BY HENRY UMORU & GBENGA OKE
ABUJA—VICE presidential candidates of opposition political parties, Monday, made good their threat by shunning the presidential debate organised by the National Election Debate Group, NEDG, following the absence of President Goodluck Jonathan in the NN24 debate held in Abuja.
At the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, venue of the debate, only the vice presidential candidates of United National Party for Development, UNDP, Alhaji Galadima Samari, and his counterpart, Engr Gabriel Ogbona of National Transformation Party, NTP, showed up for the first session of the programme. And only Vice President Namadi Sambo of the PDP took part in the second session.
On his part, Ogbonna who stressed that Nigeria needed leaders that would work towards ensuring value, human dignity and excellence, promised that his party has reasonable Nigerians who are well informed, adding that his government will take education to an acceptable level.
Less than 48 hours to the debate, the Presidential Candidates of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu; the Congress for Political Change, CPC, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd); and the All Nigerians Peoples Party, ANPP, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau; announced their plan to boycott the forthcoming Presidential Elections Debate slated for March 29, 2011.
Spokesmen of these presidential candidates, said their decision to pull out of the debate was premised on the refusal of President Goodluck Jonathan to participate in an earlier debate organised few days ago by the Cable Channel, NN24.
They also alluded that the president’s spokesman demanded for the questions of that earlier debate prior to the debate itself; which according to them, they rejected as granting that request would no longer make it a debate, and that they believe that; that was the real reason the President never turned up for that debate.
However, in their absence, the organisers led by Mr. Cyril Stober, fired a series of questions, which Sambo calmly answered, shedding light on what the PDP administration would do if given a chance to rule Nigeria in the next four years.
Namadi Sambo who appeared undeterred by the absence of other leading contestants detailed how the PDP-led government would tackle major problems confronting the country.
According to him, the PDP would ensure the citizenry had access to housing funds.
His words: “Our administration is currently working with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to make funds available for long term payment to Nigerians which will enable virtually all Nigerians to be landlords of their won”.
On gender differences, Sambo stated: “President Goodluck Jonathan is working assiduously to increase the percentage of women in government and the present positions held by various women in the present administration would have shown the Nigerian women that our administration considers them very important in the running of government.”
On the threat to national security, the vice_president stated that security was being given adequate attention by the Jonathan administration.
His words: “The threat of terrorism happens all over the world and when it happened in the United States, nobody believed it will ever happen here in Nigeria but it is happening here already. We are ensuring that properties of Nigerians are being protected, the details of our security arrangement cannot be divulged to the public but we are doing everything humanly possible to ensure adequate security ahead of the elections.
“We are providing new equipment for the Nigerian police and we have established a University for the Police in Kano state while arrangements are being made to employ the services of more police into the system.”