Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has proffered a reason for not participating in the presidential debate in spite of being at the venue.
The 72-year-old PDP candidate stormed the Transcorp Hilton hotel, the venue of the debate, along with some of his supporters and left after he discovered the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari.
President Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had earlier turned down the invitation for the debate and so could not have been expected to be at the venue.
In spite of the presence of other three candidates of different political parties Abubakar stormed out of the venue and explained in a tweet that he attended the presidential debate to face Buhari and not a lone debate.
The three motivational speaker and candidates of other political parties who attended the debate are Fela Durotoye, Oby Ezekwesili, Kingsley Moghalu.
“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. #2019Debate’’
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. #2019Debate pic.twitter.com/crperoO3tT
— Atiku Abubakar (@atiku) January 19, 2019
He tendered an apology to the other candidates and the nation.
“With respect to my fellow candidates, Fela Durotoye, Oby Ezekwesili, Kingsley Moghalu & to moderator Mark Sugar & with apologies to Nigerians here & at home expecting an interesting debate.
“I regret I will not be able to go on with this debate due to President Buhari’s absence.’’
He had earlier challenged Buhari to pick a date and time for a debate.
“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.’’
The shunning of the really hurt the other candidates who were present and they expressed their disappointment.
The debate was organised by Nigeria Elections Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria at the Trans-corp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
The situation infuriated the presidential candidates of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Alliance for New Democracy (ANN), and Young Progressives Party (YPP) who were at the debate.
Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili of ACPN, Mr. Fela Durtotoye of ANN, and Mr. Kingsley Moghalu of YPP, who were at the presidential debate expressed disgust over the refusal of the main candidates to honour the debate.
They said the absence of Buhari and Atiku indicated that they and their parties have no regard for Nigerians and lacked the answers to critical questions.
Ezekwesili said: “I’m not surprised they are not here. They have just simply announced their exit from the governance of our country.
“I think it is important for us to acknowledge that there is a political class that needs to fade away from our country because the idea that the will of the people will be subordinated to the whims and caprices of our politicians should be a total anomaly.
“Today, as we in this country focus on the ideas that will develop our country if the two dominant parties cared about the Nigerian people, they would come here in order to have a contest of ideas on how we would fix Nigeria.
“I must let you know that for the Nigerian people, this is a moment to make a clear judgment as to whether we are connected to the issues that matter to the Nigerian people.
“We showed up for this debate not because we are new entrants into politics but because we believe it is time for a new kind of governance in Nigeria.”
Moghalu said that the absence of the heavyweights was a display of arrogance.
“I am not at all surprised that the leaders of the APC and the PDP have decided to turn their back on the people of Nigeria and tell them finally, they never amounted to much in their eyes.
“The reason why they are not here: one is arrogance. They believe the people of Nigeria have no voice and no choice. They believe that you cannot move away from them.
“They believe they have trapped you, they have kept you in bondage for over too long and it is now time for us to send them a message. The second reason why they are not here is because they cannot answer the questions. Very simple, very straight-forward. They belong to the old class of recycled politicians who want to come to power with a sense of entitlement.”
Durotoye stressed that both Buhari and Atiku have set themselves up for a fall.
“Well, it seems that the future is here. Pride always comes before a fall and every time you believe that there is no need to tell the people the things you are going to do, it means you are not there to serve them in the first place; you are going to rule over them.’’
However, a statement issued by Mr. Festus Keyamo, Director of Strategic Communications of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, on Saturday evening noted that Buhari had already attended an earlier debate on January 16, 2018.
Buhari and his Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, had attended an event tagged ‘The Candidates’, a presidential town hall co-production between Daria Media and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), supported by the MacArthur Foundation.
The organisation also said Buhari could not attend the debate because of the “busy and hectic official and campaign schedules” he has been participating in.
“The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who is also the APC Presidential Candidate in the forthcoming Presidential Election, President Muhammadu Buhari, could not attend the Presidential Debate organised by the Nigeria Election Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria which held today, Saturday, January 19, 2019 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. Nigerians from all walks of life who were physically present and through on-line 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.”
APC also berated Atiku for appearing at the venue and refusing to participate in the debate.
Keyamo said: “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 sixteen 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. Afterall, he has his own eight years of crass and grand corruption as Vice President to defend before the Nigerian people.
“On February 16, 2019, we urge Nigerians to demonstrate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the PDP, through their votes, how empty indeed their campaign has always been and to vote massively for President Muhammadu Buhari and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN who have started the rebuilding process of our great nation,” he said.