Saturday, 18 October 2014

Article: On Presidential Debates

By Jaye Gaskia

There are some who will say I am in a cranky or cheeky mood these days depending on how generous or harsh they chose to be with their criticism. But truth is I am loving this period, this electioneering and campaigning period, and I am determined to do my utmost best to enable ordinary Nigerians make the most of the opportunity, as well as determined to contributing to shifting the discourse from personalities to programs, and from declarations and agendas to strategic plans.

For as I have had the opportunity to point out elsewhere, a 7 point agenda is not a program, nor is it a policy document or framework. It is at best the reduction of serious governance issues to bullet points all seven of which can be contained on one single power point slide! I am challenging anyone in or out of government to show me the full policy document called the 7 point Agenda or its successor Transformation Agenda. Where is this Transformation Agenda articulated?

The flight into laziness and the retreat into mediocrity of the ruling elites was further emphasized by the transition from NEEDS to non articulated agendas. NEEDS was a bad piece of neo-liberal programmatic and strategic planning framework, but it was serious articulated into a robust document that we could engage with and hold the government of the day accountable to. We were opposed to it, but we had something to be opposed to. It is not the same with either the 7 point agenda or its successor one point agenda called the transformation agenda.

And now presidential aspirants are now also making declarative states about programs and marshal plans.

Perhaps it is the confidence in this yet to be articulated Marshal plan that is emboldening Buharists who also presume their candidate will be the candidate of the APC, to challenge the sitting but already endorsed sole candidate of the ruling party to a debate.

Perhaps their confidence is further enhanced by the performance of the president in all of his Media Chat outings; or perhaps I should say the serial under performance of the president.
Well it is a well known fact that the president unlike is wife is hesitant expressing himself, and furthermore unlike his wife have no scruples using words and stringing sentences together. But Buhari is also no talker, he is not charismatic either, regardless of whether he knows the content of his yet to be articulated Marshal plan or not.

So I am throwing a challenge to the Buharist first, let us have a presidential aspirant debate within the APC first, before the debate between presidential candidates validly nominated by their parties. It would be interesting to watch Buhari perform against Atiku, a smooth and seasoned Politrickian who has traded campaign lies across the length and breadth of this country regularly in the past.

But seriously speaking presidential debates are necessary, but as significant as they are, if all it took to govern was ones debating prowess, then I will plead tha we stop wasting time and simply apply to the principal of my daughter's boarding school, to release her for national service for four years as the president of Nigeria. Because I am at least very certain of one thing, even my 12 year old daughter will dust the sitting president in any open debate; and I am practically sure that she will most likely dust each of the known and declared presidential aspirants.

I will conclude again by stressing the demand for programs and strategic plans. When the candidates say they will do this or that, we want to t policy instruments they plan to deploy, how they plan to generate money to fund their marshal plans etc. We are already victims of a hollow transformation agenda, we can not in our desperation settle for less or the same.

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