Senate moves to make presidential/governorship candidates’ debates compulsory

The Senate has put machinery in motion towards making Presidential and governorship debates a compulsory part of elections in the country.

The lawmakers, at the Wednesday sitting, passed a bill seeking to  formalise debates in elections through the Second Reading.

Sponsored by Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, the bill is seeking to make debates compulsory before governorship and Presidential elections.

Titled “Nigerian Political Debates Commission Bill, 2015,” it is seeking to give legislative backing to the establishment of a commission with responsibility to organise and conduct debates for all the candidates cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), to partake in elections.

The senator, while leading the debate said: “The bill, if considered and passed by this hallowed Chamber, will strengthen our democracy and bring it in conformity with practice in other renowned democracy of the world.”

He cited  the example of  United States of America where,  according to him, debates  among major candidates have become an integral part of the campaigns.

He stated that the practice had become customary in the USA following its debut in the 1960 debate between the then Democratic nominee John Kennedy and his Republican rival, Richard Nixon.

He stated further that debates are used to measure the quality of candidates,  adding that “an  analogous experience of this crucial indispensability of electoral debate is the current presidential debate between Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party and Donald Trump of the Republican party”

Senator Ben Murray Bruce, who supported the bill however said that it should be restricted to Presidential and gubernatorial elections.

He also cautioned that government agencies should not organise and fund such debates because, parties not in power would not have confidence in such debates.

“Yes, Nigerian electorates want debates for presidential and gubernatorial candidates of major political parties before election but the body to organize and  carry out such debates must be funded by the private sector as being  done in advanced democracies,” he said.

Senator Emmanuel Bwacha who also backed the bill said it was long overdue.

He stated that it was embarrassing that Nigerian voters, over the years, had not witnessed major debates among candidates.

He said: “This bill is surely a welcome development for  the Nigerian electorate  as far as the proposed debates are concerned.”

After the bill scaled the Second Reading stage, it was subsequently referred to Senate committees on Establishment and Public Service in collaboration with that of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for more legislative inputs.