Presidential Debate and PVC Controvesy

It is unfortunate to hear that General Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate of All Progressive Congress (APC) will not participate in the presidential debate on the ground that the debate panel are biased against him. For the record, the presidential debate is coordinated by Nigeria Election Debate Group (NEDG). NEDG is a coalition of broadcast organizations, civil society’s organizations and professional groups headed by the chairman of the board of Trustee. Nigeria Election Debate Group has been conducting gubernatorial and presidential election debates for many years in Nigeria. NEDG are a highly disciplined and professional organization that takes their duty seriously. I have seen quite a number of their debates over the years and have never seen any sign of impartiality or favoritism towards a particular candidate. They have given equal time and ask same questions to all candidates in the debates I have watched.

It is unfortunates that the integrity and professionalism of one of the few esteemed civic institution in Nigeria are been drag through the mud because of short term political interest. For the record, I do not belong to any political party and do not favor or support any presidential candidate. I am not even eligible to voter since they is no such provision for Nigerians in diaspora. I have written several articles commending General Buhari and President Jonathan when I think they are right and have criticized them when I think they are wrong. What matters to me is what is best for Nigeria. Whoever emerges as the next president is fine with me provided the candidate wins in a free and fair election. Winning clean and square will give legitimacy to eventual winner.

Failure of General Buhari to appear in in the coming debate will be a huge mistake. He is a man whom a lot of Nigerians respect and admire because of his stance during his brief tenure as Nigerian president. First, he will be leaving the stage to President Jonathan in what will probably be the largest television audience they will ever command which he will use to shape the agenda. Second, they may be a backlash from political independents who may be truly undecided. Third, failure to participate may create the impression that he has something to hide especially when he has been accused of not possessing the minimum educational qualification of high school certificate (West African School Certificate). Failure to appear may also lead some people to conclude that APC have made a cold calculation that they have more to gain by General Buhari not showing up than him facing question about his certificate and other issues.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has relentlessly accused him of being an illiterate who can barely express himself thereby implying that he lacks the educational knowledge required to tackle the economic, political and social issues affecting Nigeria. Most Nigerians already know that he may do a better job in the security and corruption area when compared to the sitting President. A lot of people who are truly undecided may decide that they are element of truth in these accusations. I also suspect that his non-participation in the debate will offend a lot of Nigerians especially in the battleground states of South west.

Another elephant in the room that could mar the presidential and the rest of the elections is the inadequate distribution of Permanent Voters Card (PVC) so far. Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is still insisting that only voters with PVC will be allowed to vote. The stance of INEC will be understandable and perfectly in-order if PVC card is available and eligible Nigerian voters fails to pick up the card. INEC cannot be held responsible for an eligible Nigerian voter’s laziness. However, if any eligible Nigerian voter have made an attempt to get the card, but he or she is unable to secure one due to unavailability of the cards, then that person must be allowed to vote with either Temporary Voters Card or other form of identification. Postponement of election will be a bad way to rectify this issue.

INEC cannot afford to disenfranchise Nigerian voters since that will skew the election result which will pave the way for the eventual winner to win by default. This could trigger after election violence. Average Nigerian voter are more sophisticated than politicians give them credit for. An average Nigerian voter can vote for one party in a gubernatorial election, and then turn around and vote for another party in the presidential election, instead of straight party vote. Credible election where the electorate are not disenfranchised on technical ground is the only way to satisfy the aspiration of most Nigerians who believes that democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people. Emergency of a government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them under a free electoral system is what most Nigerian wants and deserve.

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