2019: Must candidates be subjected to debate?


I think the suggestion by INEC that candidates should engage in debates in 2019 is very good but of course, Buhari will never honour it because he is not capable of engaging in a debate. So, no matter how many times INEC asks for debates, Buhari will never debate with any intelligent person. The only person in the APC that may be capable of engaging in a debate is Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State. Debating is part of the democratic culture. It is part of the ethos of democracy to have public debates on live television before the electorate. The president is the person that should be answering this question because he has avoided debates. As it is now, you cannot compel anyone to debate except there is a law. But even in the United States, there is no law that compels anyone from engaging in a debate. It is by volition. But because we have an irresponsible leadership in this country which is epitomised by Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo, they will never come out to debate with any sensible person. And this reflects a lack of respect for the electorate. Also, the National Assembly will not be able to make it a law because Buhari still has substantial support among some of the lawmakers. So, everything we are saying is pie in the sky. It is an ideal that will never come to pass before 2019 because we have an irresponsible leadership that has no respect for the electorate. Even if the National Assembly passes a law compelling people to come for debates, these people will choose their audience and ensure that it is not aired live. In fact, on the day of the debate, someone like Buhari may say he is indisposed and would send his campaign director to represent him. I, Femi Fani-Kayode, challenge them to any debate anywhere, anytime and on any issue on live television and let us see if they will come. They can never come forward to debate. What will be Buhari’s response for the killing of Christians under his watch? •Femi Fani-Kayode (A former Minister of Aviation)

Yes they should be subjected to debates to answer serious questions in relation to contemporary events in the country. If there has ever been a time when the electoral consciousness and awareness of Nigerians has ever been awoken, I think it is now. Nigerians need leaders that are proactive; leaders that can be engaged in national and international discourse in every aspect of life. Nigerian youths are hungry, pitiable, and unemployed. It is risky now than ever to vote for someone who does not have solutions to many of the problems that confront us. I believe in the debates. The debates should be extended to governorship candidates and not only for the presidential candidates and their running mates. If we don’t produce leaders that can elevate the country educationally, technologically, and entrench the rule of law, the least country in Africa that has got its act right may overtake us. The debates, to me, are crucial to determining whom we are going to vote for. And when the debates are organised, I will like the panels to draw questions from every sector of our economy, legal, education and ask them contemporary questions. What might be the highest technology of yesteryears are nonsense today. We need men of knowledge with proactive ways of approaching things to lead the country. We cannot continue to be in darkness in this 21st century. How long will it take Nigeria to have power supply? Elections are serious matters. I advise every citizen to have their Permanent Voter Cards so that they can make their choices at the elections. And if after the debates, the people still vote for those they want based on sentiment, it will mean that Nigerians have a problem. •Emmanuel Obot (A legal practitioner)

Yes, of course, they have to because this is about democracy and aspirants or candidates need to make promises, vows or manifestos of what they will do for the people if elected. So they are supposed to be subjected to debate. The debate can be done in two ways. The candidates will make themselves available for the debate in the mass media, both print and electronic. If any candidate fails to honour an invitation for a debate that should negatively impact on him or it should automatically disqualify such a candidate. There should be no candidate worth his salt who should shy away from telling his people, especially members of his constituency, what he wants to do for them. Every candidate must allow those who would vote him into office to ask some questions and he should be able to provide them with an answer. With that, he should be able to set up a project, and have the people know what he should do for the constituency when elected. The debate is there to be able to provide a platform to know the candidate so that when he wins, he will remember what he has promised and what he will be doing. It will be an assessment chart. My advice is that whatever the candidate promises should align with the party’s promises or manifesto; he should only promise what he can do because he will be held accountable for his promises when he gets into office. •Mohammed Ohiare (An ex-lawmaker)

I think the recommendation by INEC is a step in the right direction. Don’t forget that some independent organisations have been trying to put this in place but unfortunately, the response has not been encouraging because some of the presidential candidates in the past just chose to stay away and by so doing, denied the people the opportunity of knowing their thoughts on issues. INEC, as a regulatory authority, can only advice. Once it is not a law, you cannot compel anyone to appear for a debate but debating is desirable. It is a way of letting the electorate know what the candidates have planned for them. I support it completely. It is an established norm in developed countries like in the United States, Britain and other countries. Organisations in the US that organise such debates are independent in nature. It is good for the democratic process. I am aware that there was a bill introduced in the National Assembly in Nigeria some years ago to establish the tradition of presidential debates and making it into a law. It was a private-member bill but I don’t know how far the bill has gone. I don’t know the current status of the bill. If it is established by law, it becomes compelling and I think it will deepen democracy. •Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora (An ex-lawmaker)

I think it is a right suggestion. It is timely and overdue. It is something that will test the credibility of those who are running for certain offices. It is something that should be encouraged. If people can participate, it will be worthwhile. People will be able to raise questions on issues. It doesn’t need to be made a law. It is only a political exigency. Without making it a law, it could be part of the electoral regulation. Let us test it as it is now before exploring the option of making it a law. •Dr. Anthony Okeregbe (Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, University of Lagos)

Compiled by: Eniola Akinkuotu, Success Nwogu and Etim Epimah



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