Unlike speeches, a debate is a kind of confrontation. Good debaters prepare soundbites that convey strong good points to the audience. The best keep an ear out for their opponent’s weak moments.
As you may have heard, Friday evening’s debate was low-energy. All five candidates were guilty in one form.
At both their best and uninspiring moments, they left impressions worth filing and remembering. These will haunt or elevate them in the near future. Look out for possible references to these when their presidential hopefuls run contrary opinions.
Here are nineteen of the most notable:
A Mother’s Motivation (The best opening statement)
- “I am concerned about everyone of the over 2.1 million children in the North east and IDP camps scattered across Nigeria. I am also concerned about the 13 million children out of school. As a wife and a mother of seven, I am committed to using every resource of authority at my disposal to ensure that every child, young person, mother and father get the opportunity they deserve in their pursuit of happiness” Khadija Abdullahi Iya, ANN
Jobs Fix Insecurity
- “As long as we don’t create jobs and have the number of unemployed youths in their productive age that we have today, we are going to have crisis. That’s why we have insecurity, instability – all sorts of things we are witnessing today are because we have not been able to create jobs that other countries are creating with effortless ease” Peter Obi, PDP
- “You must have poverty if you don’t have a social investment scheme. I have heard some mention India, Mexico, Brasil. These are countries that had a social investment policy and that’s the sort of thing we have also” Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, APC
- “Fighting Corruption is not an economic policy. You can fight corruption more aggressively while addressing economic issues. You cannot shut down your shop and be chasing criminals” Peter Obi, PDP
- “Let me say that if you allow criminals to steal all the inventory in the shop, there will be no shop. What has happened to Nigeria in the past 16 years is what the World Bank told us that the major cause of our poverty is corruption” Response by Vice President Osinbajo, APC. Both comments attracted the first and loudest cheers from a hitherto quiet audience.
Fuel Subsidy (This took some time to deliberate on)
- “In a situation where you fix prices, you are indirectly telling people not to come. Nobody will bring his or her capital into a venture that is not profitable. If petroleum products are deregulated, international and local investors will come into this country to come and establish industries, thereby creating so much jobs for our people” Ganiyu Galadima, ACPN.
- “If today, you were to remove subsidies, petrol prices could go up to as high as N220 per litre. There is no country in the world, even the most developed countries that does not run one kind of subsidy regime or the other, for the simple reason that sometimes, you just need to take the cost effect away from your citizens…
- …While consumer spending is weak and while we are trying to develop the economy and develop the capacity of the people to spend money, I think a minimal subsidy is useful now. The subsidy regime is one we can tolerate but obviously we must remove it as time goes on. But we can’t remove it immediately otherwise we will suffer the consequences.” Response by Vice President Osinbajo, defending Buhari administration’s maintaining a subsidy regime.
- “What we are subsidizing today is inefficiency. If you get it right, the price will still come down. There’s no way a country can have a budget to N340 billion for health and pay a trillion for subsidy. Education cannot be four hundred and something billion and subsidy at a trillion. It is a waste…
- …What are you actually subsidizing? Nigeria has one of the lowest car ownerships in the world; it is ten per thousand. We have only 2 million vehicles and you are paying almost a trillion, when you have 97 million people who are poor. You can’t do that.” Rejoinder to the VP by Mr Obi
- “I don’t think, as I am standing here today, I have much to contribute… They are still paying subsidy and the lives of Nigerians have not improved. We have not seen anything substantial or tangible on the ground. To be candid, subsidy to a typical Nigerian is just a scam. That’s how I will call it the way President Buhari once said in a newspaper” Umma Getso, YPP
African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)
- “There is no way you can be part of packaging something and it gets to the stage of signing and walk out of it. What were you doing when you were part of putting together? It doesn’t make sense” Mr Obi
- “We can have a situation where local industry is killed by the mere fact that we sign onto this without ensuring that all of the loopholes have been blocked. We are in the process of ensuring that those loopholes are blocked” Osinbajo’s response
- “Our government will be demand-driven not supply driven. We need to consult the people at the stage of planning not at the signing stage…
- …To bring out goods from Apapa costs more than it costs to bring goods from Europe” Mr Obi’s reply to Osinbajo
- “I thank God the sitting government has not signed the agreement because the agreement will not be in the interest of this country… Any program that will turn Nigeria into a dumping ground for goods from other countries and cripple the local industries will not be in our interest” Mr Galadima, all but rejecting the AfCFTA
Tech and Education (Yea, it took this long for them to give education attention)
- “The more you invest in education, the better your economy. I took Anambra from number twenty-eight to number one. I bought the highest number of computers ever bought by a government in Africa from hp (Hewlett-Packard)” Peter Obi, PDP
- “We’ve set up six technology hubs in the six geopolitical zones… STEM education is critical but we’ve done a curriculum that includes science, technology, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM)” Vice President Osinbajo’s reply
Ease of Doing Business
- “If you say investments haven’t taken place in years, who has been in office these last sixteen years?” Osinbajo, responding to Obi’s remarks on the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
At the end of the debate, the VP candidates received certificates of participation from the organizers NEDG and BON. Only one of them will get the job for which they pitched on Friday. For the four who will look on from their TV sets on May 29 imagining what could have been, their performance on the debate floor would have figured in the public’s evaluation of their capacity.
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