ByÂ Â Dayo Benson and Vincent Ujumadu
AWKAâ€”THE much publicised political debate for governorship candidates participating in the February 6, governorship election in Anambra State, was temporarily disrupted yesterday, when some of the candidates, who were not invited by the organisers, forced themselves into the podium to protest their exclusion.
The event was put together by an organisation, called Anambra Rebirth in collaboration with other 28 bodies, with Dr. Reuben Abati of the Guardian Newspapers, Mr. Labaran Maku, a public affairs consultant and Dr. Okey Ikechukwu, Director of International Institute for Leadership and Governance, as moderators.
For about 15 minutes, there was scuffle as the aggrieved candidates,Â who came with their members, tried to disrupt the exercise and it was only through the intervention of security operatives, that frayed nerves were calmed.
As the confusion lasted, the six invited candidates, who were already getting the attention of the large audience kept their cool and their security aides had to rush close to them to avoid any ugly incident.
At that point, some people in the audience started finding their way out of the hall to avoid being caught in the confusion and the invited candidates, who were standing on the podia showed some signs of worry, although they did not move from their positions.
Those officially invited by the 29 collaborating bodies that organised the event, were the incumbent governor, Mr. Peter Obi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Dr. Chris Ngige of the Action Congress, AC, Professr Chukwuma Soludo of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Andy Uba of the Labour Party, LP, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu of the Hope Democratic Party, HDP and Mr. Ralph Nwosu of the African Democratic Congress. The seventh candidate, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife of the Progressives Peoples Alliance, PPA, did not attend the debate.
Abati had to plead to the candidates to keep away from the hall in the interest of the exercise. â€œThis is not good for the image of Anambra State. These candidates should ask their supporters to leave the stage. People should know that the whole world is watching. If the people of Anambra cannot organise a simple debate, then it is very sad for the state. We have criteria for selecting the candidates and those not invited have no business being here,â€ he said.
Though there are 24 candidates for the election, Dr. Reuben Abati, on the criteria for selecting the seven candidates for the debate, said it included the strength and spread of the on-going campaign efforts of the candidates, party following within Anambra State, quality and size of the rallies held so far, as well as the structure and management of the campaign organisation.