Activists Slate Petition for Sowore’s Inclusion in Presidential Debate

Activists Slate Petition for Sowore’s Inclusion in Presidential Debate

Against the backdrop of the exclusion of 68 candidates from the last vice presidential debate, a group of activists are already working on a petition specifically demanding the inclusion of the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Mr Omoyele Sowore, who has a great deal of support from the youth, in the presidential

Against the backdrop of the exclusion of 68 candidates from the last vice presidential debate, a group of activists are already working on a petition specifically demanding the inclusion of the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Mr Omoyele Sowore, who has a great deal of support from the youth, in the presidential debate slated for January 19 in Abuja.

A total of 1,635 persons from the envisaged 2,500 have so far signed the petition which is being popularised through the social media. One of those who signed the petition, Mr Abayomi Jimi says, “Sowore’s ideas are rich and precise. He should be given a platform to sell the ideas to the wider Nigerians.” “I want Nigeria to be great through Sowore taking the lead,” says Mr Francis Osagie, another petitioner.

The petition says, “The Nigerian Election Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, organizers of the 2019 Nigeria presidential election debates should with immediate effect include the name of African Action Congress presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore as part of the people to debate on January 19, 2019 at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.”

The vice presidential debate organised by NEDG and BON on December 14th featured only five parties: Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), All Progressives Congress (APC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Young Progressives Party (YPP) with many verdicts casting lot for the PDP’s Vice Presidential Candidate, Mr Peter Obi as winner ahead of Prof Yemi Osinbajo of the APC.  Executive Secretary of the NEDG, Mr Eddi Emesiri who announced the dates for the debates did not give reasons for the exclusion of other candidates.

Continued the petition: “Nigerians must wake up and not allow the old cabal that has put the country into mess for over five decades continue. This is the time of liberation. The polls conducted by Channels TV and other online mediums should be used as criteria for selecting the participants not partisanship.”

“We demand to know the criteria used in selecting the five political parties that were to debate. We need a level-playing field for all political party candidates.”

They are urging people to “Sign the petition and we can make that happen before the debate date.”

Last Wednesday, Sowore, also publisher, Sahara Reporters dragged the Nigeria Election Debate Group (NEDG) to court over the exclusion of his party’s Vice-Presidential Candidate, Mr Rabiu Rufai in the debate which held on Dec. 14. The National Legal Adviser of the party, Mr Inibehe Effiong, in company of its Deputy National Secretary, Mr Joshua Adeoye filed the suit against the body at the FCT High Court, Maitama. The Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), BON Chairman and CEO of Channels Television, Mr John Momoh, were also respondents in the case.

The AAC, through its lawyer claimed that the exclusion of its vice presidential candidate in the debate was an act of discrimination and malice against the party and its candidates.

The party is also praying the court to declare that the deployment of the state media apparatus by the organisers of the debate to the advantages of the five selected parties who participated in the debate and exclusion of its candidate contravenes Section 100(2) of the Electoral Act 2010.

The party through its legal adviser is also asking the court in the suit to declare that AAC and Mr Sowore are entitled to equal media time to participate in the January 19, 2019 presidential debate.

The party through its legal adviser also filed a motion on notice for an order of injunction restraining the NEDG, BON and John Momoh from organising the Jan. 19, 2019 debate without including its presidential candidate.

Several documents, affidavit including nine exhibits were filed to accompany the suit.

Before now, the AAC has been demanding to know why they and other parties were excluded from the debate.

“We demand that NEDG and BON publicly declare the criteria that were used for selecting the participants. Any debate about Nigeria’s future and the 2019 elections that does not include the AAC is a farce. Nigerians cannot be fooled,” Mr Malcolm Fabiyi, director-general of the TakeItBack Movement/Sowore 2019 Campaign, said in a statement issued last Tuesday.

“The AAC is one of the three largest parties in Nigeria. In fact, we were within the top three parties in the online poll that was organised by Channels TV to determine the participants in the presidential debates. We demand that the unaltered results of that poll be published,” Mr Fabiyi said.

“It is unconscionable that our candidates will be left out of the VP and Presidential debates when smaller political parties that fared worse in the polls, and do not have the reach or strength that our party commands across the country, were included.”

“We also note that our presidential candidate has won every major independent and objective poll against the candidates from the alternative parties. Yet somehow, those parties made it to the debates while our candidates did not.”

The AAC presidential candidate, Mr Sowore, said the presidential candidates of the other political parties were afraid to have him a debate with them.

“They can’t stand the revolutionary spirit of a youthful fearless Nigerian sharing the podium with old cargoes to debate Nigeria’s future!” Mr Sowore said on Twitter in the early hours of Wednesday, using his personal Twitter handle‏ @YeleSowore.

The presidential election is generally perceived as a two horse race between the ruling APC and the PDP. But Sowore, who is deploying his arsenal of reaching out to the youth, said to constitute close to 65 per cent of the voting population and former World Bank Vice President, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili of the platform of the ACPN, who has opted for neighbourhood campaigns, appear to be the other two candidates that are making some noticeable showing in the presidential contest.

Apart from raising a total of $113,155 (about N81 million) so far from his supporters via gofundme.com, Sowore, a former students’ president at the University of Lagos, has taken his campaign to 32 states of the country. His active  streets campaigns target largely the youth population.

Sowore’s 8 Point Plan for Nigeria code named ‘SPICER HE’ covers Security, Power, Infrastructure, Corruption, Economy & Job Creation, Restructuring, Health Care and Education. The highlights include creating five million new jobs and reducing unemployment by 30 per cent from the current level of 18 million.

Director of International Press Centre (IPC), Mr Lanre Arogundade says, the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage (2018) enjoins all journalists to be fair in covering both the parties and candidates contesting the 2019 election.

“Let me once again enjoin all journalists and other media professionals to strive to abide with the provisions of the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage, requiring us to be ethical, professional, socially responsible and conflict sensitive, especially through the avoidance of hate speech, in the coverage of the 2019 elections.”

“It is also worth reminding all journalists, media establishments and electoral institutions organising debates for candidates in the 2019 elections that the Code requires them to ensure the participation of all parties and candidates contesting elections in political debates. Now that candidates have merged, let us also be reminded that the Code expects us to give prominence to issues of women, especially female candidates, youths and persons living with disabilities,” he says.

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