3rd January, 2019
PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: GIVE ALL CANDIDATES LEVEL PLAYING GROUND
As Nigerians warm up for the next presidential debate later this month (January 2019), the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has warned that the organizers must give all candidates a level playing ground.
It will be recalled that Eddi Emesiri, the executive secretary of the Nigeria Election Debates Group, listed political parties that would participate in the debate held on 14th December, 2018 at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel as Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN); Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN); All Progressives Congress (APC); Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Young Progressives Party (YPP).
This did not go down well with other political parties and the candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore stormed the venue with his supporters to protest the exclusion of his running mate, Dr. Rabiu Ahmed Rufai.
“We strongly condemn the exclusion of candidates who are willing to participate in debates. No candidate should have been excluded. What is worth doing at all is worth doing well. The organizers should have prepared an all-inclusive roster indicating the date and time of each candidate’s turn in the debates. Nigerians deserve an explanation on the criteria used to arrive at the choice of only five candidates for that debate. Why was Dr. Rabiu Ahmed Rufai excluded? On what ground were others like him also marginalized?
“Of course we blame those who compelled the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to register every Dick and Harry who applied for registration as a political party. INEC should have been allowed to set the rules and to request for certain criteria. Nigeria had 68 political parties as at January 2018. They became 91 in August. This is clumsy.
“Yet this proliferation does not hinder inclusiveness in any way if the organizers do their home work meticulously. Afterall 32 countries participated in the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia and each team had its own chance to showcase its skill.
“Our democracy must be fully participatory, not partially inclusive. That is why foremost scientist, Jack Lively defined democracy as a ‘situation of equality’. Margolis Michael was more succinct as he called it ‘equal opportunity to participate’. We contend, therefore, that our democracy remains a sham until every candidate is given ‘equal opportunity to participate’.
“For the debates to earn the much desired credibility, the Nigeria Election Debate Group is advised to consult widely among the registered political parties. The possibility of truncating a much publicized debate through a court injunction brought by a marginalized political party cannot be ruled out. This is why the organizers have to work very hard to ensure hitch-free debates.
“In our own opinion, candidates who prefer to opt out of debates should be allowed to do so. There are silent achievers who have correct ideas. A candidate may not feel compelled to attend any debate if he has a clear vision that can guide him to his mission or if he is certain that his antecedent is enough to speak for him. Action speaks louder than voice while oratory on the podium can be misleading sometimes.
“As we round off, we call for fairness in the handling of debates. The organizers must give all candidates a level playing ground. No candidate, no matter how unimportant, must be put at a disadvantage while none, no matter how highly placed, must be favoured in any manner”.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)