Saturday, 5 March 2011

Opinion: President Jonathan Should Not Back Out Of The Presidential Debate

President Jonathan
By Kenneth Uwadi
Washed-up, the big white notebook, brought out again, I write from the bed, as I always do. My doctor is to see me today, Saturday. I have little fever. This doctor, he will come to ask the same old questions .How are you today?  Weak legs?   Head-aches?  Back hurts? Do you drink alcohol? He will ask. Are you getting your exercise, your drugs?
Here he comes, I saw someone walking towards my bed. Oh, it must be my doctor of course. Wrong, not him, this time it’s just my friend Emeka. "hello, Emeka, have you heard that President Jonathan has backed  out of the presidential debate?”
Whish wan kom be this again naa....? So you still believe presidential debate will hold in Nigeria again? Dem never give them envelopes for primaries? Abi...the first ladies never dash dem bags of rice, tin milk and tomato? Wetin concern agbero concern overload again for presidential debate in Nigeria? The presidential debate for the April election will not hold, he said.  My friend Emeka made me to burst with laughter.
To Emeka the presidential debate thing is a big joke. God damn! The thought that Emeka may be right shot me in the ass like a .22. Barely few days to the scheduled Nigerian presidential debate, we are made to understand that there is disagreement between President Goodluck Jonathan and three other presidential candidates over the mode of the debate. The others are Mallam Nuhu Ribadu (Action Congress of Nigeria); Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Congress for Progressive Change); and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau (All Nigeria Peoples Party).
Television station NN24 in conjunction with about 30 international stations, is organising the live debate for the four top Presidential runners. The order of the debate as arranged we are made to know is as follows: First Presidential debate (March 8); Vice-Presidential debate (March 11); and Second Presidential debate (March 18).
The Nigerian Media is awash with news that President Goodluck Jonathan has backed out of the presidential debate. I rolled back again over my small bed thinking, how can this be true, our president must not back down. I even heard that the Ribadu camp have started laughing. Mr. Ribadu has come up with a remark in a release made available to newsmen by its campaign organisation that since 1999, PDP presidential candidates had been shying away from debates because they had nothing to offer. Ribadu is wrong because GEJ is different.GEJ has a lot to offer Nigerians. I hate the I am better than thou attitude ,the type Ribadu is exhibiting. Ribadu graduated from the Nigerian Law School and was called to the bar in 1984, before joining the Nigeria Police. Barristers and lawyers – ah! we know why each one is well trained in the fine art of lies.
Early 2007, Ribadu was all over the news that he has finalised plans to put some fraudulent governors behind bars. Then, as Chairman of EFCC, he presented himself as a tough no-nonsense guy with all established evidences against corrupt governors. Most of us believed him then, others understood him as a man full of sound signifying nothing. We can recall that   the list of corrupt governors provided by Ribadu when he was the EFCC boss contained Asiwaju Bola Tinubu . How come that the same Asiwaju Tinubu is now Ribadu’s benefactor?  What morals is Ribadu teaching us?  Can we take him serious? Is he different from the rotten lot?
GEJ’s voice is thunderous. His voice and his ideas will surely drown the voices of Ribadu and co in a debate so Ribadu should stop beating his chest. It is indeed necessary for this debates to go on to enable Nigerians see the nothingness in what Ribadu profess to have in stock for Nigeria. GEJ  should  not back out of the  political debate .The practice of organizing presidential debates is not new, not even in Nigeria. The practice dates back to 1858 in the United States when there were the famed seven debates between Abraham Lincoln and Senator Stephen A. Douglas when both were running for the US Senate. The debates were face-to-face debates with no moderator involved.
The first presidential debate in the United States took place in 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Since then, it has become customary for candidates of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party to engage in a debate. The topics discussed in the debate are often the most controversial issues of the time. The first televised presidential debate in Nigeria was for the 1993 presidential election between the late MKO Abiola, candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Bashir Tofa of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC). Thereafter there was another debate between their running mates namely Babagana Kingibe and Sylvester Ugoh respectively. We can do it again in Nigeria.
George W. Bush showed an abundance of character and charisma in his debates against both Al Gore and John Kerry. Ronald Reagan was able to define himself in the debate with Walter Mondale. Bill Clinton was perhaps the best candidate to ever use the debate with  his opponents, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole to form a lasting perception that propelled him to the White House .I pray to hear my phone ring for someone to tell me our president has accepted the presidential debate.
(Uwadi wrote from Mmahu-Egbema, Imo State, Nigeria)

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