The presidential debate organised by the Nigeria elections Debate Group (NEDG) and Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) at Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja on Saturda was quite revealing and indicting while it lasted. Touted as the ‘mother’ of all debates and expected to be so by most Nigerians, people from all walks of life took time out of their busy schedule to stay glued to their televisions.
Five out of the 72 candidates vying for the presidential post were invited for the debate: Fela Durotoye of Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) , Kingsley Moghalu of Young Progressive Party (YPP), Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Obiageli Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN). Four of these invited candidates ‘came’ for the debate. However, minutes before the commencement of the debate, Atiku walked out.
Here are the deductions from the debate.
Atiku, Buhari Gave Nigerians the Middle Finger
Muhammadu Buhari, the incumbent President, hinged his absence on his participation in a twon-hall debate on Wednesday and his ‘hectic schedule’. Atiku, who had earlier travelled back from the United States Of America (USA), where he went for his two-day 'vindication journey', passed his note of non-participation to the umpire just in the nick of time. He cited the absence of his only match among the candidates from the ring of debate. Atiku showed up but could not step up and enter the ring for contest of ideas. But why did the former Vice-President waste hours and resources in formulating his Atiku Plan when he is unwilling to speak to Nigerians? Why did he travel 10,661km all the way from the United States when he knew he would not debate and sell his ideas to Nigerians?
Deduction: The former Vice-President’s excuse seems implausible and ridiculous considering the fact that he has always attacked the same Buhari on the pages of newspaper and on Internet on matters ranging from the profound to the petty. Perhaps Atiku and Buhari — both septuagenarians — are bent on entrenching GERONTOCRACY in Nigeria. They arrogantly think the election is a two-horse race. Atiku knew that in the absence of his fellow septuagenarian, who is his main target, the younger candidates will turn him to their target and make a mincemeat of him. So he fled the scene of intellectual battle.
Moghalu’s opening salvo was a pointed question: Are we a nation? This is a question that borders on identification. Has the place we refer to as Nigeria evolved into a nation? Is it a mere geographical expression (apologies of Obafemi Awolowo)? Is Nigeria a mere notion striving to transform into a nation or an amalgam of disparate ethnicities cobbled together by its colonial masters for selfish gain?
Deduction: Since Moghalu is from the eastern part of the country and there has been vociferous clamour for secession from the current contraption by people from that part of the country, he should have been asked what he thinks of a secessionist state of Biafra.
Moghalu Took A Swipe At Buhari
Without wasting words, the presidential candidate of YPP promised not to relegate women to oblivion in the administration. He said “they [women] will have a seat at the table”. Taking a swipe at Buhari who had said the influence of her wife is confined to the kitchen and the “other room” — a subtle way of strengthening patriarchy — Moghalu promised to destroy patriarchy and allow and all-inclusive government.
Deduction: It seems Moghalu is sincerely committed to giving women equal participation in his administration. He chose 37-year-old Umman Getso as his running mate and sometime last year he said: “I restate my target of 50:50 gender parity in the composition of my cabinet as President of Nigeria in 2019”. Women may find a worthy ally and advocate in Moghalu
Moghalu on Reduction Of Recurrent Expenditure
He promised to reduce recurrent expenditure by 50%. His method will be through political will and this will be achieved within two years.
Deduction: Perhaps the YPP’s presidential candidate forgot in the heat of the debate that we are in a democracy and he will have the National Assembly to deal with for the ratification of most of his actions before they become implementable. He might not have supporters in the office even if he wins the elections considering the fact that he is from a fringe party.
Moghalu On Atiku And Buhari’s Absence
Moghalu believed their absence is the beginning of Nigerians’ emancipation from the shackles of bad leadership and their absence is a reflection of their emptiness. His words: “They are not here because they cannot answer the intricate questions of the economy”.
Deduction: Moghalu’s ideas and answers looked smart on paper but how implementable are his policies. This is because they seem theoretical.
Durotoye promised that his government would focus on three sectors: agriculture , housing and road construction.
On Reduction Of Cost Of Government
Durotoye promised that there would be penalties for not paying taxes. He also promised to be riding in a bus that carries other ministers. We just hope this won’t turn out to be an empty promise from Durotoye because Nigerians don’t forget. The incumbent president promised not to travel abroad for medical treatment but…. By the way, when was the last time Durotoye rode in a bus?
On The Absence Of Atiku and Buhari’s Absence
The ANN presidential candidate believes that old things have passed away and leadership is truly about people who respect people .
Durotoye said there will be heavy investment on drones to monitor our borders On Education
He said the Nigerian Educational System has been churning certificated graduates and not qualified and truly educated ones. He promised to make our educational system to focus more on qualifiacation and not certification. He also said he would ensure that all citizens have access to fundamental education.
Deduction On Durotoye’s Answers To National Issues:
Though his thoughts were well-coordinated and presented, oftentimes in the debate his answers looked like string of clichés . They often seemed perfunctory and regurgitated, a kind of straight-from-the-book stuff. Like when he said “I want a Nigeria where the son of nobody can become somebody without the help of anybody”. This starts as lofty as it looks on the surface sounds glib!
The former minister of education sole claim to competence is her experience at the National level as a minister. She said “ I bring with me a track record of being able to fix problems”
Oby On Poverty
She promised to liberate 80 million Nigerians from the shackles of poverty.
Deduction: How realisable is this? 'Madam Due Process' did not specify when she targets to achieve this in the course of her administration.
On Atiku, Buhari’s Absence
She said “I am not surprised they are not here. They have just simply announced their exit from governance.”
Deduction: But for her activism in recent years, some would have tied her with the same brush with the likes of Obasanjo and Atiku who happened to be her bosses when she served as a Minister.
Oby said: “Number one is to send signal that there is a new sheriff in town. We will set up a SWOT team made up of the best brains in the country.”
Deduction: This sounds too banal and somewhat heroic, especially when one considers Oby’s years of activism when it comes to national issues. She’s been in the vanguard of the 'Bring Back of Girls Movement'. One expected an in-depth analysis of our security challenges and “provision” of sound and workable solutions to the problem of insecurity.
Even her submission on education looks vague. She said “we will focus on technical and innovative education”. For somebody who once served as Education Minister, her response to education was below par.
However, the three presidential candidates were on their mettle yesterday and proved that they hold the electorate in high regard and ready to play a ping-pong of ideas, unlike the other two candidates who chickened out.