A group, consisting Civil Society Organisations, labour unions, professional bodies, media and religious organisations, have concluded plans to organise a debate for governorship candidates in the October 10 Ondo State poll.
The Convener of the group, Dr. Gbenga Abimbola, said this on Monday at a press conference in Akure, the state capital.
The debate, tagged: “Face the Voter,” Abimbola said, was aimed at creating a credible platform for an effective interface between the candidates and the people.
According to him, 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.
He said the goal of election debate was to promote political tolerance, constructive dialogue and selfless service to the people.
Abimbola said the debate would provide 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.
He said: “Debates are often the only time during a campaign when candidates are together at the same time in the same place.
“And this also seeks to fill the gap created by the one-way communication model that characterises 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 non-partisan and independent Ondo State-based stakeholders in the civil society and the media.
“The initiative by members of all professional bodies is an independent, non-partisan, issue-based specifically conceived and set up to stage an engagement among governorship candidates of different political parties and the electorate in healthy debates on radio, television and digital channels prior to the election.
“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.”
Abimbola said the 2020 governorship election debate was unique because it was conceived and owned by critical stakeholders within the state and the organisers’ are domiciled in the state with the advantage of experiential understanding of the terrain that makes it possible for the story to be better told by us.
He said the programme would afford 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 convener said the target audience to watch and listen to the debate on TV, Radio stations and various social media was primarily the citizens who are going to elect a governor on October 10.
He said there would be a live audience comprising critical stakeholders, including the press and supporters of participating political parties selected on equal proportion, and would be admitted strictly by invitation.
Abimbola urged political parties participating in the 2020 Ondo State governorship election to take advantage of the 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.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the platform was conceived by the Nigeria Labour Congress, Nigerian Bar Association, Nigeria Union of Journalists, National Orientation Agency and broadcast media in the state.