The Senate has commenced moves to make it mandatory for those seeking elective positions to participate in pre-election debates.
The moves by the Senate followed the presentation of a bill by Sen. Abdulfatai Buhari (APC- Oyo North) which was read for the second time.
The upper legislative chamber referred the bill to the Committee on Establishment and Public Service as well as Committee on INEC.
The bill is entitled: “Nigerian Political Debates Commission Bill, 2015.”
If the bill is passed, those seeking election as president, governor, lawmakers and other elective positions, including their running mates, would have to go through a debate which would be organised by a proposed commission.
Presenting the lead debate, Buhari said that the bill would give legislative backing to the establishment of a commission that would be charged with organising the debate.
“The bill, if considered and passed by this hallowed chamber, will strengthen our democracy and bring it in conformity with the practice in other renowned democracies of the world,” he said.
He said that the United States was a good example where debates were properly used to reach out to the electorate.
The senator said that political parties and aspirants were already accustomed to the debates which had now become mandatory since it began in 1960 between then Democratic nominee John Kennedy and his Republican rival, Richard Nixon.
He urged his colleagues to support the bill for passage.
“The debate is the de facto election process in the United States as results of elections are predicated on the candidates’ performance at the debates.
An analogous experience of this crucial indispensability of electoral debate is the current presidential debate between Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party and Donald Trump of the Republican Party.
The regular debate has enabled the electorate not only to know about the personality of the candidates but also about their lifestyles, beliefs, reactions to national issues and foreign policy.
All these information have informed the electorate on the position to take during election.
In fact, the exposures made possible by the mandatory political debate will definitely save that country from electing a tyrant.
This will offer the electorate the avenue to evaluate candidates and vote along ideological lines rather than on ethnic or religious allegiance as it is prevailing in the country today,” he said.
Sen. Shehu Sani, who supported the bill said it will a great step ahead in deepening our nascent democracy.
Sen. Ben Murray-Bruce also supported the bill, adding that it should be organised and funded by the private sector. “Government should not fund it,” he said.