Stephen Ukandu, News/Features Editor
The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, has explained that the reason he was in the 2023 presidential race was to put Nigeria back on track as the country has derailed due to mis-governance and leadership ineptitude.
Obi who said this Sunday during the presidential debate organized by ARISE TV in partnership with the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Guild of Editors, among others, also said he had the panacea to the festering insecurity in the country.
This is as the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Tinubu; and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate, Atiku Abubakar, stayed away from the show.
While Atiku was represented by his running mate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa amid protest by Nigerians, APC cited hectic campaigns as reason for the absence of both Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima.
Three presidential candidates including Obi; Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian Peoples Party, NNPP, and Chief Kola Abiola of the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP; were present at the presidential debate.
Each of them including Okowa who represented his boss Atiku was given three minutes to sell their candidacy.
Obi said if voted into power, he would revive local vigilante system in every community and make them work under the police.
According to him, locals will help to effectively police their environments, adding that government’s insincerity is the reason insecurity has continued to linger in the country.
The former Anambra State Governor urged Nigerians to vote for him because of his competence, antecedents and vision: and not because of his tribe, religion or ‘turn to rule.’
Obi said that he had the capacity to take Nigeria out of its current predicament and place the country on the path of greatness where every citizen would be proud of.
He faulted those claiming that “it is their turn to rule,” arguing that “it’s nobody’s turn but the turn of Nigerian women and youths.”
He said: “Do not vote for Peter Obi because I am from the South-East, because I am a Christian, because I am an Igbo man, or because it is my turn. It is the turn of Nigeria youth and women, It is nobody’s turn.
“I want you to vote for Peter Obi because I am qualified. Because I am competent. I know what I can do to pull this country out of the brink.”
On how to solve the insecurity equation bedeviling the country, Obi said: “We will provide for every community a vigilante system that is working, provide them with vehicles, communication equipment, linking them to work with police.”
The former Anambra State Governor also assured that under his watch, economic wastages would be plugged, noting that high cost of governance is part of the reasons Nigeria is not moving forward.
Meanwhile, Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, in a statement by its Chief Spokesman, Mr. Festus Keyamo, also said it’s resolve not to give any Television station preference above others was part of the reason its candidate ignored the show.
The statement obtained by Ikengaonline read in part: “Tinubu did not attend the Presidential Debate organised by ARISE TV on Sunday, November 6, 2022, for the following reasons: “Firstly, many radio and TV networks in Nigeria have indicated interests to host such debates and out of deference to other TV and radio stations, our candidate will not be making selective appearances in some networks, whilst ignoring others. As President of Nigeria, by the Special Grace of God, he intends to treat all persons and businesses fairly and equally.
“Secondly, the busy and hectic campaign schedules of Asiwaju Tinubu will not permit him to honour all such invitations by different radio and TV networks, hence our decision for him not to start with one TV station and later ignore others.
“Thirdly, our candidate had long before now realised the importance of speaking directly to Nigerians and shortly after unfolding his Action Plan as President embarked on Town Hall meetings beginning with his interaction with the Business Community and other stakeholders in Kano followed by the Town Hall meeting and presentation by experts last week in Lagos.
“Tomorrow (Monday), he will be interacting with Agro and Commodity Groups in Minna, Niger State.”
Meanwhile, Atiku’s supporters led by Senator Dino Melaye, had hectic time trying to convince the organizers to allow Okowa stand in for Atiku who was said to be out of the country.
The crowd of audience at the Transcorp Hilton, venue of the town-hall had insisted that it was Atiku and not Okowa that was needed to talk to Nigerians.
The ensuing debacle delayed the debate but when normalcy was restored, the debate commenced with the candidates in attendance taking turns to say how they would run the country if given the opportunity.
Speaking at the event, the PRP flag bearer, Kola Abiola, promised to reinvent Nigeria security architecture if voted into power.
Abiola also vowed to improve on the welfare of the security agencies which he said was demoralizing.
He said: “We need to address the security architecture. The will is there, we need to ensure implementation and look at the welfare of our armed forces.
“If you meet a bandit leader and he says there’s no difference between you and us, what would you say?
“The trust has been eroded, the common man cannot feel the presence of a government, I’m coming with zeal to change this mindset,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NNPP candidate, Kwankwaso, who was at various times a chieftain of both the APC and PDP, said that his anger over the failure of both parties made him join NNPP.
He expressed disappointment that both parties had failed to fix Nigeria’s woes despite being in power for years, and insisted that things had to change for the country to move forward.
“I’m angry, to the extent of leaving the PDP, and leaving the APC. We feel there are better ways to do things, we believe the system has failed that is why we decided to go to New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).”
The Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, Vanguard Newspapers, Premium Times, were also part of the organizers.