By Adamu S. Ladan
It’s no gainsaying the fact that information is power and has the ability to impact on public discourse.
Freedom of expression also, is not only the core of a healthy media but a fundamental human right and vital for a democratic structure.
It stands for freedom of speech, the right to information and the representation of different opinions in a heterogeneous society like Nigeria.
Effective and democratic media in this regard are an essential part and indispensable for especially societies like Nigeria trying to make a transition towards peace and democracy.
Harry S. Truman once said “You can never get all the facts from just one newspaper, and unless you have all the facts, you cannot make proper judgments about what is going on” this statement reflects the need for free access to unbiased information.
This mean, free, independent and pluralistic media provide a platform for debate and different opinions. But that is not to say free media is an end in itself rather is a mean to an end.
Our background knowledge of function of media in the society is indeed essential as lack of information can, at any stage of a conflict, make people desperate, restless and easy to manipulate. This is more so in Nigeria where elections are seen as matters of life and death.
The ability to make informed decisions, strengthens societies, as well as fosters economic growth, democratic structures and shapes our positive outlook on the future.
The United Nations Millennium Declaration stressed the need “to ensure the freedom of the media to perform their essential role and the right of the public to have access to information.
Pundits have argued that journalism does not need justification for its existence. Its service to society they opined; is justification in itself.
For this very reason the intervention of unbiased and free media is important not only for the public but also for the people to make informed decisions on issues of national questions and answers.
Similarly, the citizens would in future use the debate to hold those elected accountable for their promises during electioneering.
Perhaps this is what informed the BBC Hausa service to organised debates for gubernatorial candidates in states across Nigeria in preparations for the elections slated for February and March this year in the country.
The programme was in Katsina, Monday 23rd January, and hosted four leading political parties in the state for two hours, 30 minutes.
The candidates who participated in the debate which took place at the Local Government Service Commission in Katsina were: Dr. Dikko Umar Radda of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Engr. Nura Khlail of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Alhaji Ja’afar Jino of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Senator Yakubu Lado of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Beside self introduction the candidates discussed major policy instruments and strategies to achieve them during the debate covering: security, education, healthcare, agriculture, youths, women and empowerment among myriad of issues.
They also responded to questions on issues they presented or that the audience felt they have not addressed adequately.
Not withstanding that, at a point the moderator had to called on the candidates’ intervention to make a section of the audience behaved responsibly the debate was conducted in serene atmosphere.
Dr. Dikko Umar Radda of the APC as adjudged by the audience and even those who watched the debate from afar via social networks platforms had performed wonderfully.
He had succinctly provided relevant points that connect to the topic he was asked, providing proofs and credible data instead of just solely putting forward his own opinion.
He did not only took the audience into account but used comparisons and claims to explain why his arguments where necessary.
Throughout the discourse he was flexible even admitting where his opponents presented a cogent argument though remaining confident.
His choice of words and use of language generaly exhibited maturity, self confidence and maintained proper body language where necessary.
He was very coherent, we didn’t heard him using ‘um’ or ’em; within his speech.
His presentation was devoid of emotions even at occasions when his opponents charged at him firing uncomplentary salvos using spurious claims.
Despite the provocations he never even once used offensive language, aggressive words or indicated that he felt offended by the comments of the opponents.
The moderator at times had to cautioned his opponents on going out of rules of engagement. Not minding that, he presented his points in sequence and refuted whatever the opposition brought smartly without getting nervous.
Dr. Radda remained on track, spoke loud and clear kept to the topic, concentrated on developing his arguments based on ethics, rationality, and emotions of the debate.
This quality was even more clear when the moderator skipped him whilst going round over an agenda. Rather than interrupting rudely while other speakers were speaking Dr. Radda waited patiently till his turn for another agenda to politely asked the moderator to give him opportunity to state his views on the topic.
He exhibited traits that demonstrated his thorough knowledge of the topics in question without any deviation from the point.
Dr. Radda indeed demonstrated leadership by patiently listening to others. He paid greater attention to what the others said and even acknowledged it either by nodding his head or raising his hand for his turn to speak on the topic being discussed. And when his turn came he succinctly put his points in a concise and clear way taking advantage of the time.
When it was time to close the session, unlike others who wanted to pushed themselves to the throats of the audience, Dr. Radda demonstrated another debating skill by allowing the audience to create their own criteria and probably decide whom to support among them.
Listen to him while rounding up: “To alhamdulillah, zan koma baya ga magana ta dai. Wannan taro da mu ka yi dukka muntaru ne saboda jihar katsina. Duk wanda ka gani nan kaunar jihar katsina ce ta sa yazo nan wajen. Kuma mu da mu ke takarar, tunanin mu, mu kawo cigaba a jihar katsina. Amma kamar yadda ma su fada su ka fada mulkinnan dai Allah ke bada shi ba ka da wani wanda ke bada shi sai Allah. Amman abunda mu ka yi nan cikin sharia mu shiga jamiyya, mu nemi mutane, mu nemi takara amma bada mulki sai Allah ke badawa. Amma mutanen katsina an haska hitila karmar yadda jino yace ya kamata mutane su yanke wa kansu hukunci kuma su sani cewa Allah zai tambaye su akan hukuncin da suka yanke ko mai kyau ko maras kyau”
The hard choice according to him lies with the voters who he counsels to be wise in electing one with the capacity to deliver. While doing that he however warned that Almighty Allah will hold them accountable for whatever choice they have made. Without degenerating anyone, Dr. Radda humbly expressed the belief that all of them in the hall have the love Katsina state at heart, hence that was why they they’re there.
However, it’s instructive to note that in choosing our leader from proceedings in the debate we should go beyond the usual. To borrow the words of Charlie Chaplin in the Great Dictator, more than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness and Dr. Radda demonstrated that.
Adamu S. Ladan
Member, Media and Publicity Committee,
APC campaign council, Katsina state.