We're not aware of APC’s debate boycott, says NEDG

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The Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG) on Thursday in Abuja said it was not aware of the purported boycott of the Presidential and Vice Presidential debate by the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Mr Taiwo Aremu, founding Chairman and now Consultant to the NEDG, disclosed this while briefing newsmen after a meeting to ascertain their level of preparedness for the debates.

He said that group had invited all 14 political parties with their presidential candidates and was especting all of them to attend as the group had not gotten any letter to the contrary.

“As far as we are concerned, the NEDG has invited all the political parties; no political party has written to us saying they do not want to participate.

“Whether APC has sent a press release, there should be courtesy of the party replying to us and letting us know.

“So far, all the 14 political parties that we have invited, we expect them to participate.

“NEDG does not go by newspaper statements by organizations, if we have written you, you will reply us and let us know whether you are coming or you are not coming.

“We are happy for instance that the presidential candidate of the APC participated in the presidential debates in 2007 so we expect all those we have invited to be present.”

He cited example of a certain presidential candidate who boycotted elections debate in 2003 but arrived two hours early in 2007, saying he had learnt in a hard way for not participating.

According to him, the NEDG is the largest presidential debate platform in Nigeria and most respected debate group in Africa with international recognition and commendations.

He said that the debate would involve professional organisations, persons with disability, women organisations, youths, students, labour unions, adding that the NEDG had received a good response from them all.

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He said the sessions would begin at 12 noon and end at 9 p.m.with three sessions and one-hour intervals between sessions.

“The debate is reaching a successful end with the first session of the vice presidential debate holding on Sunday, Feb.1 and all the 14 political parties have been invited and they will be participating.

“NEDG debate is towards making sure that all candidates will now come before a live audience speaking with several millions of Nigerians about their programmes in an issue-based and issue-driven debate.

“This is in the tradition of the NEDG in 2003, 2007 and 2011 and we also did successfully in Sierra Leone where we organised the presidential debate in 2012.

“We thank Nigerians for being supportive, we have received from Nigerians at home and abroad over 4000 questions that they have sent through our email and website.”

NAN recalls that the APC had on Thursday issued a statement that it would be boycotting the debate, citing the composition of the group as one of its reasons.

Meanwhile, speaking on the level of preparedness for the debates, Mr Isaac Ighure, General Secretary, Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), said that all was set for a successful conduct of the debate.

Ighure, who spoke after an inspection tour of the Conference Centre, venue of the debate, said that the group had decided to expand the venue to give room for more live audiences.

“We have looked at the entrances, the exits, the arrangement of the podium and the sitting arrangements in the main hall all calculated to make participants comfortable.

“This time around, we are going to have a non-participatory audience so we want to make sure that all who come here on those days will be comfortable.”

He said that the NGE had been a founding member of the group and will always be involved in the debate group which, he said, would be a permanent feature in the nation’s elections.