Clamour mounts for expansion of candidates in presidential debate
The presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili and Fela Durotoye of Alliance for New Nigeria have urged the Nigerian Elections Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) to include candidates of other political parties in the presidential debate.
The organisers had announced that only presidential candidates of the ACPN, Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Young Progressives Party (YPP) would be partaking in the debate.
With this, the presidential candidates expected at the debate are Ezekwesili, President Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu and Fela Durotoye.
Ezekwesili said candidates of other political parties should also be given an opportunity to participate in the debate.
She noted that allowing more candidates to participate in the debate would give Nigerians a better understanding of the candidates’ ideologies.
Durotoye stated that the debate must be inclusive and opportunities given to as many candidates as possible to share their vision with all Nigerians.
“Inclusiveness is the beauty of democracy and I believe the organisers of the Presidential Debates should include other frontline candidates,” he said.
However, those who spoke with The Guardian said that with many candidates stepping down for Atiku, the field has been narrowed for the debate.
A public affairs analyst, Kola Pedro said: “There is no reason to exclude some candidates who are highly respected and regarded as more competent and articulate than Buhari and Atiku such as Donald Duke, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, David Esosa Ize-Iyamu and Omoyele Sowore, all of who also have large population of youth supporters. They also have more social media followers than some of those chosen to participate in the debate.”
Another Nigerian, who spoke on the debate, Jude Dike, said: “It will be a joke if it is restricted to Buhari, Atiku and the three others who are not better than Donald Duke of the Social Democratic Party, Rev. Chris Okotie of Fresh Hope Party, Rev. Ize-Iyamu of the Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP) who is also the national leader of the about 17 million-member youth wing of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Sowore of Africa Action Congress (AAC) and Dr. Olawepo-Hashim of the People’s Trust party.
“In fact, Olawepo-Hashim and Sowore are renowned former human rights and student leaders with millions of supporters.”
Monsurat Adegoke welcomed the inclusion of Ezekwesili in the debate. However, she called for inclusion of more female presidential candidates in the debate “to reflect gender character or balance.”
Meanwhile, the United States (U.S.) government has urged presidential candidates and parties who have signed the Peace Accord for the 2019 presidential elections to honour it.
It also admonished them to engage in campaigns enriched with positive ideas and actions that would unite the people.
In a statement by the embassy yesterday, the U.S. government cautioned against violence, misinformation and hate-speech, tasking all candidates, party members, civil society groups and citizens to speak out for policies that would advance the good of all.
The embassy added that for the 2019 elections to be free and fair, campaigns must go forward on a level playing field and be a fair and transparent process.
It also reiterated its support for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), civil society organisations and the people to facilitate peaceful, credible and transparent polls.
However, former Deputy Spokesman of the APC, Timi Frank, has tasked the U.S., UK, European Union and the UN to call Buhari to order over alleged harassment of the opposition.
Frank, who made the appeal in a statement yesterday, alleged a plot to arrest the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo, simply because Peter Obi, Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was a former chairman of the bank.