President Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar and other candidates contesting in the 2019 presidential election have been scheduled to debate on January 19, 2019, by the Nigerian Election Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON).

BON chairman, John Momoh, made the disclosure at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, November 22, 2018.

According to him, the debates will hold at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja and will be broadcast live by all BON member radio and television stations across the country. The debates will also be streamed live across social media platforms.

The two leading candidates for the election are President Buhari who's running with vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku, a former vice president, who's running with a former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, on the platform of the People's Democratic Party (PDP).

While next year's election, scheduled for February 16, 2019, is expected to be keenly-contested between Buhari and Atiku, they both face competition from other candidates including Donald Duke of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), Obiageli Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), and Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress (AAC).

79 candidates will contest in the election, the highest number ever in Nigeria's electoral history. Not much is known about how many will be allowed to participate in the debate.

Buhari's attendance doubtful

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

It's unclear whether President Buhari will attend the debate as the Director-General of his campaign, Rotimi Amaechi, disclosed last week that he made the decision for him to not appear for the 2015 debate because it was deemed to be unnecessary.

"I made that decision as the DG of the campaign that it was unnecessary. That it was better that he spoke to Nigerians as he went on the campaign. The debate does not offer the solution," the Minister of Transportation said.

The president took part in presidential debates in the run up to the 2007 and 2011 presidential elections which he lost, but he failed to debate ahead of the 2015 election which he won.

When questioned about if the president would show up for a debate this time around, Amaechi said the president's campaign committee would make a decision at a later date.

He said, "What will inform that decision (to attend presidential debate) will be when we have sat as a campaign committee and we'll look at the issues. What do you want to debate about?

"The campaign committee will make that decision when the time comes. We can't make that decision now."

He later added, "I didn't say the president won't come. I said that when the time comes, we'll evaluate what the issues are."

Ezekwesili, Sowore, and Moghalu have publicly called on the president to engage in a debate with them to make it clear to Nigerians who's most suitable to sit in the Presidential Villa.