Nigeria`s presidential debate held without Jonathan

Nigerian Prez did not appear during a presidential debate organised by a television station ahead of April polls.

Updated: Mar 19, 2011, 15:31 PM IST

Abuja: Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan did not appear during a presidential debate organised
by a television station ahead of April polls even as three of
his rivals participated in the discussion and vowed to fight

His absence drew criticisms here as people saw it as a
reminiscence of the behaviour of a former President Olusegun
Obasanjo who refused to appear at every debate but went ahead
to win the elections under the platform of the ruling Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP).

Jonathan is also of the PDP which is accused of
rigging most of the presidential elections even though the
opposition parties fail to prove that in courts.

The aspirants who appeared were former military head
of state whose party is called Congress for Progressive Change
(CPC), General Muhammadu Buhari, former anti-corruption boss
of the Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN), Nuhu Ribadu and a
former governor contesting under the All Nigeria Peoples Party
(ANPP), Ibrahim Shekarau.

Buhari promised to probe the power sector that has
engendered epileptic electricity supply all over the country.

"We need to put our dams to optimum utilisation. When
we are sworn-in, we need to investigate what happened to our
national resources voted for this sector between 1999 to this
time," he said.

Though Buhari`s rule in 1984 was seen as iron fisted
his admirers say he was not a corrupt leader and was only
using the method to fight corruption.

He was also appointed the head of Petroleum Trust Fund
by subsequent administration during which period no corrupt
practises were recorded against him and infrastructures like
roads were built by him.

Shekarau referred to his achievement as governor of
Kano state and vowed to tackle issues of water supply. He also
said he would work with sincerity to restore efficient power

Ribadu pledged to tackle the issue of restiveness in
the oil producing Niger Delta by providing employment for the
youth and getting people involved in a marshal plan.

Later, Jonathan issued a statement saying he would
appear during a debate scheduled for March 29.

Nigeria`s April elections are expected to be the most
closely watched in the country with the new independent
national electoral commission`s (INEC) chairman, Prof Attahiru
Jega promising to remove rigging which often leads to voter
apathy and international criticisms.

The oil rich African country is the biggest democracy
on the continent with a population of 150 million people. It
returned to civil rule in 1999 after several years of
intermittent military interference in its politics.