Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) has finally addressed the notion that the commission has the power to sanction a debate between candidates. While speaking at the quarterly consultative meeting with the media and other stakeholders in Abuja on Thursday, October 27, Prof Yakubu said the commission does not have such powers.
As reported by the Vanguard newspaper, the INEC boss said debate among candidates is at their discretion and it is within their rights to appear for a debate or not to appear.
He acknowledged that the initiative of a debate was a good one as it will keep electorates abreast of whom they should cast their votes for.
“I am not sure we can compel someone to attend the debate. You cannot do that. Even in most advanced countries, you can’t compel someone to do anything in a democracy. Debate, just like voting, is a democratic right. We know debates are to make citizens better informed.”
He further acknowledged that in most cases candidates prefer not to attend a debate so as to avoid making mistakes or talking out of context, which in turn might change the minds of the electorates about them.
Professor Yakubu also acknowledged the efforts of election debate groups for setting up debates for the Nigerian people to truly see and know whom they want to cast their votes for.
The commission’s chairman also noted that he has received several complaints from other political parties who are not pleased that they were not invited for debates.