Amid the political campaigns for the 2023 presidential election slated for February next year, many Nigerians have expressed worry about presidential candidates delegating proxies for political debates, fearing it might deny them first hand interaction with the candidates.
This is coming against the backdrop of failure by some of the leading presidential candidates to honour the last debate hosted by Arise Television.
Recall that Arise TV had organised a live debate last Sunday. The debate, which hosted presidential candidates from various political parties in Abuja to interact with Nigerians, was a collaboration between Arise TV and the Centre for Development and Democracy, CDD.
DAILY POST reported that four presidential candidates, among those invited, were present at the debate. They were the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party, Kola Abiola.
DAILY POST also reported the absence of the presidential candidates for the All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Tinubu and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, who were conspicuously missing from the debate.
The two prominent candidates failed to show up at the debate, dashing the expectations of many Nigerians who had wished to hear directly from them about their plans and programmes for the country.
Justifying the absence of its candidate at the live presidential debate, the APC’s Campaign Council had said the debate clashed with the engagements of Bola Tinubu.
The APC presidential candidate also said he would not be “railroaded” into appearing for media debates. This was disclosed in a statement through his Director of Media and Publicity, Bayo Onanuga.
On his part, the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Atiku Abubakar, was said to be on his way from Morocco and was, however, represented by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, his running mate. The party has not issued any other statement as to that regard.
However, the absence of the two prominent candidates has attracted mixed reactions from many Nigerians.
Reacting to the failure by some of the presidential candidates to honour the debate, Many Nigerians who spoke to DAILY POST expressed disappointment.
They lamented that such an act showed they won’t be accountable to the citizens, if elected into power.
“If someone who wants to be the president can’t express himself, then he is not even supposed to be a presidential candidate in the first place because as president, they will represent the country at its affairs home and abroad,” says an Abuja resident who identified himself as Lawal, a civil servant.
He added that, “Most of these actions by our government, its agencies and those seeking to lead us happen because we, the citizens, are yet to unite and act the needful.”
Another Nigerian who asked for anonymity said, “Nigerians should say no to any form of Presidency by proxy. If they can’t attend debates to tell citizens about their plans, it means they wouldn’t be accountable to Nigerians if elected.”
He went to say that the masses should hold the presidential candidate accountable.
“How can a reasonable Nigerian accept such debate. Presidential candidates were elected by parties. VP candidates were hand picked. This is why the few smart ones dribble all of us. Many of us don’t even know what our rights are, so we don’t demand it,” he said.
While speaking to the DAILY POST, a senior lecturer at the Political Science Department of the University of Abuja, who craved anonymity, explained that some of the presidential candidates lack the mental alertness to lead the entire country.
He also kicked against the refusal of some candidates to honour debates.
“When one excuses himself from such an event, it shows lack of the mental capacity to withstand the rigour of debate.
“It’s not something we should encourage, there should be repercussions for such action; nobody pushed them to vie for presidency. So they must present themselves to Nigerians to assess them, and one of them is through debate,” he said