The Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG) has explained why it screened out dozens of presidential candidates and only selected five candidates for the 2019 presidential and vice presidential debates.
NEDG and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) announced earlier this week that only five candidates would participate in the debates, even though Nigeria has 78 candidates contesting in the election, the highest number ever.
The candidates that’ll take place are President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), Obiageli Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), and Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN).
The exclusion of other candidates, most notably, Donald Duke of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress (AAC) has been widely criticised, with Sowore threatening legal action.
However, in a statement signed by NEDG Executive Secretary, Eddie Emesiri, on Thursday, December 13, 2018, the decision to limit the number of participants to five parties was to ensure that the debates are effectively managed.
He said the decision to exlude some parties was not influenced as has been alleged in certain quarters, stressing that the multi-stage selection process was transparent and independent.
The statement read, “The choice of participating parties for the debate was made through an independently administered multi-stage process. The first stage was an independent online poll and the second involved the distribution of survey questionnaires per state, to professionals, artisans, students, etc; respondents were within the voting age and spread across urban, semi-urban and rural classifications. The third stage was to take an aggregate of the stage result and extend invitations to the top 5 parties for the debate.
“Following our disclosure of the participating parties earlier in the week, our attention has been drawn to some reactions in the public space over the decision to limit the participation to five parties and exclusion of some party flag bearers from the debate.
“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. 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.”
Durotoye, Ezekwesili and Moghalu have all demanded that Sowore, Duke and candidates from a couple of other parties are involved in the debates.
The vice presidential debate takes place today, Friday, December 14, 2018, while the presidential debate will take place on January 19, 2019. The debates will be transmitted live by all BON member stations and on various social media platforms.