Oby Ezekwesili, presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), says the absence of the Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), respectively, is an announcement of their exit from governance.
She stated this at the presidential debate organised by the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), currently taking place in Abuja.
While Buhari had refused to turn up at all, Atiku was present earlier but later left the venue, premising his decision on the absence of Buhari.
Her words: "I'm not surprised they are not here. They have just simply announced their exit from governance. I think it is important for us to acknowledge that there is a political class that simply needs to fade away from our country, because the idea that the will of the people will be subjected to the whims and caprices of our politicians should be a total anomaly.
"Today, as we in this country focus on competitive ideas that will develop our country, if the two political parties cared about the Nigerian people, they would come here in order to have a contest of ideas on how we will fix Nigeria.
"Mark, I must let you know that for the Nigerian people, this is a moment to make a clear judgement as to whether we are connected to the issues that matter to the Nigerian people. We showed up for this debate not because we are new entrants [sic] into politics — and I hope I speak for my two colleagues — but because we believe that it is time for a new kind governance in Nigeria.
"It is time for the citizens of this country to take complete charge of the destiny of Nigeria, and so we stand before you today not because we are the best in the country, but because we come with a sense that our country needs to be immediately rescued from the stranglehold of poor governance, bad politics and governance failure. I represent a mindset where the citizens who occupy the highest office in the land and give legitimacy to politics should become the drivers of the future of this country and it starts now."
Sharing her plans on alleviating poverty, she said her administration's target is to get at least 80 million Nigerians out of poverty if her party wins the next presidential election.
She continued: “Our plan is to lift at least 80 million people out of poverty. How we are going to do it is that we will look at Nigerians who are poor. It is very clear that they are poor because they earn less than N700 a day and live on it.
“What therefore needs to happen is that this majority of Nigerians, over 50 per cent of them, would need to increase their productivity. When people have higher productivity, they earn more and when they earn more, they lift themselves out of poverty.”
She also said she would empower women, as women have proven to be more productive than their male counterparts when empowered.