Party Candidates Protest Exclusion From Debate

Some presidential candidates in the 2015 general election yesterday protested their exclusion from the presidential debate organised by the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON).

This is as the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), an umbrella body of all political parties in Nigeria, has vowed to conduct its own debate in which all candidates will have the opportunity to sell their ideas tothe electorate.

It made the comment yesterday while reacting to the exclusion of most of its members from participating in the presidential debate being organised by the NEDG and BOI.

Recall that organisers of the debate had on Wednesday earmarked only five political parties to participate in the upcoming presidential debate.

A statement by the NEDG executive secretary, Eddi Emesiri, listed the selected parties as the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Young Progressives Party (YPP).

The five presidential candidates are Oby Ezekwesili, Fela Durotoye, Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar and Kingsley Moghalu.

Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim of People’s Trust (PT), Omoyele Sowore of the African Alliance Congress (AAC), Donald Duke of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Tope Fasua of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) and a host of others were excluded.

Reacting to the development, the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, called upon the NEDG and BON to include candidates of other political parties in the presidential debate.

Ezekwesili asserted that candidates of other political parties should also be given an opportunity to participate in the debate as it would give Nigerians a better understanding of their ideologies.

She said, “As a country with a huge contingent of parties fielding candidates for the election, it does make sense to at least allow more than five such parties, at least 25 per cent of those candidates, to participate in the most influential of presidential debates.

“I especially wish to see a candidate like Sowore whose AAC has been diligent in crisscrossing the universities to awaken our young ones in ivory towers to engage in our politics. Sowore is doing the country a great service because we must have that generation of Nigerians fully understand and embrace Plato’s counsel: ‘Those who think that politics is beneath them shall be ruled by their inferiors’.

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“I also believe that candidates of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, KOWA Party and the Social Democratic Party should be part of an additional list of five candidates for the presidential debate of BON considering their assiduous efforts to galvanise a base of citizens to get involved in these crucial polls. I hope earnestly that this will be considered by the organisers.”

The organisers earlier announced that the vice presidential debate will hold from 7pm at the congress hall of the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja on Friday, December 14, 2018, while the presidential debate will hold on Saturday, January 19, 2019.

. . . It’s APC’s Rigging Agenda –Olawepo-Hashim

In his reaction, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim  of Peoples Trust has described the selection of candidates as biased, anti-democratic and the agenda of the ruling APC to rig the 2019 presidential election.

A statement signed by Olawepo-Hashim’s spokesman, Hassan Ibrahim, said the exclusion was, no doubt, regrettable because the party had long indicated interest in participating in the debate.

The spokesman said the  party hoped that the debating group was not working in cahoots with the ruling APC to undermine the strides the party  was making with its spread across the country.

“We urge Nigerians not to be disturbed by this development as genuine people’s debate is in the works where concrete solutions to the many problems bedeviling Nigeria will be proffered. Our campaign will be part of this new debate with many patriotic candidates who truly want to see a better Nigeria in 2019,” he said.

. . . My Exclusion, Beginning of Electoral Fraud -Sowore

On his part, the presidential candidate of African Action Congress (AAC), Mr. Omoyele Sowore, has described his non-inclusion in the planned presidential debate organised by the NEDG and BON as the beginning of electoral fraud in the forthcoming general elections.

Sowore made this comment yesterday at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, during an interview with airport correspondents after he arrived from the United States.

Sowore remarked that President Muhammadu Buhari was already jittery over the outcome of the 2019 polls and would make attempts to rig the election in his favour, which, he said, would be strongly resisted by the people.

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He declared that he was ready for debates on the election, and that he and his followers would fight to ensure his inclusion on the list of debaters for the election

Sowore further asserted that he was the most prepared and popular of all the candidates and wondered why his name would not be included in the list.

“What we know is that Mr. President and his party are already afraid about conducting free and fair polls in 2019. The beginning of the electoral fraud was the non-inclusion of my name among the presidential debaters.

“We won’t allow this to deter us because, for us, the debate has commenced. Apart from using Nigerian media, there are some other media where issues are already being discussed,” he said.

On the refusal of Buhari to give assent to the Electoral Act as passed by the National Assembly, Sowore said the president wanted to perpetrate fraud by his action as giving assent to Act would reduce corruption in the system.

. . . We’re Not Bothered About Debate – Gabam

However, unlike others who have decried their exclusion, the vice presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Shehu Gabam, yesterday stated that his party was not bothered about the national debate, saying it had become partisan and watered down.

Gabam said that the significance of the debate had been eroded, stressing that it would not win votes for the candidates as it had become a jamboree and platform to boo and intimidate candidates.

He said, “They have watered down the essence of the debate. They have shown partisanship and have ridiculed the importance of the national debate. Also you know, the debate has never added a vote to all those that participated, otherwise former governor of Kano State Ibrahim Shekarau would have been the president of Nigeria in the 2011 election based on the debate.

“But they have reduced it to a jamboree. I think serious parties should not worry about the debate. I am not worried about it and, of late, people have been coerced and harassed at the debate and people do not want to be subjected to that by hired crowd. It is against the rules of the profession when people come there and boo people. So, for us we don’t add any value to it; they can go ahead and do what they have to do. The president himself will not attend the debate, so it has been watered down.”

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. . . IPAC Kicks, Says it will conduct own debate

Also, the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), an umbrella body of all political parties in Nigeria, has condemned what it described as a deliberate plot to deny a majority of the political parties in Nigeria of their constitutional right by excluding them from participating in the presidential debate being organised by the Nigerian Election Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON).

National chairman of IPAC, Chief Ameh Peter, in an exclusive interview Friday, explained that the 1999 constitution (as amended) envisaged marginalisation and, therefore, created the opportunity for a multi-party system to ensure that minority voices are heard.

“What the constitution does is to give the right of choice to every Nigerian. It is unfortunate that the NEDG and BON did not even dialogue with other presidential candidates before shutting them out of the debate. Even the NBC code stipulated that broadcasting stations must accommodate diverse shades of opinions, so I don’t know the criteria considered by the debate group,” he said.

Ameh noted that the non-inclusion of some presidential candidates outrightly denied affected political parties and their candidates their constitutionally enshrined rights.

“Not giving some presidential candidates the opportunity to participate in the debate actually takes away the rights of affected political parties and candidates to participate freely in the electioneering process,” he noted.

Ameh declared that IPAC had concluded plans to constitute a committee with a mandate to organise presidential debates that would give all presidential candidates the opportunity to speak to Nigerians on their plans for the country.

“We must establish the rights of all our members; this is  the right that the constitution has granted to us. IPAC is going to constitute a committee to organise our own debate, and we will make sure that all our people are accommodated,” he stated.

Ameh lamented that some very vibrant and brilliant presidential candidates who have crisscrossed almost every part of the country with their campaign trains were excluded from the debate.

“How can you explain this, somebody like Omoyele Sowore who has traversed almost every part of the country with his campaign was excluded.

“For somebody like Eunice Atuejide, presidential candidate of the National Interest Party (NIP) who speaks several languages and has a development blueprint to showcase, people like  Dr. Davidson Akhimien of GDPN,  Tope Fasua of ANRP who is an Economists and several others to be excluded from the debate, we should all be worried, “ Ameh stated.