Eddie Emessiri, Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG), says inadequate funding was responsible for exclusion of candidates from participation in the vice-presidential and presidential debates.
A statement by Eddie Emessiri, NEDG Executive Secretary, had named the participating political parties as Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Young Progressives Party (YPP).
In a previous recording in which one Isaac Obasi made a call to Emessiri, the NEDG Executive Secretary had spoken on the reason for the exclusion, stating: “We did research from September to November this year in the six zones of the federation. We did vox pop; we did social media and also voting, and then we also have character conduct and other things that we are looking at. So, we matched this and this and this and we arrived at this conclusive report.”
Queried further as to why the result of the research purportedly conducted was not made public, Emesiri said: “We based our research on the whole of the country. Please, we are taking a totality of the reports we got from across the country. Everybody has his area. This is the 13th call I’ve received today. We had to put all the information together and that is why we said if we had to select, we will select only five.”
However, Emessiri has now premised the decision to exclude some candidates on lack of funding.
In another phone recording obtained by SaharaReporters on Monday, Emessiri alleged that he had received threats to his life and he had had enough of the matter.
Speaking to the caller who identified himself as Tunde Olatunji, Emessiri also claimed that Sowore came 7th in the poll they conducted, while Donald Duke came sixth.
His words: “While the government stations agreed to give us airtime, the private stations did not agree, so the compromise was two and a half hours. And if we wanted the widest coverage, all of them inclusive, we had to accept the two and a half hours. That was what we had to do.
“The problem is one media carried fake news. People believe fake news. Sowore and his people who talked to me were in Nigeria here. We know the people involved in this debate. Yet, they went ahead to publish falsehood just because they think we want to force them to do this or to do that. People have been calling me, threatening to kill me because of Sowore. They are sending me threats every day on my phone, on my Whatsapp, on my email. If the Federal Government were to fund it, PDP would not come to the debate.”
When asked if NEDG would be willing to involve more candidates if more money was raised, he said: “We are looking for money. We’re doing everything because we want to set a precedent. We have been doing this from 1999. Nobody has bothered. We have never compromised and we will not compromise. Nobody is funding us.
“People think that they love Nigeria more than us. I have not left this country to go out. I still live here and I want to make sure changes come up. Whoever is coming to look for leadership position, we must interview him. There is nobody that was excluded. We have 71 members. There is no way you can interview 71 with free airtime. We have 71 presidential candidates in this country today. 71! How are you going to interview 71 persons? Who is going to give you that airtime?
“We decided that not doing it at all is worse than doing what we did. So we said let’s take this one, after all; let us show them what we are doing with the vice-presidential and after the vice-presidential, we can now see what other income we’ll get to enable us go into the presidential. That’s why we fixed the presidential one month away. If we get the right funding, we’ll expand it. Why won’t we?
“There are 71. One-hour airtime is N12million. Two hours is N16million. Two and a half hours is almost N20million. So, they gave us N20million dash and we accepted it. We wanted to make it four hours, but they didn’t accept. The reason why they [the lay people] don’t want to understand is because of the fake news that SaharaReporters has been peddling. Everybody is contributing to make this country a better place. But somebody cannot want to force himself on us even when he knows that we have used criteria that didn’t bring him up.”
Responding to accusations that the organisation received funding from APC, he said: “They wrote petition to the American Embassy that I collected money from APC. I said let them bring the information. If you watched the vice-presidential debate, did [Osinbajo] sound like someone who had seen the questions? I’ve had enough. I need to rest. In the past few months, we’ve been terribly busy working day and night. Nobody is paying me. We’re doing it all on our own.
“We did four debates for one week in 2015 because we had money then. Right now, the international fund is drying up. They are not bringing much to Nigeria anymore. So, how do we do it? How do we do three, four debates in a day? We had to resort to talking to our media to give us airtime. We paid for it in 2015. [Having five persons] gives the opportunity to ask a minimum of four or five questions. You cannot bring somebody and ask him only two questions and he says he wants to be President.”