On December 4, 2022, Arise TV hosted a town hall with leading 2023 presidential candidates in attendance. Only the regular absentee, Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC), was missing from the party. Those present were Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).
What were the highlights?
Despite the fact they’re all contesting on different mantras and platforms, the candidates seemed to agree on certain policy issues. All three believe in education being a driver of growth. They also shared, to varying degrees, sentiments that the constitution needs to be revised and an emphasis on health insurance for all.
But they had their differences too. Obi believes strongly that an investment in human capital development is vital to pulling Nigeria out of poverty. He spoke on reviving the bank of agriculture in Kaduna to enable farmers get easier access to loans.
Kwankwaso believes strongly in education but also in greatly expanding Nigeria’s security forces. He also said he would make strides in other sectors like in infrastructure and construction. He claimed that as Kano governor, he built three major cities in four years with ₦40 billion without borrowing.
Atiku believes the private sector is the driver of prosperity and plans to incentivise it. He is also particular about agriculture being a mainstay of the economy and spoke on plans to expand the sector to employ more people. The PDP candidate also spoke on his achievements as vice president, how he was in charge of local government administration in his first nine months in office and how he plans to sustain programmes the PDP launched.
Any touchy subjects?
On the issue of medical tourism, Kwankwaso seemed the boldest on the matter when he said he’s in good health and that his doctor has certified he has at least 30 years of life left in him.
The former Kano State governor said he’d keep using Nigerian health facilities if he becomes president. “We’ll introduce some policies that’ll improve healthcare service delivery through the NHIS. We’ll make healthcare accessible to every Nigerian.”
Atiku appeared evasive on the matter by saying he would declare his health status if the need arises. On medical tourism he said, “The Nigerian health facilities that cater for my health may not be available. You know that we have limitations. We have been talking about those limitations.”
Obi also didn’t fully commit to ending medical tourism when he said, “It’s actually required that those aspiring to lead should be able to make their medical records available to the public. And two, I have served as a governor. While serving as governor, I resuscitated some facilities and used them. I’m still using them till today.
“I believe if there’s any issue of referral from them, I mean if there’s a situation our healthcare can’t handle, I’ll not say everybody must be restricted here. As for my position, I use the facilities here and I believe in them. And I can tell you they’re very competent. All we need is to believe in them. I’ve shown you how we can use insurance to prove everyone can be cared for.”
All three candidates made pledges to Nigerians. Atiku doubled down on his mantra of unifying the country as president, Obi pledged to form a government of national unity, while Kwankwaso pledged to provide quality education and train as many Nigerians as possible.
But as every Nigerian knows from experience, talk is cheap. The one good thing we can take from this town hall is we can hold whoever becomes president accountable based on the promises they’ve made to us.