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AS THE GENERAL ELECTIONS DRAW NEARER

By Adewale Kupoluyi
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As the general elections draw nearer, various opportunities continue to open to the electoral in deciding on who to vote for. Such interactions took place when both the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2019 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, spoke to Nigerians during a Town Hall Meeting, held few days ago. The parley was moderated by the ace broadcaster, Ms. Kadaria Ahmed on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) programme, which was held at the Ladi Kwali Conference Centre, Sheraton Hotel, Abuja. Political party aspirants had earlier featured while other candidates are expected to be featured in discourse tagged; The Candidate.

The President and his vice spoke on a number of issues bordering on the elections and the nation’s economy, security, anti-corruption programmes, federalism and restructuring, among others. Buhari said his second-term attempt was at the instance of the national executive of the APC, stating that his re-election bid was aimed at fulfilling the manifesto of his 2015 campaign. “So, those who felt very strongly about it left the party and the party nominated. Why? It is because I felt that the three fundamental objectives we campaigned in 2015 are still relevant. We want to remind Nigerians to see when we started in 2015; where we are now, what we have been able to do in between this time of three and a half years with the resources and time available to us”.

Prof. Osinbajo disclosed that the President deserved another term to consolidate on the gains of his administration. “We campaigned on three fundamental issues, namely the economy, the fight against corruption and security. In those three respects, we believe that we have laid very strong foundations and I very strongly believe that we are on to much more progress if given a second opportunity. “I very strongly take the view that the period of three and a half years, in particular, has been one where we have managed to turn around a lot of what was inherited in the previous 16 years. The previous 16 years were, in my view, a period during which a lot of revenue came in and very little appeared to have been done. We believe the foundations we’ve laid in agriculture and infrastructure really deserve a second term for completion,” the VP said.

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On the ravaging herdsmen, President Buhari noted that it was impossible to ask herders not to move through states. At this point, the moderator drew the attention of the President to the belief that his administration is perceived as being one-sided and in mediating the problem because cattle rearers are ‘his people.’ Defending the President, Prof. Osinbajo said the perception was not true and that the National Economic Council (NEC), which he chairs, had already approved a 10-year National Livestock Plan, which would cost about N179bn, while all the 36 state governors are members of the NEC and are expected to provide land for ranching of their own volition. While saying that the Federal Government has no intention of seizing citizens’ land by force, the VP noted that the current arrangement is a mixture of grazing and ranching in which the government is expected to build earth dams on river banks to take care of animals, saying ranching will come as a long-term solution and to be built by private individuals.

At a point, the moderator cautioned the VP by asking him to allow the President to express his personal views on the authenticity of a viral video that depicted the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje as allegedly receiving bribe money from a contractor. Osinbajo had interjected while attempting to bail out the President, who appeared not willing to answer the question. Buhari later responded saying, “As I told you, I have seen the clip. I don’t know how much technology was used but can Ganduje fail to trust someone to take it to him? … I honestly am overwhelmed. The system has given me some relief; it is in court. It is in the state (House of) Assembly. So, let them as much as possible deal with it. This has received a lot of publicity and I hope by the time I visit Kano for my re-election campaign, there would be some answers from the courts and assembly in Kano State.”

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Osinbajo added that the Buhari administration was superior to the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government; despite the fact that the administration also has large presence of PDP members, who had defected to the APC. The VP swiftly responded to the question of the moderator of the live Town Hall Meeting, who reminded both of them that Nigerians do not see any difference between the APC and the PDP government it replaced, saying APC was far better. Furthermore, the President noted that the country was still experiencing the problem of out-of-school children, known as the Almajiri in the North, because state and local governments had not been fulfilling their own part of the bargain.

“Federal Government gives money to state and local governments and they are the ones who can take care of the Almajiri issue,” the President said; adding that “Because they didn’t do their job, that’s why we still have the issue of Almajiris.” Buhari has called on the media and the elite to monitor the progress of the Disability Bill 2018, as a mute man had asked the President to tell Nigerians how far progress had been made on the bill. “I cannot honestly remember the plan being taken to the National Assembly and how much they have done on it and sent it back to the centre. It is the same with the Disability Bill. There are so many bills with the National Assembly and unfortunately, I expect the elite, through the press, to keep an eye on the activities of the bills between the executive and National Assembly. If the executive sends a bill, they can hardly put it in the budget except it is returned to the National Assembly with their comments and recommendations”, he stated.

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No doubt, the programme afforded participants the opportunity to showcase what they have for the country, even though there are other important sectors such as health, science and technology that were not clearly touched. Just like other past editions of the programme, the candidates promised the electorate on what they have in stock for them. Aside the talk and Town Hall meeting, what would be more meaningful and impactful to all the people is good governance. This is what the people truly desire. It is hoped that what has been listed out before elections would translate into reality, if politicians get into offices. The electorate should really be wise in choosing their leaders in 2019 and beyond.

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