Buhari, Atiku, others expected at presidential debate today

President Muhammadu Buhari and four other presidential candidates are expected to sell themselves to Nigerians during a presidential debate today in Abuja.

Buhari, who is contesting the February 16 presidential election on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, is one of the five candidates invited to a debate being put together by the Nigerian Election Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria ahead of the general elections.

It was however not clear at press time if the President would participate in the debate.

He and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had featured in a town hall meeting on Wednesday.

The Executive Secretary of NEDG, Edidi Emesiri, had in a statement listed candidates shortlisted for the debate alongside Buhari to include those of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Oby Ezekwesili; Alliance for New Nigeria, Fela Durotoye; Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar; and Young Progressives Party, Kingsley Moghalu.

The running mates of all the candidates had taken their turn on December 14, 2018.

The Coalition for United Political Parties had on Thursday claimed that the President was planning to evade the debate.

The debate will hold from 7pm at the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

It will be transmitted live on all BON member stations and its affiliates as well as live streaming on all social media platforms.

The Chairman of the NEDG and BON, Mr. John Momoh, had on November 22 told journalists in Abuja that the debate would focus on the nation’s economy, electricity, job creation, healthcare, education and security among others.

Momoh said Nigeria would be strong when elected leaders were transparent, adding that such openness must start long before election.

He said, “Our nation is strongest when our elected leaders are transparent, accessible and accountable to its citizens, explaining their decisions and answering tough questions. That standard of openness must start long before election day.

“It is for this reason that the Nigerian Election Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria are organising a vice presidential debate on December 14, 2018 and a presidential debate on January 19, 2019.

In justifying the debates, Momoh said it was a well-known fact that Nigeria, in spite of its numerous potentials, was 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.

He said the nation today was experiencing a health care crisis that threatens women and children, an education crisis that threatens children’s future, a power crisis that is crippling every aspect of economic lives, and a more fundamental crisis of corruption, accountability and security.

The Presidency did not confirm if Buhari will attend the debate. Calls and text massages send to the President Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Shehu Garba, were not responded to.

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