The Much Anticipated 2019 presidential debate at the behest of the Nigeria Election Debate Group (NEDG) and the broadcasting organisation of Nigeria (BON) yesterday took place without two other contenders, that is, president mohammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and his counterpart from the People’s Democratic Party Alhaji Atiku Abubakar
While that of the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate arrives the country few hours before the debate, he was seen with Senate president Bukola Saraki at the venue, he nonetheless left the Transcorp Hilton venue of the event following Buhari's glaring absence.
The Senate President and Director-General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who accompanied Atiku to the debate venue said: “We have always made it clear to the organizers that our candidate is ready to debate with the President. When we were told in Washington DC that he will be here, we cut our trip short to come here, but we are here, he is not here. Our candidate is ready to debate with the President anytime he is ready”
Moments after Alhaji Atiku of the People’s Democratic Party departed, he releases a statement explaining in details why he walked out of the debate.
The statement which was specifically signed by him reads: “We came here for a Presidential debate, not a candidacy debate, and I, Atiku Abubakar cannot challenge or question an administration where the man at the helm of the affairs of the nation is not present to defend himself or his policies. After all, you cannot shave a man’s head in his absence. I do not believe in attacking a man who is not here to defend himself”.
“As a leader and former vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, let me first apologise to all Nigerians, my fellow candidates and the moderator for the APC Presidential Candidate’s absence in this debate. His non-appearance is a slight on all of us and our democracy”.
“Secondly, with all due respect to my fellow candidates, Fela Durotoye, Oby Ezekwesili, Kingsley Moghalu and to the moderator Mark Segun Edoo, and with apologies to all Nigerians here and at home expecting an interesting debate, I regret that I will not be able to go on with this debate due to President Buhari’s absence.
“I, however, challenge President Buhari to choose a date and time for a debate where he will be present and I will be there, hopefully with the other candidates as well. Thank you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria”
In explaining Buhari’s absence from the debate, APC Presidential Campaign Council, in a statement signed by its Director, Strategic Communications, Festus Keyamo (SAN) said Buhari could not attend the presidential debate organised for the following reasons:
“Firstly, out of several opportunities afforded our candidate to interact with the Nigerian people directly by different organisations, our presidential candidate has taken full advantage of another town-hall meeting organized by another group which held on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. He was also joined at that town-hall meeting by our vice presidential candidate who is also the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.”
The statement titled, “Why President Muhammadu Buhari Did Not Attend the Presidential Debate Organised By The Nigeria Election Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria continued said: “Nigerians from all walks of life who were physically present and through online platforms asked uncensored questions which were adequately answered. It was also transmitted live by various broadcast networks in Nigeria.
“In addition, the busy and hectic official and campaign schedules of Mr President clashed with this programme. Today, Mr President commissioned the Baro Inland Water Port in Niger State and campaigned in Niger and Plateau States where his time was over-stretched by the tumultuous and mammoth crowds in both states, (as seen by Nigerians on live television) and only returned to Abuja late this evening.
“Whilst we thank the organizers for the invitation, we want to assure Nigerians that we shall continue to hold these debate groups and Nigerians in high esteem, which our candidate has demonstrated during past election debates when he honoured similar invitations. Nigerians will also recall that a few weeks ago, our vice-presidential candidate, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, also attended the debate organised by the same organizations’.
“Lastly, we note the statement of the candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who actually came for the event and left the venue when he did not see Mr President, who is our candidate. According to him, he would not want to “attack” Mr President in his absence.
“It should now be obvious to Nigerians that for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the PDP, this election is all about attacking the person and programmes of Mr President and not about proffering their own solutions to the problems they created during their 16 years of misrule, maladministration and looting of the nation’s resources. When they cannot see President Buhari to attack, the content of their campaign becomes hollow, empty and ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’
“Now that Atiku Abubakar had a unique opportunity to explain to Nigerians his own vision and mission without a President Buhari in the picture, he ran away. After all, he has his own eight years of crass and grand corruption as vice president to defend before the Nigerian people.
Meanwhile, the former Minister of Education and presidential candidate of Alliance Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria and Former Deputy Governor of Central Bank and presidential candidate of young progressive party (YPP) all made their mark essentially on their plans for the economy and security