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2019 Election: Moghalu, Ezekwesili, Durotoye debate, as Atiku, Buhari chicken out
IT was a battle of the newcomers as Kingsley Moghalu, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Education contesting on the platform of the Allied Citizens Party of Nigeria (ACPN), and Fela Durotoye, a business and leadership consultant, flying the flag of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) squared off against one another at the 2019 presidential debate which held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja, on Saturday.
The two other top presidential candidates that were supposed to be at the debate − the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice President Abubakar Atiku who is running on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) − boycotted the event, citing rather flimsy excuses.
The three candidates, asides taking turns to criticise Buhari and Atiku for disregarding Nigerians and refusing to take part in the election, also discussed what their respective policies and programmes would be should Nigerians vote any of them into power come February 16.
ON THE ECONOMY
Moghalu noted that the economic development of Nigeria is dependent on a drastic change in the political system in the country. “We cannot fix the economy if we don’t fix our politics,” he said.
He said that Nigeria as a country does not have an “economic philosophy”, saying that “we will have to decide whether we are a capitalist country or a socialist country” and “what type of capitalism we are practising”.
Moghalu promised to invest in skill education as a means of boosting the economy and making funds available for the youths via a N1 trillion venture capital fund he intends to set up, to enable young people have access to capital to set up small businesses and drive employment.
For Durotoye, his administration will focus on three main sectors which, according to him, are the most crucial to economic development and diversification. They are: “Agriculture, housing construction, and road construction.
Durotoye said only 35 per cent of Nigeria’s arable land is being used at present for the purpose of Agriculture. He said his government would drive that statistic up to 50 per cent, and by so doing, getting about 30million more people into the labour force.
Talking about the poor housing, road, and power infrastructure in Nigeria, Durotoye regretted that about 108 million Nigerians are homeless and that the country has a power sector that is crippling businesses. All these will change if he wins the presidency.
On her part, Ezekwesili said her administration plans to lift 80 million Nigerians out of poverty by enhancing their productivity so that they can earn more. This can be done by investing in women, as according to Ezekwesili, research has shown that when you make an input in women, they oftentimes outperform their male counterparts by as high as 40 per cent.
Another means of ending poverty, Ezekwesili said, is by removing the bureaucratic bottlenecks in the services sector.
COST OF GOVERNMENT
Moghalu said his government would move redundant civil servants to the security sector, pledging to recruit 1.5 million policemen and women in his first four years in office. He also promised to introduce a programme to help some civil servants move to other “productive engagements” or into the private sector. “Within two years, my government will bring the cost of recurrent expenditure down to 50 per cent,” he said.
Ezekwesili said she would work with the Steve Orosanye report on the rationalisation of the bureaucracy because it contains largely all that needs to be done to end some “illegalities” that is overburdening Nigeria’s workforce. She also said that her government would ensure increased productivity by fixing people in their areas of competence. The private sector would lead the economy, Ezekwesili promised.
Durotoye’s plan is more dramatic; he promised to be the first president that rides in a bus alongside his cabinet members, rather than driving in a convoy of numerous vehicles. He also promised to increase Nigeria’s revenue generation through taxes. Nigeria, he said has about the lowest tax to GDP ratio in the world – six per cent. Civil service reforms also topped Durotoye’s agenda for cost-effective governance.
The three candidates’ remarks centred on how young people would be empowered through education and other incentives to use technology as a tool to drive innovation and economic development.
Moghalu, however, was more direct, saying he would create incentives for young Nigerians to take their start-ups closer to the rural areas, thus making technology available to the many Nigerians dwelling in rural areas.
Moghalu said his main strategy would be to fight corruption in the Nigerian military, which he said is the major factor fuelling the insurgency in the North East. He also said he would remove the procurement of military hardware from the hands of private contractors, so as to ensure that only quality military hardware are made available for our armed forces.
Durotoye promised to prioritise the institution of effective leadership in the nations security makeup. Also, proper training, better equipment and a robust welfare package for the security personnel would be top priority so that by so doing they would be convinced that Nigeria is a country worth fighting, and even dying for. On Boko Haram, he said his government would try to change the ideology that fuels terrorism as
Ezekwesili, on her part, said that she would firstly, send a very sharp message “that there is a new sheriff in town”, by ensuring that there is a consequence for every act of savagery committed in the country. Her government would also create a SWAT team, “made up of the best brains in town” to focus on eradicating terrorism.
All three candidates also spoke about investing in proper intelligence gathering to boost security.
ON INTERNAL SECURITY
Durotoye said his government would invest in drone technology to ensure 24 hours real-time monitoring of Nigeria’s vast borders. He promised to work with residents in border communities and make them see the need to contribute to border security by reporting illegal movement of foreigners into their communities. Also, agencies in charge of border control − would be better equipped.
Moghalu said his attention would be focused on the Nigeria police force as “Nigeria does not have a police force in any reality that is close to anything we know in the civilised world”.
“My government will invest heavily in creating a 21st-century police force,” and the focus will not only be on recruitment but also on training and equipping the force.
He said that Nigeria has a ratio of 175 policemen to 100,000 people, which is a far cry from the United Nation’s recommendation of 300 or 400 policemen to 100,000 people.
Ezekwesili pointed out that education is one vehicle that can transport the child of the poor into the middle class and upper class, hence her administration would be prioritising early child care education. She admitted that Nigeria’s education sector requires comprehensive reforms at all levels − basic, secondary, and tertiary − and that the key reforms would be in the curricula.
The former education minister said her government would also focus on technical and innovation education and massive training and equipping of teachers.
Durotoye said his government would ensure that only the best quality of teachers, who are committed to the success of their students, are allowed in classrooms. Also, teacher specialisation would be encouraged to put an end to a situation whereby a single teacher takes students on several subjects.
Durotoye also promised to upgrade education infrastructure across the country so that schools would be environments that are conducive for learning.
Moghalu first said his government would increase the budgetary allocation to education from the present seven per cent to 20 per cent in his first year in office, and the bulk of it would be on capital expenditure as opposed to what is obtainable currently.
Asides from promising free secondary education, Moghalu also promised to refocus education in Nigeria to pay more attention to ICT, vocational training, and entrepreneurship.
Moghalu said he would move the health budget up to 15 per cent in accordance with the Abuja declaration of 2001. He promised to set up a “world class” medical facility in all the six geo-political zones of the country, as well as working to ensure that the billions being spent by Nigerians annually on medical tourism are saved.
Ezekwesili promised to revitalise and expand access to the National Health Insurance Scheme to include persons without jobs. She also promised to look into the challenges in the health sector driving Nigeria’s brightest medical experts out of the country.
Durotoye said he would collaborate with state and local governments to deliver quality and accessible primary healthcare to the citizens, especially as that is the closest to the majority of Nigerians. Durotoye said other health professionals would be trained and deployed to man the PHCs as opposed to medical doctors.
He also promised free healthcare for persons below the age of five and above the age of 60, as well as for pregnant women. All these he said would be funded from the monies saved from cutting down the cost of governance, and also from public-private partnerships.
ON NATIONAL INTEGRATION
Moghalu promised to run a government where “no one is above the law and there are no sacred cows”. He said his administration would be based on equity and respect to the rule of law, as these are ingredients that drive integration.
He pledged to address the issue of perceived marginalisation of a particular section of the country which has resulted in, for instance, the Biafra secessionist struggle in the South East.