By Eric Elezuo
Like a bolt out of the blue, the D-day came for vice presidential candidates of various political parties vying for the seat of Aso Rock in the 2019 elections to showcase stuff that makes them tick in a keenly contested debate.
Set at the high profile Hilton Hotel in Abuja, five presidential running mates took centre stage as they were bombarded with mind boggling questions from a team of questionnaires from the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria and Nigeria Elections Debate Group.
Making a total representation of themselves and the parties the represent, the five vice presidential hopefuls released what it is they hope to give Nigerians if elected in 2019.
The five personalities include the incumbent vice president representing the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Prof Yemi Osinbajo; Mr. Peter Obi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mrs. Khadijah Abdullahi-Iya of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Umma Getso of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) and Ganiyu Galadima of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN).
The contest, which literally pitched the APC candidate against his PDP counterpart, was another venue to trade blames and accusation. While Osinbajo ressurrected the blame against PDP’s 16 years rule, Obi dabbled into supposed loopholes in the administration among which was according to him abandoning the economy to chase corruption.
Below are some of their expressed thoughts:
Mr. Peter Obi criticised the anti-corruption war of the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government, insisting that it killed jobs in the process.
Obi argued that war against graft cannot be a government policy but a means to an end.
The former governor said before the current anti-graft campaign, Nigeria had more jobs and opportunities but the economy took a nosedive when the anti-corruption war started.
“It is not that you cannot fight corruption but you can fight it more aggressively while addressing economic issues. For example, in 2015, unemployment was 24 percent. Today, it is 40 per cent. In 2015, we attracted $21bn in Foreign Direct Investment but we attracted only $12bn last year. Our GDP was $500bn in 2015 while per capita was $2, 500 today it is under $1, 900.
“If you look at our stock market, we have lost over N2tn in one year. So, that is not a policy. You’re just fighting corruption, you are not creating jobs. You cannot shut down your shop and be chasing criminals.”
Mrs. Khadijah Abdullahi-Iya, on her part said the party would work to empower women and children, saying that the party had plans that would enable the 13 million out-of-school children to go back to school.
She said that the party would give the economy top priority and not politics.
She said that the party would empower 774 local government areas in the country to harness the resources available in their areas in a manner that their development would be sustained.
This, she said, would enhance the economy and close the poverty gap in the country.
Osinbajo, in his usual characteristics, blamed the Peoples Democratic Party for Nigeria’s weak economy.
He was asked to respond to questions on why Nigeria’s aggregate investment had not risen beyond 16 per cent in the last 10 years unlike South Africa and China.
Osinbajo said, “I think the common denominator between the two countries you mentioned is the strong infrastructure. Our nation in the past 16 years has suffered a major infrastructure deficit. So, we don’t have rails, roads. When we came into power in 2015, power was 4,000MW in 16 years.
“So, you need strong infrastructure. No one can argue about it. The second thing is you cannot have a strong economy if you allow the type of grand corruption that has taken place in Nigeria in the last 16 years.”
The presidential debate is expected to come up on January 19, 2019.