The Presidential Campaign Council of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), has offered explanations for President Muhammadu Buhari‘s absence at the 2019 Presidential debate organised by the Nigeria Election Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) on Saturday.
In a statement released late Saturday by the spokesperson for the council, Festus Keyamo, the President had taken full advantage of another town-hall meeting organised by another group which held on Wednesday where he was joined by his running mate, Yemi Osinbajo, adding that “the busy and hectic official campaign schedules of Mr. President clashed with the 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,” he said.
Apparently in response to insinuations that President Buhari turned down the invitation to debate because he couldn’t answer the questions, the APC PCC said its candidate has proven he can debate, and has has demonstrated same during past election debates when he honoured similar invitations.
He further stressed that at the town hall meeting held on Wednesday which was transmitted live by various broadcast networks in Nigeria, Nigerians from all walks of life who were physically present and through online platforms asked uncensored questions which were adequately answered, and that few weeks ago, its Vice Presidential candidate, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, also attended the debate organised by the NEDG and BON.
“Whilst we thank the organisers 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 organized by the same organisations.”
The council also took a swipe at the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar for his reason not to have debated, stressing that the former vice president had a unique opportunity to explain to Nigerians his own vision and mission without a President Buhari in the picture, but ran away as “he has his own eight years of crass and grand corruption as Vice President to defend before the Nigerian people.”
“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,” Keyamo said.
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.