By Henry Umoru, Charles Kumolu & Ben Agandety
ABUJA—President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday reassured Nigerians that the March 28 and April 11 dates set by the Professor Attahiru Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC for the conduct of General elections remain sacrosanct.
Speaking in Abuja during the second session of the presidential debate organised by the Nigerian Elections Debate Group, NEDG for presidential candidates of six political parties held at the International Conference Centre, President Jonathan said, “Elections will be conducted as scheduled for March 28 and April 11 as fixed by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. The government in these fours years has improved in all the sectors and in the next four years, we will consolidate, we will move forward, we will leave legacy for our children, we cannot think of going backward.”
APC shuns debate
The parties that took part in the second session of the debate were the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; National Conscience Party, NCP, United Democratic Party, UDP, KOWA Party and United Peoples Party, UPP, just as the Presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress, General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) was the only presidential candidate who failed to attend the debate.
The Presidential candidates were Professor Oluremi Osonaiya of Kowa Party, Chief Martin Onovo of NCP; President Goodluck Jonathan of PDP; Godson Okoye of UDP and Chief Chekwas Okorie of UPP.
During the last lap of the debate, which was moderated by veteran broadcaster, Eugenia Abu of the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA and two-man panellists, Martins Oloja, the editor of The Guardian newspapers and Professor Pate, candidates were asked questions on issues of insecurity, corruption, education, agriculture, educational sector, among others.
…President seeks for more time to consolidate
President Jonathan, who urged Nigerians to vote for him to enable his government consolidate on the various achievements it had recorded in the last four years, however revealed the change in the security architecture in the north east ,which included the use of drones to monitor the activities of the Boko Haram terrorists in the North east, which has sufficiently changed the tide against the terrorists.
According to the President, apart from government’s commitment to ensuring that the country was freed from the terrorists, government has put in place measures to reconstruct the north east and to rehabilitate the people affected by the insurgency.
On plans to rebuild N’ East
He stated that apart from normal budgetary provision of funds to reconstruct the areas affected by the insurgency, government has set up the Presidential Initiative for the North East and the safe School Initiatives in order to ameliorate the sufferings of the people of the area.
Speaking on corruption, President Jonathan who acknowledged that it remains a very major issue emphasised that enforcement of existing laws on corruption only was not enough to check the trend.
“Corruption is a major issue. People think that enforcement is the only way to check it. Enforcement alone does not work. Armed robbers have been caught and killed but this has not stopped armed robbery in the country. Prevention is better. We will ensure that nobody has access to steal funds. We will strengthen the institutions so that they can fight corruption” he added.
The president further called for a change of attitudes towards people who acquire wealth in dubious ways noting that ‘if we don’t honour people who cannot defend their source of wealth, people will change’ he said.
On revamping oil sector
On how he intends to bring in more transparency to Petroleum sector, President Jonathan said his administration will focus on the proper management of the upstream sector by strengthening the regulatory capacity of agencies in charge of the sector, even as he disclosed that his government was working on developing a technology that would check the stealing of crude oil, adding that with the planned liberalisation of the sector, more transparency would be brought in and the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB by the national assembly would address other problems in the sector.
On agric sector
On the agricultural sector, President Jonathan said he will sustain the achievements his administration has recorded in the sector by ensuring that there is greater mechanisation, availability of fertiliser to farmers and full processing of agricultural products.
President Jonathan who asked Nigerians to vote for him come March 28 because of the progress made in the last four years and to sustain the achievements in all the sectors, promised that his government will continue to fund education in order to ensure that Nigerian graduates and scientists compete well with their counterparts in other parts of the world.
UPP promises true federalism
The presidential candidate of the United Progressive Party, Chief Chekwas Okorie in his remarks promised that his government would ensure the practice of true Federalism, introduce state Police, review the land use act and ensure that the cartel in the oil sector which has held down the sector for too long is death with, adding that his leadership would be creative with plans to open up the economy with a revolutionary agenda.
According to him, his government would probe the previous ones by throwing stones and tearing corrupt persons, adding, “ We will like he Tiger tear corrupt persons, we will throw stones, we will ask questions, we cannot be embraced, surrounded by corrupt persons and say change.”
Kowa Party decries public officials’ high salaries
For the Kowa party, the Presidential Candidate, Professor Oluremi Osonaiya, the party would allow for private ownership of the sector without government’s interference, just as she described huge salaries being paid as unacceptable in a developing country like Nigeria, adding that the party when elected would ensure that the country retraced its lost tracks as put in place by the nation’s founding fathers.
Leadership, Nigeria’s major problem — NCP
In his contribution, the NCP presidential candidate, Chief Martin Onovo who noted that leadership was Nigeria’s major problem, however stressed the need for Nigeria to get the right leadership who will not come from the moon, but would come among Nigerians, adding, “ there is no justification why we should e where we are.”
For the Presidential Candidate of UDP, Godson Okoye, 2015 election was not about the party, but about the sovereignty of Nigeria where he said that power must be removed from those he described as a tiny cabal.”