The National Assembly (NASS) has been urged to make presidential and gubernatorial debates mandatory.
This call was made by the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP). The group emphasized that the discussions would deepen democracy in the country.
The association made this call to parliament following controversy surrounding the ongoing presidential debates in Nigeria ahead of the 2023 general election.
CNPP wants the government arm to take steps to enact a law making participation in presidential and gubernatorial debates a mandatory part of Nigeria’s electoral process.
In a statement signed by its Secretary General, Willy Ezugwu, the group recalled that “in the history of electoral debates in the country, either some candidates deliberately refused to attend the debates or were excluded by the organizers based on their prejudices.”
According to the CNPP, “the legalization of presidential and gubernatorial debates will go a long way in helping electorates make informed decisions about the election of the Chief Executive Officer of a state or the Federal Republic of Nigeria or even the election of a legislator for represent their constituency.
The NCPP added that “in advanced democracies, such as the United States, from which Nigeria borrowed its presidential system, candidate debates are not constitutionally mandated, but are considered an intrinsic part of the American electoral process, so that no serious contender In America’s presidential race you can afford to stay away from the candidates’ scheduled debates.
“While Nigeria has been holding presidential and gubernatorial debates, they have been anything but organized and mandatory for candidates to run.
“In Nigeria, media organizations and non-governmental organizations have tried to set up platforms for presidential and gubernatorial debates, but participation was left to the discretion of the candidates or organizers.
“So, over the years, the organizers selected the preferred candidates that they considered to be the main contenders and unfairly excluded the rest of the contestants, thus not providing a level playing field for all candidates to participate.
“The CNPP believes that for the electoral debates of the candidates to achieve their intended purposes, it is necessary that the presidential and gubernatorial debates be mandatory for all candidates and their political parties to participate.
“Candidate debates must consciously become a true platform for the general public to assess individuals seeking to represent them at any level of government through elections and as an avenue to increase political participation in the country.
“CNPP therefore calls on the National Assembly to immediately establish modalities for candidates to participate in debate as part of Nigeria’s electoral process, especially at the presidential and gubernatorial levels in the first instance.
“This can be achieved by enacting a law for the establishment of a National Electoral Debates Commission (CED), with a mandate to organize debates for candidates in Nigeria.
“The commission must be empowered to adequately sanction candidates who do not participate, including the imposition of severe sanctions in the form of fines, among others.
“If Nigeria needs a constitutional amendment to achieve this, it will be a legacy worth leaving by any administration, as the overall gains from establishing such a commission in order to develop and deepen Nigerian democracy cannot be quantify in monetary terms.
“Mandatory candidate debates, therefore, will serve as a clarifying platform and avenue for candidate engagement, providing constituents with an opportunity to engage with their potential leaders for a proper assessment to determine their readiness levels for leadership, his commitment to good governance and his willingness to be accountable to voters after winning the elections”, affirmed the CNPP.