Arrangements have been concluded to organise an election debate for all 17 governorship candidates in the 10 October, 2020 election in Ondo state.
All the candidates including the incumbent Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of the APC; Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi of the ZLP; Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP and Don Dotun Ojon of the YPP among others ate expected to participate in the debate slated for Sept 29 and October 4 in Akure.
Addressing a news conference held at the NUJ Press Centre, Akure, the Chairman of the Committee on the Election Debate, Dr Gbenga Abimbola said the debate would be an independent exercise that would allow all candidates to participate as they have been officially informed.
Read below full text of the press conference;
ADDRESS BY THE FACE THE VOTER INITIATIVE ON ONDO STATE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION DEBATES HELD ON MONDAY SEPTEMBER 7, 2020 AT THE NUJ PRESS CENTER, AKURE
In the past few weeks, a number of us like minds in the public space of our dear state have been ruminating on the forthcoming governorship election in October with a view to creating a credible platform for an effective interface between candidates and the people in the first instance, and among the candidates themselves in order to deepen political conversation for better voter perception.
It is with great pleasure and privilege that I address you today on the outcome of our rumination – the establishment of a broad based and home grown initiative to organise, anchor and mediate proposed debates among the candidates of the gubernatorial election coming up in Ondo State on October 10, 2020.
There is no gainsaying the fact that public debates among candidates seeking elective positions have become a norm in advanced democracies and is gradually being embraced in Nigeria, though a relatively new idea.
The goal of election debates is to promote political tolerance, constructive dialogue and selfless service to the people. Election debate provides a neutral platform where candidates of political parties are grilled by independent moderators on critical issues to enable the audience to compare the candidates’ positions on such issues.
As a matter of fact, debates are often the only time during a campaign when candidates are together at the same time in the same place. Debates also seek to fill the gap created by the one-way communication model that characterizes campaigns whereby politicians only talk at the people without allowing people to ask questions.
It is against this background that the FACE THE VOTER INITIATIVE is birthed by nonpartisan and independent Ondo State based stakeholders in the civil society and the media. The FACE THE VOTER INITIATIVE, which draws membership from labour, professional bodies, CSOs and other critical stakeholders, is an independent, nonpartisan, issue-based and value-adding platform specifically conceived and set up to stage an engagement among Gubernatorial candidates of different political parties and the electorate in healthy debates on radio, television and digital channels prior to the election.
The platform is conceived and owned by a conglomerate of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), National Orientation Agency (NOA), broadcast media such as the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Ondo State Radiovision Corporation (OSRC TV) ORANGE FM, SUNSHINE 96.5FM, BREEZ 91.9FM and other stations operating in the state, Campaign for Democracy (CD), Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN).
It is expected that these shall be ably supported by other stakeholders like Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA) & National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Institute for Media and Society, CDHR, CCSN, NURTW, NCWS, and the academia.
Although a similar exercise had held in Ondo State in one or two previous elections, this year’s debate is unique for the following reasons. First, it is conceived and owned by critical stakeholders within the state to make it indigenous.
This is because the organisers are stakeholders entirely domiciled in the state with the advantage of experiential understanding of the terrain that makes it possible for our story to be better told by us. Second, it is being organized by the media and the people who the politicians seek to govern.
The partnership and synergy between the media and the organisations listed above make it a complete blend. Third, it affords the contestants the opportunity to meet the Independent National Electoral Commission’s directive to political parties and their candidates to explore the media option (both conventional and social platforms) to reach the electorate rather than mass gathering campaigns in line with the Covid-19 protocols.
The event, by intent and arrangement, is scheduled to be broadcast live on Radio and Television stations based in the state as well as on digital platforms. Two dates have been picked by the organisers: September 29 and October 4, 2020. Both sessions shall be held at the International Events Centre (The Dome), Akure.
The Independent National Electoral Commission and domestic/international observers are being invited to monitor the debates while security agencies shall be on ground to maintain law and order.
The target audience is primarily the citizens of the Sunshine State who are going to elect a governor come October 10, 2020. To achieve better understanding, the medium of engagement shall be in easily understood languages of English, Pidgin English and Yoruba. Apart from millions of viewers, listeners and online followers that will monitor the debate all over the world, there shall be a live audience comprising critical stakeholders including the press and supporters of participating political parties selected on equal proportion basis. The live audience shall be admitted strictly by invitation.
The exercise will be guided by the principles of transparency and impartiality. All debaters will be given equal treatment because they have the same status as candidates of their respective political parties for the same election. The faculty will be drawn from the media stations as well as the professional bodies who are the organisers of the debate.
It is on this note that we invite and encourage political parties participating in this year’s election to take advantage of this unique initiative and participate in the FACE THE VOTER public debates where their candidates will showcase the stuff they are made of by answering questions on critical sectors of the state’s economy and development. This will afford the electorate the rare opportunity to meet them in real terms.
Gentlemen, this is essentially a media event, our event, your event, and I plead with us to give it the widest publicity as part of our constitutional role of holding government accountable to the people.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Dr Gbenga Abimbola
Chairman, Board of Trustees