Security and the economy took centre stage on Sunday as the presidential candidates of the Labour Party, Peter Obi; the New Nigerian Peoples Party, Musa Kwankwaso and Kola Abiola of Peoples Redemption Party squared up at the Arise tv Presidential Town Hall Series on Security and Economy, in Abuja.
However, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar and his All Progressives Congress counterpart, Bola Tinubu, failed to show up at the debate organised by Arise TV in collaboration with the Centre for Development and Democracy at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
Although Atiku was represented by his running mate, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Tinubu sent no representative.
But the supporters of the LP, the NNPP and the PRP who were unhappy with Atiku’s absence heckled Okowa, stating that the event was meant for presidential candidates only.
Shouting “No representation by proxy,” the supporters prevented the programme from kicking off on time as the organizers sought to pacify them.
Speaking on his plans to tackle insecurity in the country, Atiku harped on intelligence gathering and sharing among the security agencies.
Calling for the decentralisation of the police, the PDP candidate stressed that the current policing system cannot secure the country.
He said, “We need to emphasise coordinated intelligence gathering and sharing. We need more boots on the ground to address insecurity in Nigeria. We need to evolve policing in Nigeria to ensure that people who have a better understanding of their areas, know how to secure their areas. One centralized police force is unable to meet the demands that we have.
“We need more boots on the ground. We need adequate welfare to ensure that our security agencies are better-taken care of. We also need to address unemployment, otherwise, more young people will be drawn to contribute to the insecurity. Technically, it is very important but the equipment is few. The men in boots must be well trained and paid.”
He highlighted the role of the private sector in the Nigerian project he hopes to lead if elected President of the country.
The PDP presidential running mate also spoke on how his principal would unite and lead the country on the path of development with the support of the private sector.
He added, “Atiku is a successful businessman and a person who runs very successful academic institutions. We have a document, ‘My covenant with Nigeria,’ a common document on behalf of himself, myself and the PDP.
“The private sector has a role to play. To make progress, we must talk about the unity of this country. Until we are able to unite ourselves and realize that we must think and work together, we may not be able to go through the path that will lead us to new growth.”
On debt, Okowa recalled how former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his vice president, Atiku, obtained debt relief for Nigeria while in power.
“From 1999 to 2007, we knew where President Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku met the country and where they left it. Because of them, we were able to pay back a lot of our debt and we had debt forgiveness.
“In Delta State, we used to have agitations in oil-producing communities. But now, we have partnered in these communities to create jobs, create a new class of entrepreneurs and show people that we care about development,’’ the vice presidential candidate said.
The presidential candidate of the Labour Party said he would have acted swiftly to rescue kidnap victims if he was the Commander-in-Chief, describing government response to kidnap incidents as weak.
Obi stated that he would also have a thought-out process and show empathy to the families of the victims.
He added, “There was a failure of processing and giving due attention to intelligence which I would have given due intelligence and promptly dealt with. Government action and communication were weak. And I think that shows the overall need for us to improve our intelligence processing and give an immediate response, whenever such a situation arises.”
He further stated that insecurity would have been reduced to the barest minimum if more people were taken out of poverty.
“I have said consistently that the more people you put out of poverty, the more you reduce the criminality that is in the country,’’ he argued.
Responding to a question about what he would do to address graft, he stated, “I have always argued that they are doing what they are doing in a country where those people in government are richer than entrepreneurs. I served a state for eight years and you can go to that state and see not one day did I ever borrow from any financial institution in Nigeria. I was not in any position or have never been invited by anybody for questions about their missing money since the day I left office.
“I wasn’t owing anybody; any contractor that delivered his project, I wasn’t owing any supply that was delivered. I was not owing salary, gratuity or anybody. In three banks in Nigeria, Access Bank, Fidelity Bank and Diamond Bank, I left in each $50 million and over N10 billion for the state. I am like them as angry as they are that we must be able to chase out those where they passed nobody can account of what they were given.’’
Speaking on the terrorist attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train and abduction of passengers, the NNPP candidate recalled how the Olusegun Obasanjo administration under which he served as minister and presidential adviser secured every part of Nigeria and went ahead to restore peace in other African countries.
Kwankwaso said, “As a former Minister of Defence, I can assure you that the situation should not have been allowed. I am sure you remember that recently we unveiled our blueprint, and in our blueprint, we made it very clear that the number of military that we have today, which is about 250,000, is grossly inadequate.
“Therefore, we have made adequate arrangements to have about one million military – Army, Air Force and Navy. With that, we believe we are going to take over every square metre of our land in this country. Police are about 230,000 at the moment; we also want to raise it to about one million; put together the SSS, Civil Defence and other security agencies. Within a very short period of time, we should be able to be in charge of our land.