The African Action Congress (AAC) has urged Fela Durotoye, Oby Ezekwesili and Kingsley Moghalu — presidential candidates of Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Action Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) and Young progressives Party (YPP), respectively — to boycott the presidential debate scheduled for January 2019.
In a move that has been widely criticised by Nigerians, the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) had selected five political parties for the vice-presidential debate scheduled to take place later today, and the presidential debate which will take place on January 19, 2019.
Ezekwesili, Moghalu and Durotoye had also taken to Twitter to add their voices to the calls for the inclusion of more presidential candidates in the debates.
However, a statement by Dr. Malcolm Fabiyi, Director General of the Sowore 2019 Campaign/TakeItBack Movement on Friday, called on the presidential candidates to show integrity, decisiveness and courage by shelving plans to attend the debate.
According to Fabiyi, the plan to exclude Omoyele Sowore, presidential candidate of the AAC, from the presidential debate is a "deliberate attempt by the establishment to exclude the leading generational voice of Nigeria’s youth in a debate about Nigeria’s future".
The statement read: "After the massive outcry that greeted the exclusion of Sowore from the presidential debates organized by NEDG, BON and Channels TV, Fela Durotoye, Kingsley Moghalu and Oby Ezekwesili sent Twitter messages asking for transparency in the selection process and requesting the inclusion of Omoyele Sowore in the debate.
"While we salute them for their tweets, we ask them to do more. Tweets are cheap. Now that they have talked the talk, the question is will they walk the walk? These candidates know that their questions will not be answered simply because they asked nicely on Twitter. They know that they must act — with integrity, decisiveness and courage. If they claim to be part of a youth vanguard for change, this is their test of character.
"For Moghalu, Ezekwesili and Durotoye, this is the first test that they will face as voices of the new political generation in Nigeria. Each of them has acknowledged that the process that saw their emergence as debate participants was flawed. The question is this: will they be a part of this debate travesty? Will they affirm and endorse corruption by standing on a stage that was designed to fraudulently exclude authentic voices like Sowore’s from the debate about Nigeria’s future?
"Each of these presidential candidates knows that Sowore’s AAC polled ahead of them in the survey that Channels TV commissioned for selecting participants. Each of them knows that Sowore’s exclusion is a deliberate attempt by the establishment to exclude the leading generational voice of Nigeria’s youth in a debate about Nigeria’s future. Each of them knows that a debate stage that does not include Sowore is one that has been forged in deception, manipulation and lies.
"While we are not surprised that John Momoh, Channels TV, NEDG and BON will be on the side of ignominy and falsehood, by kowtowing to the APC and PDP in excluding Sowore from the debates, we wonder what the response of those who claim to offer a different and viable political alternative for Nigerians will be.
"Will Moghalu, Ezekwesili and Durotoye stand up for truth by boycotting a debate that is non-inclusive and obviously flawed? Or will their introduction to the Nigerian people be one that is aided by grand fraud and deception, enabled by the same system they claim to want to change?
"Later today, the Vice Presidential debates will hold. If the VP Candidates for the ANN, YPP and APCN get on that debate stage tonight at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, we will have our answer about what moral character these youth candidates are truly made of. We will finally know whether they are authentic voices for transformation and change, or whether they are puppets, and mere tools, in the hands of the old political order.
"The struggle to reclaim Nigeria will continue. We will know tonight, whether we can count on Moghalu, Durotoye and Ezekwesili to be part of that historic train. Nigeria MUST progress."