In a sharp twist of fate, the Murtala Muhammed Foundation has thrown in the challenge to the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Gen Muhammadu Buhari to have debate sessions with his opponents, in particular President Goodluck Jonathan.
It will be noted the Foundation instituted its own debate following the withdrawal of Buhari from the presidential debate organised by Nigeria Election Debate Group (NEDG) on Thursday citing bias for President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),
Announcing Buhari's withdrawal, Garba Shehu, directorate of media and publicity of the APC presidential campaign organisation, explained that the boycott was due to the "unhidden bias and campaign of calumny by some key organisers of the programme, against the corporate political interest of the party (APC) and its candidates".
Shehu argued that the Nigeria Election Debate Group (NEDG) powered debate was fraught with fundamental errors from the outset, by wearing the toga of government control, especially being composed mainly of agencies and allies of the incumbent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration.
"A salutary inspection of the composition of NEGD brings into focus the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), National Television Authority (NTA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and the Africa Independent Television (AIT, owned by a PDP chieftain)," he said.
But on Friday, the Murtala Muhammed Foundation (MMF), in partnership with CNBC Africa, Forbes Africa and BusinessDay, announced its plans to host the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the two frontline political parties, APC and PDP, to live debates to present their proposed agenda to the electorate.
The MMF '2015 Presidential Election Debates' will feature Architect Namadi Sambo, Jonathan's running mate and his APC counterpart, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) in the first leg, while Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari will go head-to-head in the second leg, Both debates are scheduled to hold in Abuja, on February 8, 2015.
"The debates have been expressly designed to elevate the level of political discourse in our country, enhance participatory democracy as well as re-focus attention on national growth and development during this election period," Mrs. Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, chief executive officer of the foundation said.
"We believe, at this point in time, that our people should focus more on issues-based election and critically scrutinise potential leaders before making up their minds on who they will vote for.
"We, along with our partners, see this debate as a platform for the candidates to present their programmes so the electorate would make their choice on whom to vote for in the elections. The need for a debate is non-negotiable given that the development of democracy in Nigeria has increased voter sophistication."
Frederic Van de vyver, executive director of CNBC West Africa, said the debates would attempt to address the major economic issues facing Nigeria.
"We look forward to conducting a robust debate on the major economic and business issues facing Africa's largest economy on the eve of one of the most important elections since the end of military rule in 1999," he said.
During the debates, the candidates will be asked to outline their general vision and development agenda for Nigeria on six thematic areas of education, health, security, job creation, economy, governance, the rule of law and foreign pol