- Buhari, Atiku, others for debate on January 19
Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
Feeling a large presidential campaign council, controlled from Abuja, the federal capital city, may be ineffective, the leaders of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has opted for a decentralised structure that would see the party devolving more power and resources to the states for the mobilisation of faithful and voters.
Party sources told THISDAY that the leaders were of the view that the past strategy of a centralised campaign with Abuja as the pivot might not help the party to unseat President Muhammadu Buhari, who is thought to retain an advantage in the North-west and might still leverage on the hold of his All Progressives Congress (APC) on the South-west swing zone.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, THISDAY, was told last night, has, therefore been summoned for Tuesday in Abuja to finalise the party’s new campaign strategy.
An insider, who spoke with THISDAY last night, said the meeting would take a thorough look at the party’s prepared campaign strategic documents/structures and take a final decision on the way to go.
This came as the Nigerian Election Debate Group Thursday fixed January 19 for the presidential debate for the candidates of the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari; former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of PDP; Mr. Gbenga Olawepo- Hashim (Peoples Trust, PT); Mr. Yabagi Sani (Action Democratic Party, ADP); Mr. Donald Duke (Social Democratic Party, SDP); Mr. Omoyele Sowore (African Action Congress, AAC); Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili (Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN) and others.
The chieftain of the PDP, who spoke with THISDAY in confidence, said the meeting would also consider ‘’the desperation of President Muhammadu Buhari-led ruling party, APC,’’ as the 2019 general election draws nearer and ruminate on the best possible ways to counter it.
‘’There are deliberate attempts by APC to create fear in us; our leaders are being blackmailed and harassed by the government through the instrumentalities of the anti-corruption agencies. And we believe we need to sit down and examine all these happenings and find practical ways to respond to them’’ the source stated.
The Chairman of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), Mr. John Momoh, who spoke on the planned presidential debates Thursday, while addressing a press conference in Abuja also said that vice presidential candidates of the APC, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; Mr. Peter Obi of PDP, Dr. Junaid Mohammed of the SDP and other running mates, are billed to have their debate on December 14, 2018.
Momoh, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Channels TV, said the debates would focus on issues that would help restore the economy, provide electricity, create jobs, secure healthcare for every Nigerian and achieve excellence in every Nigerian school as well as ensure safety and security for Nigerians.
He noted that the debates, which will hold at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja would be broadcast live by all BON members, adding that plans were on to forward to the ninth National Assembly, a fresh bill for the establishment of a National Commission for Presidential Debate that would make it mandatory for presidential candidates to engage in debates ahead of presidential elections.
“Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to address a group of people who were on a courtesy visit to our global headquarters in Lagos. I reiterated the well-known fact that our country, in spite of its numerous potential, is faced with a social crisis that began way back to the military era; but which has transcended democratic rule since the army returned to the barracks’’, Momoh stated.
‘’Today, we are experiencing a healthcare crisis that threatens our women and children, an education crisis that threatens our children’s future, a power crisis that is crippling every aspect of our economic lives, and a more fundamental crisis – a crisis of corruption, accountability and security.
“One other major challenge facing us as a nation is the threat to national unity, as centrifugal tension, resource control and self-determination, ethnicity-based identity politics and religious cleavages have enveloped national consciousness.
“Many of these problems stem from decisions made by our leaders behind closed doors, other times openly, from regulations removed when no one was looking, or from the reckless actions taken while authorities turned a blind eye.”
He added that Nigeria will be stronger if the nation’s leadership is transparent, accessible and accountable to its citizens, saying it is for this reason that the Nigerian Election Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria are organising debates.
Momoh further explained that the debate group would set the format and rules of the debate, handle moderation, outline the criteria for political party participation, ensure the objectivity of audiences and steer negotiations among broadcasters and the parties.
He said Nigerians expect the leaders of all political parties to be challenged in a very public and robust way in the debates, not just one of them, but a series of them.