Drama, Intriques As Four Presidential Candidates Face Arise TV Panel
From sterling performance by some presidential candidates, to expression of displeasure by citizens over absenteeism, Udora Orizu x-rays key takeaway from the Arise TV first town hall meeting with four presidential candidates ahead of the 2023 general election
On November 6, 2022, Arise News Channel, held its first series of town hall meetings, in Abuja with four of the frontline presidential candidates in the 2023 general election. The meeting organized by Arise Television, in partnership with Center for Development and Democracy (CDD) and other partners, was for the candidates to tell Nigerians their plans for the country if elected President come 2023.
At the meeting were a former Governor of Anambra State and presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi; former governor of Kano State and presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Rabiu Kwankwaso; the Governor of Delta State and vice-presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ifeanyi Okowa, who stood in for his principal, Atiku Abubakar, and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Mr. Kola Abiola.
The town hall meeting, which trended nationwide, had sterling performances by some presidential candidates, and as well slight drama over false utterance and absence of the presidential candidates of the two major political parties, APC and PDP.
The Drama, Intrigues
As expected, while most town hall gatherings end in fruitful deliberations, it however sometimes lead to fistfights and exchange of words.
When announced by Arise TV/CDD, the meeting tagged, “Presidential Town Hall Meeting on Security and Economy,” piqued the curiosity and interest of Nigerians who were eager to know what the parties’ candidates have in the offing if elected President in 2023.
Shortly before the commencement of the meeting, protests erupted over the representation of the PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, by his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa and the absence of the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate, Bola Tinubu.
While candidates of Labour Party, NNPP, and Atiku’s running mate were all seated, the ruling APC’s flag bearer Tinubu was conspicuously absent with no reason, and was also not represented.
Frowning at the development, supporters of other presidential candidates insisted on “No representation by proxy,” hence Governor Okowa must step down, since the meeting was for presidential candidates only. They also faulted Tinubu’s absence, noting that he has avoided similar events by the body of lawyers, NBA, and the body of chartered accountants, ICAN.
As they argued it took several appeals to calm frayed nerves and bring the angry supporters to agreement, for Okowa to stay on and for Kola Abiola of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) to replace APC’s vacant seat at the meeting.
Reacting later to why Tinubu was absent at the Sunday’s event, the spokesperson of the APC’s Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), Festus Keyamo, said Tinubu did not attend to avoid “selective appearance.”
Keyamo, in a statement, explained that several television stations have indicated interest to host similar events, however Tinubu has no plan to attend any but prefers to speak to Nigerians directly.
A slight drama also played out, as Labour Party’s candidate, Peter Obi, cautioned Senator Dino Melaye over false utterance.
Drama started when Melaye, who’s the Spokesperson, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Management Committee, tagged an attendee of the meeting ‘Obi people.’
On hearing the words of Dino, Peter Obi snapped at the PDP official.
Obi said: “Stop that Dino. I have taken too much from you here. Why are you always calling me? I won’t take that. This man is from ANPP. Why are you calling him Obi people?”
As Dino feigned ignorance, Peter Obi, insisted that he will not condone such behavior.
Aside the drama and protests, as citizens praised Arise TV for the initiative, they also took to their various social accounts to analyze the performances of the four candidates.
As Peter Obi and Kwankwaso response to questions were described by majority as sterling, dissenting opinions trailed PRP’s Kola Abiola and PDP’s Okowa.
A Twitter user, @DearestJessica wrote, “Peter Obi has proved beyond reasonable doubts that he’s over qualified and we’ll knowledgeable. As for Kola Abiola, he should go and contest for councillor seat first.”
Another user, @Jp_clem1 wrote, “the most intelligent Igbo man running for president is Peter Obi, the most intelligent Hausa man running for president is Kwankwaso, the most intelligent Yoruba man running for president is Kola Abiola. But you know what, among all we are giving Peter Obi a try.”
Another user, @sadiyahamza41 wrote, “please, how did Kola Abiola become the presidential candidate of PRP? I think he needs some contextual understanding of the governance structure in Nigeria “.
Also, @nnamdiia wrote, “Obi and Kwankwaso are doing well. Kola Abiola is trying. Okowa is a huge disappointment even to his supporters. Atiku must be watching and a little disappointed.”
Candidates Lay Out Agendas
During the question and answer session Peter Obi stole the show with his consistent verifiable figures.
The Presidential candidate of Labour Party lamented the level of poverty in the north, saying it was unacceptable, given the amount of arable lands available for agricultural purposes in the region, even as he insisted on the removal of fuel subsidy if he is elected president next year.
“How do I tackle the issue of IPOB, Boko Haram and all agitations? I have said it repeatedly; I will dialogue with every agitator. There is nothing wrong with agitation. I will consult. Governance and democracy is about consensus. I will consult, I will dialogue, I will meet everybody. Dialogue is normal, agitations is normal. So, we will deal with everybody. We will make sure we sit down and talk and resolve issues amicably,” he said.
On how he planned to combat insecurity, Obi expressed disappointment over the level of poverty in the country, especially, in northern Nigeria, where he said leaders had failed to leverage the huge arable lands in the region to create employments.
“Today, in Nigeria, you have 35 per cent unemployment with our youth. With your youths, who are in productive age, you have 60 per cent youth unemployed. You can’t have that, and won’t have crisis. That’s where the guns are domiciled.
“So, you replace that with job, you replace it with employment, you invest in your micro small businesses, where these youths are domiciled by supporting them, pulling them out of poverty,” he said.
Asked how he could have handled the abduction of the Kaduna train passengers as the commander in chief, he said, “There was a failure of intelligence processing, because before that incident happened, from information available, there were already indications of a security threats within that corridor of the rail as well as previous attempts.
“So, there was a failure of processing and given the attention to intelligence, which I would have probably dealt with when it happened. If I was commander-in-chief, we would have acted swiftly and throughout the process, we would have remained in communication and at least shown consistent empathy to the families of those that were involved and acted differently.”
Presidential candidate of NNPP, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who said the current number of military officials was grossly inadequate, promised that he has made adequate arrangement to increase the number of military officers from 250,000 to one million military, army, Air Force and navy.
He stressed that he was going to take over every square metre of the country and pledged to increase policemen from 250,000 to two million.
Further on security, Kwankwaso said, if the government was doing the right thing, many people would have put down their arms, adding that those who did not want to do that, it was the responsibility of the government to ensure peace as people went about their legitimate businesses not minding religion and ethnicity.
“On the economy, there are so many things that are intertwined, the issue of exchange, corruption, oil theft, we are supposed to give out 2.2 million going by the OPEC arrangement but the record is less than that, so we have to do whatever it takes to stop stealing.
“It is very critical to us that we work on how to stop stealing of oil and other assets owned by the nation. The issue of subsidy, we are aware that there is a lot of corruption in the field and the first area of attack on subsidy is the issue of corruption. Subsidy over all doesn’t do any good to anybody but at the same time, we are concerned with the welfare of Nigerians.”
He also revealed that he never borrowed in the eight years that he governed Kano State and that he left so much money on account of the electricity generation, adding that he left over 43 million dollars.
Presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku, who was represented by his running mate, Okowa, said, the PDP would ensure a private sector-driven economy and would handle insecurity, by creating a state police that was fully equipped.
“We need to emphasise coordinated intelligence gathering and sharing. We need more boots on the ground to address insecurity in Nigeria. We need to evolve policing in Nigeria to ensure that people, who have a better understanding of their areas, know how to secure their areas. One centralised police force is unable to meet the demands that we have.”
On the economy, Okowa said of the Atiku/Okowa presidency: “From 1999 to 2007, we knew where President Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku, met the country and where they left it. Because of them, we were able to pay back a lot of our debt and we had debt forgiveness. In Delta State, we used to have agitations in oil-producing communities. But now, we have partnered in these communities to create jobs, create a new class of entrepreneurs and show people that we care about development.
“The right path is to use government resources to develop entrepreneurs, make people’s lives easier, and grow the economy so that people will live in better conditions,” he said.
The PDP vice-presidential candidate said the party would run a pan-Nigeria government, which was the only antidote to address insecurity in Nigeria.
On subsidy, he said it was a scam, explaining that it was impossible for Nigeria to consume 60 million barrels of fuel, let alone 90 barrels. To address the scam, he called for quick completion of the Dangote Refinery in Lagos and the introduction of the operations of modular refineries in the country Okowa described crude oil theft as organised crime, which must be addressed through the use of technology and oil surveillance equipment.
He equally advocated a production economy as against consumption economy, explaining that it was the only away to tackle the effect of dollar on the naira.
On security, the Presidential candidate of the PRP, Kola Abiola, said there was a need to address the security architecture of the country in order to tackle the hydra-headed security problem confronting the country.
He decried the fact that the national security committee of the country had allegedly not sat since 1999, in spite of the deteriorating security situation in the country.
Abiola was of the opinion that to end insecurity in the country, the security agencies must work together.
He said the PRP was not here to share billions to people but to serve Nigerians by creating jobs and giving a level playing field to help create those jobs.He pointed out that if the security problem in the country was not solved, nothing would work in Nigeria and nothing would give investors the confidence to invest in Nigeria.Abiola noted: “We’re going to create that environment. We are here to correct the falls from the old parties from the old generation to try to do differently for you.”
Abiola, who observed that Nigeria’s economic challenge could best be realigned by shifting focus on internal factors instead of external, argued that, “no matter what the exchange rate is or how high the inflation factor is, people are still going to go for the foreign currency because that is the only currency they believe will retain.”
He explained that Nigeria’s economy over the years have depended on oil but that the fluctuation in the foreign exchange have never been commensurate with the fluctuation in the price of oil.