One of the fervent yearnings of Nigerians concerning the forthcoming general election in 2019 is a national debate between all the presidential and vice presidential candidates in Nigeria.
Among others, Nigerians, on the one hand, want to see the vice presidential and presidential candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) participate in the 2018/2019 Vice Presidential and Presidential debates respectively - representing the old order; and on the other hand, Nigerians especially want to see representatives from the wing of the new order politicians - the promising block of young Nigerians who are determined to rescue Nigeria from the manacles of gerontocracy.
It is, however, disheartening that the body that has been saddled with the responsibility of organizing this widely-anticipated debates, has become somewhat impassive to our present realities. It is, in fact, somewhat confounding that the National Elections Debates Group (NEDG) would select candidates to participate in the national debates and exclude candidates that matter without telling the Nigerian people their reasons for doing so.
To be candid, I consider it a great disservice to the electorate, and also a betrayal of our democratic process, that Oby Ezekwesili, Fela Durotoye and Kingsley Moghalu will be included in the national debates, but Omoyele Sowore, Tope Fasua, among others will be excluded. The exclusion of Sowore, in particular, is a serious lapse in judgement on the side of the organisers. It is a fact that Omoyele Sowore, aside the huge amount of resources, time and energy he has so far spent on his campaign, has propagated a messaging of hope and possibility to his mostly youth audience. Sowore’s message of enforcing a political revolution and upending the empire of gerontocracy in Nigeria’s politics resonate not only with Nigerians at home but also with Nigerians living in the diaspora.
The exclusion of Sowore from the national debates is an embarrassment to the collective aspiration of young Nigerians. It is a subtle perversion of Nigeria's democratic process and a blatant disregard for the future of our dear country. This exclusion is similar to, for instance, inviting Huawei, Gionee and Palasa to an event for Tech Giants and excluding heavyweights like Microsoft, Apple and Samsung. It is ridiculous and laughable. It is a shame on our collective sensibility.
For a fact, it is alone an insult on the collective intelligence of Nigerians that we do not know the criterion used by the NEDG in selecting the candidates to participate in the debates. What will not be condoned, however, is the exclusion of the man who is arguably the most credible face among the host of candidates from the new order. Whatever may be the criterion, I am certain that Omoyele Sowore is well-qualified - and may even surpass them.
Also, I must mention, that courtesy demands that the currently enlisted participants join their voices with the numerous Nigerians demanding the inclusion of Omoyele Sowore and his Vice Presidential candidate Dr Rabiu Rufai in the forthcoming national debates. Anything short of this would be complicity in this sordid show of shame by the NEDG.
As I bring this piece to an end, I must emphasise that the NEDG, in the interest of our presently battered democracy and the future of our country, must include Omoyele Sowore and his Vice Presidential candidate in the forthcoming national debates. Not only that; the body must also maintain a stance of neutrality and fairness to all candidates and participants. Sadly, this exclusion is a serious red flag on the credibility of the NEDG.
Nigerians are watching. The world, too, is watching.
Adebayo Raphael is the National Secretary of the OurMumuDonDo Movement. He writes from Abuja and can be reached on Twitter via @Asorosobioro.