The Nigerian Election Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria yesterday announced its proposed schedule for the 2019 presidential election debates.

The group has scheduled vice-presidential debate for 14th December 2018, while presidential debate is for 19th January 2019.

The two events are expected to hold in Abuja.

The big question is “Have previous debates affected the outcome of any presidential election in Nigeria?” The answer is a big “NO”. In many cases, the candidates of the major parties refuse to participate. From past experience, those who don’t show up end up winning the elections. So why bother?

Muhammadu Buhari didn’t show up for the 2015 presidential debate but he won!

Goodluck Jonathan, who was the incumbent president participated and he lost!

The same scenario plays out at the level of State governorship debates. The leading candidates tend to shun these debates. I am sure they believe, and rightly too, that there are other ways to win elections in Nigeria without exposing their own illiteracy, unsuitability and stupidity to the electorate. And this is usually the case.

Most of our candidates cannot explain what they plan to do and how they aim to do it because they don’t know. All they know to do is make promises which they know they cannot fulfil.

Without any enforceable law to compel participation by candidates, these debates may just be a waste of time and resources put into organising them. But who will put the law in place? The legislators who are supposed to do this are not even tested by these debates.

Why doesn’t the debate group organise such for Senate and House of Representatives candidates too? These should be the people to go through debates at their levels since they claim to be closer to the people at the grassroots. Let them tell their constituencies what they will do and how they can make the executive arms provide for their constituencies right to the bottom. Let the incumbents account for what they have done and why they qualify to go back to Abuja for another term of four years and if they deserve to.

But I bet these legislators will not let such law see the light of day.

Debate organisers should re-strategise and plan how to make every election seeking person convince the electorate. Not just presidential candidates or gubernatorial.

Except, of course, organisers go through the motion to raise money from sponsors and advertisers? I hope this is not the case.



  1. Presidential Debate is a very good way of knowing our candidates in terms of their learnings, intellectual and moral capacities, their understanding of their parties’ manifestos and politics generally. It is a very useful exercise that enables the electorate to know it’s would-be leaders, although the somewhat morbid Nigerian electorate seems not concerned about the debates. Nevertheless, the debate system will eventually get rooted in the nearest future. Then, no presidential candidate will be able to take the electorate for granted on such crucial issue as the Presidential or Gubanitorial Debate. Even now, I don’t see how a presidential candidate can convince many Nigerians that he has any good reason for avoiding the debate. Let’s see how it goes this time.

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