By excluding the presidential candidate of Peoples Trust (PT), Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, from the Presidential Debate by the National Elections Debate Group and Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), the organisers have shown the project as part of the agenda of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to interfere with the 2019 election.
Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim Campaign Organisation (GOHCO), which condemned the exclusion of their principal from the scheduled Presidential Debate, alleged that the method adopted in selecting candidates not only lacked objectivity, but also showed bias and underlined the anti-democratic agenda of APC.
In a statement by Mr. Hassan Ibrahim, spokesperson of the candidate, GOHCO disclosed that PT had long indicated interest to participate in the debate, but regretted the exclusion of its candidate despite the fact that he remains among the top three candidates from all surveys.
GOHCO contended that it is its hope that the debating group is not working in cahoots with the ruling APC to downplay the party's strides with its spread across the country. It noted that PT and its presidential candidate, Mr. Olawepo-Hashim, recently emerged top among the nearly 28 newly registered political parties fielding candidates for political positions for next year's presidential elections, with 194 persons running on its platform.
"The PT, which is in alliance with other parties, is promoting the presidential candidacy of Mr. Olawepo-Hashim, has a total of 194 contestants on its platform, including 140 for the House of Representatives, 52 for the Senate and one each for president and vice-president. Following PT closely are the JMPP (182); MPN (176); the ADP (136); ZLP (115) and the ACD with 106," the statement added.
While recalling how Mr. Olawepo-Hashim made a head start over others in the weekly Facebook rating of presidential candidates in Nigeria on Monday, December 10, 2018 with 28, 000 Facebook engagements, GOHCO declared: "Regrettably, the candidates included in the debate apart from Alhaji Atiku, performed woefully in terms of spread, in comparative terms, in the just concluded nomination exercise.
"While Kingsley Moghalu had 70 nominations, Fela Durotoye had 21, and Oby Ezekwesili had 50. The PT nomination was 194 signifying national spread, acceptability and effectiveness of political structure.
"President Muhammadu Buhari of APC recorded 16,000+ engagements, while Kingsley Moghalu, Fela Durotoye and the other presidential candidates were trailing far behind with single digit ratings. These are incontrovertible data, not the sentiments or wishful thoughts of individuals. They are empirical evidence that can be easily verified."
The campaign organisation regretted that it is "surprising that despite these records, the party is being excluded from the debate in what looks like a stage-managed process. We urge Nigerians not to be disturbed by this. The PT is working with other political candidates who are interested in having their voice heard towards the 2019 presidential election, and we shall surely triumph in stopping this subterfuge."
Further, GOHCO stated that the debate organisers short-listed PDP for purpose of legitimacy for the debate, adding that "the inclusion of the weakest candidates on the platform, or the newest parties, exposes their devious intentions."
PT lamented that Nigeria is internally bleeding because of the ineptitude of APC, saying, "What the country is looking forward to is an honest platform of debate to halt the hemorrhaging, not a forum to whitewash the problem by mostly a collection of pretenders to the presidential contest."
The party therefore urged its supporters, concerned Nigerians and indeed the electorate to take note of APC's shenanigan and tits selected allies that they have been encouraging in the polity to suck off votes that otherwise will not come to them.
The statement concluded, "We urge Nigerians not to be disturbed by this development as genuine people's debate is in the works, where concrete solutions to many problems bedeviling Nigeria would be proffered. Our campaign will be part of this new debate with many patriotic candidates, who truly want to see a better Nigeria in 2019."