By Masara Kim
The recent debate organized for the governorship aspirants in Plateau state really left me wondering if Plateau people are ever going to find it easy identifying the right candidate if the words of the aspirants are to be accorded priority.
Contrary to what I initially thought was going to be an opportunity for some people to silence some, I was out to understand that every politician seeking the seat of the governor in the 2015 elections is sound and prolific in presentation.
Needless to say that all of the three candidates from the ruling People's Democratic Party, Labour Party and the leading opposition party in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress have substantial knowledge of what governance is all about, and are all passionate about building a virile and prosperous Plateau State.
I particularly noted with keen interest the way and manner all of them spoke from varying experiences as far as politics is concerned, and their desire to see change in the coming years.
I equally was impressed with the way all of them identified some key lapses in the administrations of successive governments in the state, and ways to improve the lot of Plateau people.
For those that witnessed the debates live, particularly those that were at the conference hall of the Nigerian Film Institute, venue of the debate, the exercise was not just educative, but equally informative and entertaining.
There are indeed quite a number of issues that were hitherto unknown or unclear to me that the presentations of the candidates enlightened me about. This is in addition to the hilarious manner some of the candidates responded to some of the issues raised by both the moderator and the audience.
Of particular interest to me as an observer and participant was the attitude of the candidates during the debate. First of all, before the moderator raised the flag for the debates to begin, I think I saw palpable tension and apprehension of the unexpected on the faces of all the candidates. Aside the fact that none of them smiled within the first few minutes of their arrival, there was hardly a moment that any of them looked at the other person for up to two seconds.
Of course, they had a meeting with the organizers of the debate behind closed-doors shortly before the exercise. There, they must have been oriented on the rules for the game as well as the need for them to demonstrate togetherness and friendship on stage. Therefore, at least for the mere fact that they were being watched all over the place on the television, they ought to have even if just for the sake of it, behaved freely with one another. However, that was not what we saw.
In any case, that was not the main thing to note as the key reason for the gathering was to hear them speak. After their citations and the eventual commencement of the debate however, perhaps all of them forgot the number one rule of the exercise which was the need to observe time.
Only two minutes were allocated to each of them to respond to each of the main debate questions. The audience questions had one minute each for responses from the three candidates except for the first question which the moderator allowed two minutes each for the candidates.
One of the ways they all broke the rule of time was the preambles that preceded each of their answers. For Amb. Bagudu Hirse of the Labour Party, his opening words were mostly, “good question,” “well put,” or “thank you very much.”
For goodness sake time was going, and people only wanted to hear what they had to say about the issues raised in the questions. Of course most of the questions were (largely ‘how’), aimed at getting the strategies they would employ to tackle some of the issues. The former Nigerian envoy to Namibia however in my opinion made nonsense of himself on stage by also always attributing issues raised to his “7 point agenda” instead of straightforwardly answering the questions as raised.
For Barr. Simon Lalong of the APCs, perhaps he didn’t know he was too full of himself with the way he always made reference to his past achievements and how he already has everything mapped out. Although I adore his confidence, constantly referring to the past is purely a vain exercise for anyone who aims to move forward because not only do things change, the Lawyer was always caught by the time-keeper’s bell at the point he was to answer the question proper.
Sen. GNS Pwajok was yet another jokey who always had to make one philosophical statement or the other before properly answering the questions. For goodness sake your knowledge of the ‘book’ does not mean that you should always try to show yourself even when critical matters are at stake. Moreover, time was of paramount importance as far as the debate was concerned.
By and large, the debate was about the most interesting of such exercises ever organized in Nigeria as it gave me the opportunity to help Plateau people make informed decisions ahead of the polls. Since all of them were vibrant in their articulation of the issues raised thus creating an atmosphere for confusion as to whom to choose, perhaps by underscoring some of the personality traits exhibited by the trio in the cause of answering the questions would help.
First of all, it is pertinent to note that all of them spoke passionately with regards to the Plateau project. However, while one of them spoke like a public servant, one spoke like a campaigner as there still appeared the traits of an official in one of them.
While the public servant was more concerned with his reputation with the way he always played around some issues, the campaigner was always on the aggressive side. Though respectful, he was always confident about himself and critical of issues as officiated over by a certain administration. The official was more on the defensive side, always responding to issues in a way that tended to want to divert attention from the main issues.
The public servant spoke like an elder. He was slow but free in his presentation. He sounded well cultured, well travelled and well exposed. He was pragmatic and calculative in his arguments. He centered largely on policies as he however, imperceptibly hoped for the people’s endorsement to go in for the seat of the governor.
The campaigner attacked virtually every aspect of democracy within the past few years and hammered more on issues. He was however passionate and authoritative, cheerful and humorous, and yet stubborn and proud. He however sounded well experienced and knowledgeable in the affairs of the state, particularly the rural sector.
The official figure on his part was indeed prolific. He was articulate and fast enough to beat his timing. He spoke mainly based on ideas and professional experience. He was eloquent, intelligent, vast and well schooled in his disposition. His arguments however lacked substance as they only seemed to be aimed at appealing to the listening public and not aimed at enlightening the public on the policy thrust of his hopeful administration.
In summary, the February elections at the governorship level are largely a battle of the activists, the diplomats and the politicians on the Plateau. Whoever wins amongst these three however has the task of incorporating the other two into his programmes for the benefit of the state and I believe they can do it. This is because while the activist is concerned with his mandate, the diplomat is concerned about his reputation. Similarly, the politician is concerned about his career.
None of these can be achieved without hard work. Interestingly, all of the aspirants have an experience in government administration – Bagudu was Federal Commissioner and High Commissioner, Lalong a Speaker of the State Assembly and Chairman, Nigerian Conference of Speakers and GNS a Government Director General, Research and Documentation, Chief of Staff and a Senator.
Plateau people have nothing to fear because there exists nothing to lose whether or not the candidate of their choice wins. But the need to ensure that they make their votes count cannot be over-emphasized. Every party supporter has a duty to vote for his choice, protect the election materials and report any anomaly during and after the polls. The treaty for peace signed by the trio at the debate venue must also be respected. Every party loyalist must ensure that his party is not fingered as the first to break the peace agreement.
God bless Plateau State.