy has also been dancing on the precipice in the last few years. Despite the re-basing of the GDP which made Nigeria the biggest economy in Africa, the life of an average man on the street has not improved in any way. So, anyone who wants to be president should be able to come up with a marshal plan on how to save the Nigerian economy from collapsing. Now that oil price has continued to dwindle, the presidential candidates must come up with alternative plans to diversify our economy”.

It will be recalled the issues relating to corruption, education, industrialisation, security, alternative to oil, and electricity among others were the focus of the vice presidential debate organised by BON and the NEDG.

Nigerians are of the opinion that these issues should be part of the focus of the presidential debate.


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