The Chairman of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has revealed that it is out of the commission’s jurisdiction to mandate electoral candidates to partake in debates.
According to the INEC boss, even though the electoral body doesn’t have any power to force electoral candidates to attend debates, there are “unspoken consequences” for candidates who failed to attend.
Reports that Yakubu, who said this at the quarterly consultative meeting with media executives in Abuja noted that debates are democratic rights and cannot be forced on any candidate.
Yakubu pointed out that even in advanced countries, electoral candidates are not compelled to partake in debates because it is a democratic dispensation.
He remarked that debate just like voting is a democratic right meant to better inform the voters, adding that he is aware some candidates always avoid debating to prevent making mistakes to discourage voters.
He advanced that “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 be better informed.
“However, there is an unspoken consequence for candidates not participating. I also understand that some candidates prefer not to attend in order to avoid making mistakes that would drive voters from them.
“We are, however, happy with the job the election debate group is doing. The effort of the media in this aspect should be supported, but they should also be non-partisan.
“Many political parties have come to complain to us that they are not invited to debate. In 2019, we have over 70 presidential candidates and now we have 18.
“I know it will be difficult to take all over the along but we should try to accommodate them,” the INEC chairman submitted.