2023: Obi, Okowa, Kwankwaso, Abiola, unveil security, economic plans for Nigeria

The Presidential candidates of four out of the 18 political parties vying for Nigeria’s Presidency on Sunday, unveiled their security and economic plans for the country, ahead of the 2023 general election.

Only three of the presidential candidates, Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and Kola Abiola of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) attended the event, while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, was represented by the party’s Vice Presidential candidate, Ifeanyi Okowa.

The absence of Atiku Abubakar and the All Progressives Congress Presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu almost marred the event as it sparked arguments, following protests by many Nigerians who rejected representations at such strategic events.

Festus Keyamo, the Spokesman for the Tinubu/Shetima Presidential Campaign Council, while advancing reasons for Tinubu’s absence, disclosed that several media houses had indicated interest to host such debates.
Keyamo said the party’s flag bearer wants to “treat all media houses equally,” adding that Tinubu, “out of deference to other TV and radio stations, will not be making selective appearances while ignoring others.
“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.”
The event which was organised by Arise Television, and was styled “Presidential Town Hall Series,” focused on security and the economy.

The Director, Centre for Democracy and Development(CDD), Idayat Hassan, in a statement explaining the choice of candidates invited for the debates, stated that the choice of the four candidates invited was based on their performance in a survey they conducted

The CDD said Bola Tinubu of the APC, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the NNPP, were picked based on their party’s performance in an online survey by the organisers during which all the 18 political parties were listed in alphabetical order.

According to them, “The result of this survey informed our decision to invite the highest four scoring parties – LP, APC, PDP and NNPP to the town hall.

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“All 18 political parties were listed in alphabetical order. After the survey was closed, nine parties did not receive a vote. The remaining nine received the following percentage of votes- African Action Congress (AAC) – 20.7%, All Progressives Congress (APC) – 86.2%, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) – 6.9%, Labour Party (LP) – 96.6%, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) – 51.7%, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – 82.8%, Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) – 6.9%, Social Democratic Party (SDP) – 6.9% and Young Progressive Party (YPP) – 13.8%.
“The result of this survey informed our decision to invite the highest four scoring parties – LP, APC, PDP and NNPP to the town hall.

“CDD is an independent and neutral institution and is non-partisan or linked to any political party or candidate. The methodology stated above was set before the survey was sent out to avoid any insinuation or claims of bias.
“We do not expect this to be the sole platform for candidates to engage with the electorate.”

The Presidential candidate of the NNPP, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who spoke extensively on the current security challenges, blamed the absence of, an effective surveillance system, lack of intelligence and poor leadership for the government’s inability to end insecurity.

On the economy, the former Governor of Kano state and former Defence Minister said his administration would end the fuel subsidy regime, which he described as “fraudulent.”

He, however, berated Tinubu for shunning the debate, saying that “It is better to send a representative, than ignoring such debates.”

Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, while contributing at the debate, described 2023 as “a crucial year” for Nigeria.

Obi, who made the observation, noted that the year represents a year of decisions for Nigerians due to the prevailing economic situation faced by the country.

Obi, while calling on Nigerians to make the right choice, said any wrong choice will push the country beyond redemption.

While speaking on loans and borrowing, he said his administration would ensure sustainability and resilience, adding that Nigeria “will stop borrowing for consumption.”

Obi also promised to end oil subsidies and use the money for education and health development.

The candidate said he would cut waste in governance and tackle revenue leakages, to solve the issue of the budget deficit.

He reiterated the need for loans to be invested in regenerative projects, adding that his government “will pursue a drastic reduction in the cost of governance and corruption; improve ease of doing business to attract Foreign Direct Investment to jumpstart industrialization and when borrowing is unavoidable, it will be strictly for production.”

The Labour Party candidate also said he would ensure “probity, equity, innovation, competence, true brotherhood and visionary leadership.”

He harped on the need to harness the huge potential of the country’s youthful population.

“As President, one of my priorities will be rule of law and due diligence, and promoting intangible assets, which are vital components of holistic security,” he said.

The Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) Ifeanyi Okowa, while speaking on insecurity and crude oil theft, in the Niger Delta, said the PDP government would emphasize 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.

“We need more boots on the ground. We need adequate welfare to ensure that our security agencies are better-taken care of. We also need to address unemployment — otherwise more young people will be drawn to contribute to the insecurity,” he said.

Also on the economy, Okowa recalled how the leadership of the PDP under former President Olusegun Obasanjo got the international community to cancel Nigeria’s debt.

“From 1999 to 2007, we knew where President Obasanjo and VP 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.

Okowa also agreed there was a scam in the oil subsidy, but said the PDP government would privatise the nation’s refineries and give support to individuals to build refineries.

The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party( PRP), Kola Abiola, said the party would not subsidise consumption, but would rather encourage and subsidise interest rates for mortgage developers, to build low-cost houses for the people.

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