PDP Challenges APC To Stage Own Debate


• We’ll Face Buhari, Anytime, Anywhere, Says Fani-Kayode 

• NPAN Plans Presidential Debate Feb. 3

THE Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation (PDPPCO) is insisting on the participation of All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari in a live television debate with President Goodluck Jonathan.

    Director of Media and Publicity of the PDPPCO, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, in a statement Saturday in Abuja, said that the PDP is ready to attend any debate, anywhere in the country with the APC candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, even if that debate was organised by the APC’s spokesman Lai Mohammed and the APC itself, as long as it would be televised live.

  But representatives of the two presidential candidates may have agreed to participate in another debate at the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja on February 3.

Already, President Jonathan has accepted to participate in the debate. 

   In a letter dated January 14, 2015, to the initiators of the debate — Channels Television, ARISE Television as well as Guardian Newspapers Limited and Thisday on behalf of the Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN)  — Senator Ahmadu Ali, Director General of the Jonathan/Sambo 2015 Presidential Campaign Organisation, said the President “has accepted to participate in the debate.” 

    While General Buhari Campaign Organisation has indicated (in principle) that they would also participate in the debate, no official letter has been received from them as at press time.

    According to Fani-Kayode, “the decision of the APC not to participate in the debate organised by the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) on grounds of alleged bias is baseless and absurd. The decision of the APC to boycott the debate provides ample evidence of their cowardice and their unrelenting contempt for the Nigerian people.

“The truth is that the electorate would like to see the presidential candidates of all the political parties square up in a television debate to answer questions on their blueprint for governance and national development.

“The PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation are interested in our candidate, President Jonathan engaging General Buhari in a robust and lively debate so that both men can speak about issues like corruption, insurgency, the fight against terrorism and the economy, all of which are areas in which Buhari has grounded his unjustifiable and mischievous attacks on our candidate.

    “Since the APC are not comfortable with anyone else handling and organising the debate, and since they keep alleging bias on the part of any sensible and impartial organiser, we challenge them to organise the debate themselves. As long as the debate is live and they will allow our candidate to speak his mind on all issues, without any interruption and without cutting him short, we assure them that we will attend. 

    Our candidates — President Jonathan and his Vice President, Architect Namadi Sambo — will take up the gauntlet and join issues with them anywhere in this country and at anytime, as long as the Nigerian people can witness the event live, and as long as it is done openly for the world to see.    

 “We know that they may have a few challenges with the English language; so, if they like they can even conduct the debate in vernacular: we would be prepared to pay for a translator or an interpreter just so that they could understand the proceedings. Whenever they want to organise such a debate and wherever they choose as the venue, we will be there, as long it will be televised live. This is because we believe that under any circumstances and in every situation, President Goodluck Jonathan will give Buhari the thrashing of his life in any frank and open discussion about his record in public office.” 

Director of Media and Publicity of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council, Mallam Garba Shehu, could not be reached for comments, as calls placed to his mobile line rang out. A text message seeking APC’s official response to PDP’s call and allegation also did not get a response as at press time.

   For the proposed February 3 Presidential debate at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, both President Jonathan and Major-General Mohammadu Buhari were formally invited. In a letter dated January 11, 2015 to both presidential candidates and delivered the same day, the organisers noted that “too many of the troubles we now face stem from governance: decisions made behind closed doors, regulations removed when no one was looking, or reckless actions and impunity across the polity.” 

   The letter added: “Our nation is strongest when our elected leaders are accessible and accountable to its citizens, explaining decisions and answering tough questions. That standard of openness and transparency must start long before Election Day on February 14, 2015.”

   The organisers — all member organisations of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, Channels Television and ARISE Television — hinted that the footage will be made available live to all broadcast stations as well as on social media (Twitter, Facebook and Google). 

   The audience for the debate will include civil society groups, youth groups and other stakeholders. Attendance at the debate, according to the organizers,  will be strictly by invitation.

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