THE Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG) has explained that the process that led to the invitation of just five presidential and vice presidential candidates for the 2019 election debates were transparent and people-based.
The explanation followed protests from several quarters after names of notable candidates were conspicuously missing from the list of would-be debaters.
Political parties whose candidates were invited for the debates include Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC); Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN); Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), and Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressives Party (YPP).
However, Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters and candidate of the African Action Congress, protested his exclusion from the debate and threatened legal action against the organisers.
Sowore also accused the Chairman of the Broadcast Organisation of Nigeria (BON), John Momoh, who is also the Chairman of Channels Media Group, owners of Channels Television, of deliberating leaving his name out of the list.
But in a statement issued on Friday by the Executive Secretary of NEDG, Eddie Emesiri, the group said there was no external influence in choosing the five political parties to participate in the debates, adding that the parties were chosen via an independently administered online polls and surveys.
“Considering the vast number of contending parties, the decision to limit to five parties was taken at the beginning of our process to ensure ease of management for the debates,” Emesiri stated.
“All the stages of the selection process were focused on political parties, taking into consideration the importance of national spread and diversity. Focus was not on specific individuals or candidates.
“We wish to emphatically state that the NEDG and BON were not influenced or induced by anyone to include or exclude any political party from the debate.
“We understand the disappointment of some political parties who would have wished to see their candidates share their visions for the country at the Debates.
“However, Nigerians have spoken through the multi-stage process and we urge all Nigerians to respect their choice as we abide by the outcome of the independent party selection process.”
The debate for the vice presidential candidates of the five selected parties will hold on Friday by 7 pm, and is expected to be aired live on all BON affiliated media organizations, while the presidential debate will hold on January 19, 2019.