The Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG) says it will continue to engage main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its flag bearer, General Muhammadu Buhari, on the party’s intended boycott of the Vice Presidential and Presidential Election debates scheduled for February 1 and 8, 2015.
In a statement released by the Chairman, Media and Publicity Committee of the NEDG, Mr. Tony Akiotu, the group said it would “continue to engage the party and its flag bearer; hoping that they will have a change of mind and seize the unique opportunity provided by the debates to engage the citizenry of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and indeed the global community on their plans for leadership of the country through the articulation of their manifestoes, programmes and policies for the citizens and ultimately the country.”
Mr. Akiotu described the NEDG as the most credible and reliable debate organizing group on the African continent that provides the widest broadcast platform for candidates aspiring to political office to reach the widest number of people instantaneously.
The NEDG had earlier in the week unveiled a revised timetable for the Presidential debates ahead of the General Election in February. A senior NEDG official confirmed that there would be a total of six televised Vice Presidential and Presidential debates on February 1 and 8, 2015.
The previous schedule was changed to make allowance for the campaign engagements of the main political actors/participants.
The debate is structured to have three to two-hour sessions per day and will be televised on AIT, NTA, TV Continental and Silverbird TV. NEDG is said to be in discussions with famed Nigerian broadcast journalist and Founder of Channels Television, John Momoh, to be the moderator along with two additional panelists.
A number of international broadcast media outfits are also reported to have indicated interest in broadcasting the debates live to reach a wider global audience.
The Nigeria Elections Debate Group, a coalition of print and electronic media, civil society organisations and several professional bodies, was formed with the basic aim of organizing, promoting and hosting independent civic, non-profit, non-political and non-partisan open debates for Presidential, Vice Presidential and other candidates seeking elective offices in Nigeria.
Members of NEDG
- Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, BON (Comprising federal, state and privately owned broadcast stations in Nigeria)
- Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN)
- News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
- Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE)
- Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ)
- Alliance for credible Elections (ACE)
- The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)
- The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
- National Council for Women Societies (NCWS)
- Electoral Reform Network (ERN)
- Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
- Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)
According to the NEDG, the debate is to pursue the basic purpose of ensuring free and fair general elections in Nigeria in 2015 and beyond and to ensure that credible candidates with proven achievement and character are elected into the offices. It is also aimed at giving equal level playing field to all candidates contesting.
The debates are designed to enlighten the Nigerian electorate and give them first hand information on the plans of the candidates and the implementation strategies when they assume office.
The candidates are required to speak on a number f identified areas of governance such as national development, sustenance of democracy in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, security and social services, and global affairs.
The live transmission of the debates on television and radio stations nationwide is targeted at about 80 million Nigerians who are in the lower, middle and high class of the socio-economic strata of the country.
The Presidential Debates Programme
Click here to get the schedule in PDF format.*
The All Progressives Congress (APC), on Thursday announced that it would not participate in the ongoing public debates on national television and radio stations organised by the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG). It alleged that the debate being coordinated by the NEDG was fraught with fundamental errors from the outset.
According to a statement signed by Mallam Garba Shehu, the Director Media and Publicity of the APC Campaign Organisation, the decision to boycott the debates is “ because of the unhidden bias and campaign of calumny by some key organisers of the programme against the corporate political interest of the party and its candidates”.
Mallam Shehu further stated:
“And going by the avalanche of inflammatory statements, misinformation and blatant lies being propagated by some of these media against our party and candidates contrary to the Koffi Annan-brokered Abuja Peace Accord, and the failure of these aggressors to desist and apologise, have left the APC Campaign with no option than to steer clear of any premeditated smear campaign that could be inimical to our prospective electoral success”.
In his reaction to APC’s withdrawal from the debates, the Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe said APC boycotted the debate to save its presidential flag bearer General Buhari from shame, as he does not have a record of performance, education and eloquence needed for a debate to match President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
“If APC didn’t withdraw from the debate they would have been stupid. Their candidate has no record of performance. Neither is he educated nor eloquent”.
Also reacting to the development, Mr. Frank Tietie, a lawyer and Executive Director, Citizens’ Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), said “The APC has a right to say it is not participating. But its right to not participate should be limited to the right reasons and the reason should not be that of untruth with respect to the motive and integrity of those who are organizing the debates; who have this noble idea of creating a standing tradition of debates in our elections.”
Tietie expressed concern that the attitude is capable of eroding the confidence of the people in public institutions. “It is not in the interest of the citizens when so much untruth, so much distraction and detraction from truth is purveyed as the truth. The parties owe the citizenry the duty to state the issues the way they are and to canvass points on grounds of what they can do and what they can do better than the ruling party. Other than that, it is a way of cheap incitement, cheap publicity and negative insinuations that will not help the polity in the long run,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Special Assistant to President Jonathan on New Media, Reno Omokri, has urged Buhari to participate in the debate, by starting a hashtag #Buharimustdebate.
Do you think it is in the APC’s interest and in the interest of Nigerians for Buhari to shun the debate? Have your say.
* You can also view the debate schedule with Docs-to-go App if your device has no PDF. Download free at Google Play Store.