Elections Debate: Nigerians Urge All Political Parties To Participate

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The low turnout of political parties for the town hall meeting held recently had generated a lot of reactions as the Vice Presidential debate was being arranged.

Some stakeholders who spoke to the 247ureports.com on Tuesday in Abuja expressed disappointments and hoped that the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates would not go the same way.

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The Kowa Party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), United Progressive Party (UPP) and Citizens Popular Party (CPP) were the parties that have kept faith with the exercise so far.

Mr Chambers Okorie, a member of the UPP, viewed his party’s participation as a national commitment to propagate the good intentions of the party.

He said “we consider this to be a great campaign platform to reach more Nigerians, so it is to our advantage that we took the opportunity.’’
He, therefore, urged other political parties to encourage the culture of elections debate rather than hate speeches.

On his part, the Chairman, Nigeria Electoral Debate Group (NEDG), Mr Sola Omole, said the group could not compel attendance.

Omole, who is also the Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), said the group had duly invited all the political parties that had fielded candidates for the presidential race.

“All that we can do is to invite everybody which is what we did and so participation and attendance is left to them
“This is a platform that we are providing free so that political parties can come and educate Nigerians about their programmes.

“My hope and appeal is that all the parties and their candidate should take advantage of the opportunity,” he said.

He hoped that participation would improve as the Vice Presidential debate was the next in the series.

Mrs Abibatu Abdullahi, the Vice President, Nigeria Association of Women Journalist (NAWOJ) Zone D, expressed dismay at the failure of most of the parties invited to participate.

Abdullahi, who represented the President of NAWOJ, Mrs Ifeyinwa Omowole, said the lukewarm attitude of the political parties would forestall the exercise.

“We feel this is a valuable gift to Nigerians and therefore we are hoping that the parties will cash in on the platform to market their programmes at no cost,’’ she added.

Mr Joseph Mbah, a Public Analyst, blamed the poor attendance on perceived lack of preparation by some candidates to successfully undertake the race.

“Some of them are in the race for other reasons totally unconnected to the elections,’’ he said.

He said most politicians were not yet prepared to adhere to the tenets of the country’s democracy.

“In other climes, debates in election period opens up the vista for voters to really know who to vote for but here, they will not allow that to happen.

“We tried it in 1999, it worked to a level but since then it has not worked well again.

“I tell you, go and mark it, even the presidential debate, the public is eagerly waiting for might not come out nice,’’ he said.

Mr Anthony Oyerinde, a lawyer, said the absence of the majority of the political parties and their representatives were indicative of their lack of regard for Nigerians.

He said by now, election debates should have formed the critical points of elections deciders in the country.

“In places like the U.S. where such debates attract millions of television viewers across the country, such debates are considered the most vital aspects of the preparation.

“As a matter of fact, once upon a time, I stumbled on such debate while randomly searching through my television channels and I decided to watch it and that influenced my vote.”

Mrs Aisha Ibrahim, a public servant blamed the low turnout on the hostile reception that some of the parties received in the past.

She however said candidates that were worth their salt would surmount all vagaries to be part of the process.

“I think INEC and the organisers of the debate should do something serious to ensure that the vice presidential and presidential debate succeed.’’

NAN reports that the vice presidential debate is scheduled to hold on Wednesday.

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