VICE president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the vice-presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Mr. Peter Obi, the vice-presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stole the spotlight at the debate for vice presidential candidates.
The debate Friday night, organised by the Nigerian Elections Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) was attended by five political parties.
The other candidates were Ganiyu Galadima of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Khadijah Abudullahi-Iya, Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), and Mrs. Umma Abdullahi-Getso of the Young Progressives Party (YPP).
At the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, the first TV debate ahead of the 2019 election predictably became a clash between the PDP and the ruling APC.
The economy and corruption became the focus for Obi and Osinbajo, with both peddling statistics, wild claims and rebuttals, while comparing Nigeria with other developed countries.
Obi faulted the government’s economic policy and fight against corruption, describing it as disaster. He alluded to it as closing a shop to chase thieves. “You are not creating jobs, you are not doing the right thing, and you are just fighting corruption. You can’t shut down your shop and be chasing criminals,” he said.
He noted further: “In 2015, unemployment and underemployment was 24 per cent, today it’s 40 per cent. In 2015, we were attracting N21 billion in foreign direct investments, we attracted only 12 last year. That means it’s going low. Our GDP was 520 in 2015, and per capital was 2,500, today it’s under 1,900. If you look at our stock market, it has lost over N2 trillion in one year.”
Osinbajo shot back, saying that if the criminals were allowed to steal, then there would not be a shop. According to the Vice President, “what has happened in Nigeria in the past 16 years is what the World Bank told us that the major cause of our poverty is corruption. There is no way we can minimise what has happened. You can’t minimise corruption. We cannot do what we want to do unless we are able to minimise corruption or eradicate it completely. This is what we are doing.”Obi’s questionable facts and figures included his assertion that there were 2 million vehicles on Nigerian roads, while the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) posts about 11 million vehicles as at 2017. Another is his claim that 80 per cent of foreign exchange earnings came from oil. The figure from NBS is 90 per cent.
While Obi readily held up the economies of China and South Africa as what is essentially wrong with the economy of Nigeria under the APC, Osinbajo pointed out that “those economies have one thing in common: adequate infrastructure.”
He reminded Obi, that the rundown on Nigeria’s infrastructure occurred in the 16 years of the PDP in government. The Vice President noted the improvements in the economy and infrastructure under the APC following heavy investments in roads and rail transport, power sector, enhanced Ease of Doing Business, according to the World Bank report.
Obi blamed everything wrong in the country, like poor job creation, rise on the misery index, insecurity, poverty, on the economy, a sector under the purview of the Vice President’s office. He noted: “The vice president has a role to build the economy and make the country work.”
Responding to a question on petroleum subsidy, Mrs Umma Getso, described it as a scam by government as she noted the need to rebuild the nation’s economy.
Defending subsidy, Osinbajo said that petrol could sell for N220 or more if the government removes subsidy on the petroleum products. While he insisted that government cannot remove the subsidy because of the effect on Nigerians, he said that, “there is no country in the world, not even the wealthiest ones that don’t run some type of subsidy or the other.”
The ANN Vice Presidential Candidate, Khadijah Abudullahi-Iya said a government of the ANN would ensure transparency in government, diversify the economy and initiate policies on unemployment.
Alhaji Ganiyu Galadima, ACPN vice presidential candidate said his party would make Nigeria the envy of other nations through working with technocrats to develop the country’s economy.
He said: “In 2015, what we were told by the APC was that the subsidy was a fraud. As it is today, the Nigerian government is subsidizing petroleum to the tune of N2 billion daily times 30 days, it is too staggering. That is to say, we are subsidizing inefficiency and funds that should go into development, infrastructure and to other sectors of the economy are being fritted away”.
Meanwhile, the PDP has hailed Obi’s performance as an “unprecedented understanding of the dynamics of the critical sectors of our economy with practical solutions to the myriad of problems.”
In a statement Friday by PDP spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP noted its preparedness to take over government and return the nation to the path of good governance, national cohesion and economic prosperity.
Ologbondiyan stated that the debate exposed the humongous corruption in the Buhari Presidency, “as Osinbajo could not provide answers to the exposed N8 trillion sleazes in the fuel subsidy regime under the Buhari administration.”
It claimed that the Vice President was jittery at the debate, particularly as “most of his claims especially in food provision, infrastructure and security were all fictitious.”“Prof. Osinbajo and the Buhari administration lack every moral standing to speak on social welfare when the Vice President is yet to explain the whereabouts of the N33 billion meant for the provision of food and other items for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) suffering in the North East,” he noted.