Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, disagreed with the vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Peter Obi, on the usefulness of the ongoing anti-graft war to the socio-economic development of the country.
The duo spoke during the vice presidential debate series organized by the Nigerian Election Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) ahead of next year’s general elections.
Osinbajo reeled out the present administration’s achievements in the areas of agriculture, anti-corruption and infrastructure, among others, while Obi, who lamented that poverty was on the rise, with unemployment worsening, said the major problem of the country is economy, with unsustainable debt, saying his presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s government would harp on private sector- driven economy.
Obi, who expressed support for the need to tackle corrupt practices, believed the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has lost focus on the need to place more emphasis on the numerous problems bedeviling the country.
He said: “Fighting corruption is not an economic policy; it is not that you can’t fight corruption, but you can fight it more aggressively while addressing economic issues.
In 2015, unemployment and unemployment was 25 per cent. Today, it is 40 per cent. In 2015, we attracted $21billion in foreign direct investment. But we attracted only $17 billion last year. Our GDP was 120 in 2015, our per capita was N2, 500. Today, it is under N1, 900. Our stock market lost over N2trillion in one year. That is not a policy.
“You are not creating jobs, you are not doing the right things and you are just fighting corruption. You can’t shut down your shop and you say you are chasing criminals.”
Osinbajo, who faulted Obi on the issue, maintained that there was no way the country could attain the desired growth if corrupt practices are allowed to remain in the country.
He stated: “Let me say that if you allow criminals to steal all the inventory in the shop, there would be no shop. And what has happened in the last 16 years is what the World Bank told us that the major cause of our poverty is corruption.
“Let me say that there is no way that we can minimise what has happened. We can’t minimise corruption. If we minimise it, we run the risk of completely losing our argument. We can’t do what we are able to do unless we are able to minimise corruption or eradicate it completely.”
On payment of fuel subsidy, Osinbajo maintained that it was aimed at cushioning the effect of high coat of fuel on the citizenry, saying records of the payments were on the balance sheets of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and assured that the practice, which he said is a global trends, would be stopped in due course.
But Obi decried the ugly trend, wondering why the sum of N1trillion was paid annually as the subsidy, just to satisfy two million car owners in a population of 180 million Nigerians in dire need of basic health, education and other basic amenities.
He made reference to government yearly budgetary provision of NI34 billion for health and N450 billion for the education sector as against the N1trillion paid for the subsidy to buttress his claim.
Meanwhile, pockets of protests greeted the vice presidential debate in Abuja, following the restriction of some candidates from participating in the event.
Some placard-carrying demonstrators marched to Transcorp Hilton Hotel, venue of the debate, to register their grievance over the non-inclusion of the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (ACC), Omoyele Sowore, in the debate.
Some of the placards read, ‘No Sowore, no debate,’ ‘Sowore must debate’ and ‘BON/ NEDG, Sowore must debate,’ among others.
The demonstration commenced as soon as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo arrived the Congress Hall to participate in the event.
Leader of the protesters, who gave his name as Jude Eya, wondered why their presidential candidate would be excluded from the debate when he has all it takes to lead the country, accusing the organizers- Nigeria Election Debate Group (NEDG) and Broadcasting Organization Of Nigeria (BON)- of bias.
He said: “We learnt that our candidate was excluded because of character and we ask, what character? Is it federal character or something?”
Eya, who addressed journalists, described the development as the greatest undoing in a democracy, saying the party would seek redress in court.
Others involved were Khadija Abdulahi Iya of Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Young Progressive Party’s (YPP) Umma Getso and that of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Ganiyu Galadima.