Debating A Debate...Nigerians And Our Way

By Prince Charles Dickson
When you see a snake, you do not set-up a committee to kill the snake; you kill the snake and then set-up a committee.

In recent weeks, I have watched and read from commentators, critics; columnists, analysts, essayists and sundry do both justice and injustice to the issue of the Presidential Debates. I am adding my voice not because I am an authority or that I have been involved in one debate myself.

However as I pen this essay, I recall those secondary school days with nostalgia when apart from our regular academic work, some of my proudest moments remain when we were part of the Literary And Debating Society or Press Club as it was called in other climes.

Whether the topic was Singles School is better than Co-educational Schools, or Day school is better than boarding or that funny topic, daddy is more important than mummy. It was always exciting, we crammed, for those that could not marshal their points off-heart, and for the smart ones, they simply sweet talked and impressed with their oratory skills, also there was the introduction, very popular. Mr. Chairman, my this and that, fellow or is it co-debaters, guest and friends, all protocols duly observed, I am here to....

It was when school was school, not this age of computers, facebook, British and American International Schools and French Language when we cannot teach our children our local dialect.

But before I stray off my points. The NN24/Next inspired Debate has come and gone, we wait to see if it does hold and how the BON debate will go.

Nigerians are peculiar people, despite all our 'gra-gra', 'shakara' and 'oloje', we keep moving, no matter the pace, no matter the direction we move, after twelve years we may have nothing to show but we have grown in leaps and bounds.

Some 15 years who would have thought that we could have town-hall meetings with Governors, or any leader at that, even with all the Lagos sophistication, no one would have imagined the army giving Lagosians the opportunity of watch three or more officers debate and answer questions regarding, why they want to be Sole Administrators, what they wanted or could do?

Today, we have gotten to that point, a few slow steps but steps all the same. We have seen a couple of debates. Although one could argue and rightly so too that some of these debates are simply attacks on PDP or the other candidates. However, which sane person would not attack PDP anyway?

Alas as everything Nigerian, we are debating a debate, I have heard people say, Jonathan has stage fright, and others say, he did not defend his project or dissertations, another section insists he is not versed in such oratory conventions. Another set which include myself say that he does not like to argue.

Another point maybe the man is already working, the elections are already a foregone conclusion, if the debates where a requirement, himself and his party would not have treated it with levity.

However in the next few lines, highlights of the Presidential debate remain for me in my personal opinion, the following lines.

Most importantly, Jonathan did not attend, and it was a good funeral dirge for the PDP in a sane society, but ours is not, so he may still win anyway.

The moderator did a fairly good job of it, and I dare say thumbs up...

The issues that were raised ranged from the economy, security, power, education, and a host of others.

Buhari in his introduction, asked for people to have confidence in politicians...a hard ask. Ribadu gave us his resume. Shekerau spoke well and was erudite.

Ribadu took the debate like a charged secondary school child, he fluctuated, and apart his lie about Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he blew hot and cold. I learned from Rinadu that there is a difference between being a fraud and a fraudster.

On education, Ribadu got it right, while Buhari faltered, Shekarau being a teacher could not be faulted, and it was his turf.

I recall that on three occasions Ribadu was personal in his disagreement with the General and off-course for effects stated much earlier he was not depending on luck. His ego denied him composure, and he shouted most of the time

Buhari lost steam towards the end, but he is not any younger and you know the military thing, however you could not take away his factual statement "When people are educated they can take care of themselves".

And taking a swipe at Ribadu, Shekarau said on security "EFCC and ICPC are glorified police stations...duplicity of police functions".

Buhari, said, he is done it and can do it, Ribadu added that he was no local champion but one that represents the aspirations of today's Nigeria.

Shekarau, the former maths teacher reeled in his sciences, telling us as a principal, and governor, he can do it; he was the smooth operator of the lot.

It was quick-paced, but from continued conversations, we can see how politically aware, even though partly naive the Nigerian is...

A bonus for the debate was all candidates were from the north, and Shekarau's words, “it should be about whom it is--not where is he from” summed it up. The moderator was from the North too, but they spoke of Nigeria. I honestly wished we had some couple of Southerners in the fray.

For those that watched, it's given us something to reflect on, these debates will it make the votes count, will it neutralize the rigging machinery...? April beckons and it remains to be seen who will get the day.

Finally, if only these three could work together, also truthfully how many Nigerians watched the debate, it's on the elite DSTV and by very less known NN24. There is no law in Nigeria stipulating that a person contesting for any office must debate with his opponents either in public or private. We must know that electoral debates are not compulsory but a matter of choice. So Jonathan do not mind them o jare.

And in 'dame' like fashion, my final conclusion is can we trust any of these men, are they ready to kill the snake or again set up committees?

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Articles by Prince Charles Dickson