By Teslim Olawore
The presidential candidate, Atiku Abubarkar, and vice presidential candidate, Peter Obi, of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) for the forth coming elections in Nigeria appeared today on the live debate, ‘The Candidates’, a presidential town hall co-production between Daria Media and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), with support from the MacArthur Foundation. .
The debate designed like a town hall meeting hosted by ace journalist, Kadariah Ahmed and attended by an audience, is also aired live on TV stations and streamed live on the internet.
Here are some highlights from the debate featuring Atiku and Obi which held Wednesday night.
When challenged by host Kadariah Ahmed about his age, Atiku described himself as the bridge between Nigeria’s young and old generations.
When quizzed about his plans on how to win the war against corruption, he said he would consider granting amnesty to corrupt persons willing to surrender their loot.
Abubakar said he would consider drawing a line during which corrupt former public officials would be allowed to return their loot without prosecution. After then, strong policies would be put in place to prevent and fight corruption.
He said it would be more prudent to allow looters return their assets to Nigeria tax free and invest them in order to boost the country’s economy.
“Whether it is moral rectitude that you want to achieve or you want to see a fast development of your country,” Abubakar asked rhetorically.
The position was backed by Abubakar’s running mate, Mr Obi, who said it is better than to allow looters keep their plunder just by joining another political party.
Mr Obi’s statement appears a jibe at President Muhammadu Buhari, who has been repeatedly accused of tolerating corruption amongst his political associates while going after opposition members.
Mr Obi said the Buhari administration has fought elusive corrupt people at the detriment of the Nigerian economy, which he said has been haemorrhaging jobs since the government was inaugurated in 2015.
During the debate, reacting to Kadariah’s questions, Atiku denied using his position as a top government official to enrich himself.
Mr Abubakar resigned in 1989 as a top official with the Nigerian Customs Service.
Host Kadariah Ahmed put Mr Abubakar under the spotlight for his purchase of private shares in a logistic firm during his days at customs, a practice that was deemed a conflict of interest.
The former vice president, however, denied the claim, saying he was allowed to purchase private shares based on existing laws at the time.
The moderator, Kadariah Ahmed, had asked Atiku how he plans to lift people out of poverty if he is elected in the 2019 general elections.
The former Vice-President said, “A few years ago, I set up a microfinance bank and I brought in someone from Bangladesh and you know they are the best in the world in that area.
“I told him I wanted to lift people out of poverty and I want you to dedicate 80 per cent of your loans to women.
“You know how many persons I was able to lift out of poverty? 45,000.”
As the very final question before drawing the curtain on the interaction, Atiku was asked if he would accept the result of the election should he lose. He replied: “If elections are adjudged to be free and fair and credible, why not? I have lost elections before.”