The shunning of the Saturday’s presidential debate by President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar really hurt other candidates who expressed dismay over the situation.
President Buhari of All Progressives Congress (APC) had earlier indicated he would not attend the debate while Abubakar assured the nation he would attend.
While President Buhari did not show up at all, Atiku showed up at the venue only to leave without participating in the event.
He blamed his decision on Buhari’s absence.
The debate was organised by Nigeria Elections Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria at the Trans-corp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
The situation infuriated the presidential candidates of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Alliance for New Democracy (ANN), and Young Progressives Party (YPP) who were at the debate.
Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili of ACPN, Mr. Fela Durtotoye of ANN, and Mr. Kingsley Moghalu of YPP, who were at the presidential debate expressed disgust over the refusal of the main candidates to honour the debate.
They said the absence of Buhari and Atiku indicated that they and their parties have no regard for Nigerians and lacked the answers to critical questions.
Ezekwesili said: “I’m not surprised they are not here. They have just simply announced their exit from the governance of our country.
“I think it is important for us to acknowledge that there is a political class that needs to fade away from our country because the idea that the will of the people will be subordinated to the whims and caprices of our politicians should be a total anomaly.
“Today, as we in this country focus on the ideas that will develop our country if the two dominant parties cared about the Nigerian people, they would come here in order to have a contest of ideas on how we would fix Nigeria.
“I must let you know that for the Nigerian people, this is a moment to make a clear judgment 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 into politics but because we believe it is time for a new kind of governance in Nigeria.”
Moghalu said that the absence of the heavyweights was a display of arrogance.
“I am not at all surprised that the leaders of the APC and the PDP have decided to turn their back on the people of Nigeria and tell them finally, they never amounted to much in their eyes.
“The reason why they are not here: one is arrogance. They believe the people of Nigeria have no voice and no choice. They believe that you cannot move away from them.
“They believe they have trapped you, they have kept you in bondage for over too long and it is now time for us to send them a message. The second reason why they are not here is because they cannot answer the questions. Very simple, very straight-forward. They belong to the old class of recycled politicians who want to come to power with a sense of entitlement.”
Durotoye stressed that both Buhari and Atiku have set themselves up for a fall.
“Well, it seems that the future is here. Pride always comes before a fall and every time you believe that there is no need to tell the people the things you are going to do, it means you are not there to serve them in the first place; you are going to rule over them.
Opening talks on the nation’s economy, Moghalu said the country currently lacked an economic philosophy.
He stated that the country must first decide whether it is practicing a capitalist or socialist ideology.
“So, my approach to the Nigerian economy is first to focus on reforming the educational system; ensure that our young people have the skills that can make them competitive in the 21st century and the skills that can give them jobs or help them to set up their own jobs.
“Then we will give them access to finance which my government will do through the creation of N1 trillion venture capital fund which will give equity capital, not loans that will have to be repaid.
“This is because loans carry interests in Nigeria that is too high or we may not have the collateral to be able to access them.
“So, we will invest in new businesses that will create millions of jobs within the first four years.
“Therefore, the approach that we will have is skill, capital and literacy, that is what will fix the Nigerian economy and take it into industrialisation,’’ Moghalu said.
On his plan for economic diversification especially through building the non-oil sector, Durotoye identified agriculture, housing and infrastructure as the most important sectors that should be focused on.
He said his government would ensure that it fixed the power sector, roads and provide housing for Nigerians, adding that his plan is to provide 30 million jobs.
He said the commodity sector needed to be strengthened so that farmers could have their produce promptly cleared.
On her part, Ezekwesili said her plan is to lift at least 80 million Nigerians out of poverty through improvement in the productivity of majority of Nigerians who “earn less than N700 a day’’.
To do this, she said her government would evolve policies and programmes targeting people engaged in the services sector which constitutes about 60 per cent of the country’s GDP.
On their their strategies to tackle insecurity in the country, Moghalu said he would abolish corruption in the military if elected as president.
Moghalu said his administration would ensure high level of intelligence gathering among the locals while collaborating with neighbouring countries to tackle terrorism.
He identified bad economy as the major factor feeding insecurity in the country saying if elected, his administration would ensure the economy booms.
Moghalu said that additional policemen would be recruited, trained and equipped to create a 21st century police force that would tackle kidnapping and other crimes.
On his part, Durotoye said if elected, he would ensure security agencies are strengthened to do their job well.
Durotoye said under his administration, the leadership of security agencies would not be based on sentiment but competence and professionalism.
He said men and officers of various security agencies would be properly motivated with modern and standard equipment, vehicles among others.
Durotoye said his administration would ensure that officers and men of the military would be properly taken care of while they are alive and their families would be catered for when they pass away.
He said under his watch, security would be in the hands of the citizens as he plans to run participatory government with a new ideology.
Ezekwesili said she would send a sharp message that “there is a new sheriff in town.”
According to her, those who engage in savagery know that there is no consistency for their actions as the judiciary has not convicted anyone.
Ezekwesili said if elected, she would ensure a SWART team for quick response and technology would be deployed to gather intelligence.
She said her administration would ensure that intelligent officers would be identified and given leadership roles (NAN)