Chairman of the Nigerian Electoral Debate Group (NEDG), Chief Taiwo Alimi, Thursday lashed out at the audience in the venue of the gubernatorial candidate debate at the Women Development Centre Awka for not playing by the rules.
The audience had on two occasions applauded the candidate of the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) Dr. Ifeatu Ekelem and his counterpart in the APC, Senator Chris Ngige for their performance in the debate, an action that contravened the rules governing the exercise.
Alimi had reiterated that the rules governing the debate were clear that no one should applaud or react in any way and that no member of the audience should in anyway participate in the debate beyond observing the candidates.
Also, indications from the outcome of Thursday’s debate showed that the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Willie Obiano, might not make it to the finals of the debate as a poll had shown.
But a participant from the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Mr. Amaechi Ekeledo, insisted that the rule is ‘absolutely unenforceable’ because what we have here are human beings who would naturally react when good points that appeal to the heart are being made.
Ekeledo asked: “What is the debate for? Why do they need an audience at all if all I can do after spending time and money to come here is to sit down and mope? We all might as well go home and leave the debate officials here, and watch it in television since there is a live transmission anyway.”
Bruce Oguajulu of Alliance for Democracy agrees with Ekeledo, when he said “It is extremely difficult to say that people should not one way or another show emotions. In fact since my secondary school days, all debates that I have attended had provisions for debaters to score marks based on audience reaction to their delivery.
“This stooge approach cannot work, so (Taiwo) Alimi and his people should take a second look at that section of the rule because noting is perfect.”
A teacher, Ndu Igwedibia, however differed because according to him “the rules were clear before the blast of the whistle and those who could not adhere could have stayed at home and viewed it on television.
Attendance at yesterday’s debate was poor with observers crediting it to the fact that the audience did not only have any role to play but tied to too many inhibitions.
Meanwhile, the fact that Obiano may not make it to the finals reserved for six candidates this evening became manifest when out of a sample of 30 persons interviewed at an exit poll conducted at the venue, 14 voted the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Chris Ngige, as their first choice candidate in the first session of the debate; six voted Dr Ifeatu Ekelem of ACD, five for Austin Nwangwu of CPP and four for Obiano and one for Aaron Igwe.
Ngige however identified energy as the only reason many industries are dead in Anambra State and promised to reverse the trend by buying an Independent Power Project that would inject 1000 megawatts of electricity into the state.
But Obiano recorded a major contradiction, promising to get the state’s oil refinery at Aguleri working in his first 100 days in office, only to declare at the later part of the debate that he would ensure the refinery works within the first nine months in office.
Both candidates fielded questions from a three-man panel on what was considered the most critical issue in the state and what they would do to tackle it in the first 100 days in office.
Obiano, who was late to the debate, had claimed that a motor accident forced him to use another route to the venue and was warned twice by the moderator, Nancy Ilo, to desist from personal attacks.
Ngige who said the most critical problem in Anambra was security, added that “I will address this issue from the curative approach in my first 100 days in office.”
Apart from Ngige and Obiano the other candidates who participated the debate held at the Women Development Centre Awka were Mr Chika Jerry of Action Alliance; Ekelem of ACD; Aaron Igweze of Alliance for Democracy (AD); Anthony Anene of the Action Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) and Austin Nwangwu of Citizens Popular Party (CPP). stood out as the best for Anambra State as he would bring dynamism to the governance of the state.
“Masters of Ceremonies hold the power to educate the citizens on the functions and actions of the government and are a very important segment of the information dissemination machinery that should be harnessed by governments to inform and educate the people,” he said.