Senate okays compulsory election debate for presidential, governorship candidates in Nigeria

The Senate on Thursday backed a bill seeking to make election debates for presidential and governorship candidates in Nigeria compulsory.

The bill, sponsored by lawmaker representing Oyo North, Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, also proposes the compulsory inclusion of vice-presidential and deputy governorship candidates in such debates.

According to the bill, which scaled second reading during Thursday’s plenary session, such debate platforms would provide room for proper assesment of those elected into leadership positions in Nigeria.

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The bill also proposes empowering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to organise such compulsory debates during elections in Nigeria.

Making a case for the bill, Buhari argued such debates have become an integral part of politics in advanced countries, hence should also be adopted in Nigeria.

He said: “Voters learn from the debate, and are more accurately able to judge candidates and get additional information about them.

“It also helps the candidates to speak on a wide range of issues as the national assembly is doing with ministerial nominees.

“If the ministers can be assessed, it is logically imperative for the president and others to be adequately assessed also.”

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Also contributing, lawmaker representing Kwara Central, Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said candidates contesting elective offices are like employeees in search of job opportunities, hence should be tested through such debates to measure their abilities.

In the same vein, Senator representing Lagos West, Adeola Olamilekan, pointed out the bill, if passed, will further enable Nigerians assess the strenght of their leaders.

According to him, such bill  “will give Nigerians an idea about the capacity of the candidates to govern the country.”

Expressing a contratry view however, lawmaker representing Kano North, Barau Jibrin, argued such debates should be made optional and not compulsory. 

He said: “Maybe somebody could not attend the debate because of sickness. I believe it should not be mandatory, but optional.”

Also speaking, Senator representing Gombe Central, Danjuma Goje, maintained such debates should not be left within the jurisdiction of INEC.

”Most times, candidates are assessed and awarded marks during these debates. So if INEC is doing that, that means the election has already been determined,” he said. 

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