The Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation said yesterday that its principal could not attend the NN24 Presidential Debate last night because he could not jettison the Nigerian Election Debate Group (NEDG) which has been organising several debates since 1999 in favour of another platform “on the eve of crucial national election.”

Besides, the organisation said the President who has not concluded his tour of the 36 states could not accommodate new appointments now.

In a statement yesterday, the organisation said: “The Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation has watched with utter consternation, efforts by some individuals and groups to feed the Nigerian Public with inaccurate and distorted information to suit their selfish ends.

A Presidential debate to be organized by the management of NN24, a subscriber to Multichoice’s DSTV cable is deliberately being heated up by those who now see what the President will do or not do as an opportunity for political capital.

The truth of the matter is that several applications from various groups including that of NN24 has reached the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation seeking to organize the Presidential debate preparatory to the April general elections.

The campaign organization sent its officials to sit as observers at some of the meetings called to deliberate on modalities.

However, after a thorough examination of the reports of its observers to these meetings, a collective decision was taken to retain the body that had organized Presidential debates since 1999 and has performed creditably well and so, saw no need to discard the platform and template for another.

The fact is that, the Nigerian Election Debate Group (NEDG), organizers of the Presidential Debate Series, is an amalgamation of the Nigeria’s Mass Media, Print and Electronic, the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, The Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), The Nigeria Bar Association, National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, market women and other civil society groups.

The Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation does not believe that this relevant and credible body, made up of Nigerians and who will moderate a Presidential debate watched by Nigerians on all Television and Radio stations nationwide should be jettisoned for any other on the eve of crucial national elections.

Furthermore, President Goodluck Jonathan who has a carefully drawn out schedule leading up to the elections will not be able to cancel any of his  appointments now to attend to a debate that is only the result of a fresh application.

Having only just concluded his tour of the 36 states of Nigeria, President Jonathan has a hectic schedule ahead before the grand finale of the state campaigns at Abuja on March 26, 2011.

The Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation regrets that President Goodluck Jonathan will unavoidably be unable to attend the debate organized by NN24.

The NEDG has come to stay and the President has no hesitation whatsoever in agreeing to attend the debate under this platform and will so attend.”

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