The Campaign for Democracy (CD) has lent its voice to the raging debate on whether President Muhammadu Buhari should participate in the presidential debate slated for January 19, 2019, or not.
A pressure group within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Internal Democracy Advocates (IDA), had at the weekend canvassed that the president should not be distracted by the rigours of a presidential debate, “when there are pressing state affairs to attend to.”
In a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Mr. Segun Olukoju, the IDA stated that “Nigeria’s political debate programmes have these days been reduced to undue battle grounds, and the president should be saved of such troubles.”
But in its reaction, the CD said it was politically expedient and wise for Buhari to take part in the presidential debate, as a way of showcasing his programmes for another term.
Speaking in an interview with newsmen yesterday, the General Secretary of CD, Pastor Ifeanyi Odili, said: “Those who are urging the president not to be physically present in the upcoming presidential debate are only trying to be holier than thou.
“It is politically expedient and wise for him to come out and showcase his programmes for the people he wants to govern, as the people really want to hear from him. Since he is the one who is there to deliver his mandate if he wins, it is only advisable that he should attend the event.
However, Odili noted that Buhari is not constitutionally bound to attend the debate but that the event is an opportunity for him to sell his programme.
“Beyond our advice that the president should attend the debate, if he likes, he should go, if not, he should stay back. Whether he goes to the presidential debate or not, the onus is on Nigerians to decide if the president deserves their votes,” Odili said.
Meanwhile, outrage has greeted the exclusion of the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Mr. Omoyele Sowore, and his counterpart in the Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP), Rev. David Esosa Ize-Iyamu, from the 2019 presidential debate being jointly organised by Nigerian Elections Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON).
Ize-Iyamu is the current National Leader of the 17-million member youth wing of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and founder of the Youth Revolution Movement (YRM), while Sowore is the publisher of online news service, Sahara Reporters.
Calling for the inclusion of the two presidential contestants, the Youths Forum for David Ize-Iyamu, in a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday, stated that “the two candidates, whose bold and courageous stand on some burning national issues have endeared them to many Nigerians, and who have been deliberately sidelined.”
The NEDG in a statement by its Executive Secretary, Eddi Emesiri, named only five parties to take part in the debate. The parties are Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Young Progressives Party (YPP)
This means the presidential aspirants expected at the debate are Oby Ezekwesili, Fela Durotoye, President Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar, and Kingsley Moghalu.
Calling for immediate inclusion of the BNPP candidate, Ize-Iyamu, the Youths Forum for David Ize-Iyamu alleged that the federal government, from some of its recent actions, was obviously becoming jittery over the growing nationwide support from millions of Nigerians for its principal, hence his exclusion from the debate.