Clash Of Titans:Buhari, Ribadu, Shekarau
The presidential candidates of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), General Muhammadu Buhari; Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) last night engaged in war of words as they tried to convince Nigerian voters to pick them as the next president of the country.
While fielding questions in Abuja, at the presidential debate organised by NN24, a channel on DSTV, the presidential candidates pointedly stated they were, individually the best men for the job.
According to Buhari, he is the best candidate for the office of president because of his experience. He said that he had been a military governor, head of state and chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), offices he used to better the lot of Nigerians.
He said that he is seeking the office of president because he wants to render service to the Nigerian people.
On his part, Ribadu said he stands as a symbol of change, being a young man. He stated that whereas his opponents are advanced in age, he is a “young man, who belongs to the age of leaders doing well in the world. I have been in government for the past 25 years, while others have retired in the past 25 years. I have experience at the international and Federal Government levels.”
Shekarau said that he has served in government for 25 years, as permanent secretary, school principal and governor.
In a direct appeal to Nigerians, Buhari said that the country needs a strong leader to oversee strong institutions.
He said: “It is entirely up to us to choose the leadership that we can trust to lead the country for the next four years. We know where we are coming from and where we are going. President Obama of the United States said in Ghana that what Africa needs are strong institutions and not personalities. But I say we need both. We need strong personalities to run strong institutions.
“The multi-party democracy has given Nigerians power to choose the people they want. Let your votes count. We urged people to go out and register and they registered. Now, people should go and vote and be sure that their votes count. Sitting at home may not solve the problem.”
Ribadu said that Nigeria is a great country, with great people, adding: “A new Nigeria is possible. That’s why I am standing for election.”
Shekarau said that the country wants good government, and “If you want good government, you must consider the past and the antecedents of whoever you think is right for the job.”
The presidential candidates also spoke on other socio-economic and political issues affecting the country.
Ribadu, while clearing the air on his tenure as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), denied ever telling the National Assembly that former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Ahmed was “an internationally corrupt man.”
He said that what he told the National Assembly was that the case involving Tinubu was of international dimension and the EFCC was not handling it.
The ACN candidate said that he has great respect for Tinubu, who, he said, has opened Nigerians’ eyes to the misrule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government.
He said that the country is having problem in the power sector because there is no clear indication of who or which agency is in charge. He said that this must be addressed before things can change in the sector.
According to him, it is unacceptable to spend over $10 billion, just to generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity. Ribadu noted there is so much sabotage in the sector, and “we must diversify to ensure we have solar energy, better distribution and generation.”
Buhari said that even though he has a military background, he is a democrat. According to him, he was democratic as head of state, as he did not take decisions alone. He said that all institutions, when he was head of state, were allowed to participate in government.
Buhari assured that if elected president he would take a look at the funds the PDP government has spent since 1999 on power sector. He promised to persuade federal legislators to reduce their salaries.
The three candidates disagreed on the collapse of education and southern presidency.
Shekarau said that the issue of those who ruled Nigeria has to be analysed. “Military heads of state of northern extraction was an accident, but in democracy the space has to be opened for wider participation,” he said.
He said that PDP corrupted zoning. “The issue should be that of balance and not where one comes from,” he said.
Ribadu, on his part, said that Nigerians are not undisciplined.
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