President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the presidential candidate of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming presidential election, failed to attend Saturday’s presidential debate because of his strict schedule, his campaign team has said.
The debate was organised by the Nigeria Election Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria.
Mr Buhari and the candidate of the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, abstained from the debate which was attended by three other candidates.
Mr Abubakar was at the venue of the event but left after learning Mr Buhari had chosen to stay away.
Mr Buhari’s campaign spokesperson, Festus Keyamo, in a statement said out of the
several opportunities afforded Mr Buhari to interact with the Nigerian people directly by different organisations, he had earlier taken full advantage of another town-hall meeting organised by another group which held on Wednesday.
The statement appeared to be referring to The Candidate, a programme organised by Deria Media and NTA.
Mr Keyamo said the president was joined at that town-hall meeting by his vice presidential candidate who is also the vice-president of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo.
“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,” Mr Keyamo said.
“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,” Mr Keyamo said.
The campaign spokesperson thanked the organisers for the invitation extended to the president and assured that he would continue to hold these debate groups and Nigerians in high esteem.
He said Mr Buhari had during past election debates 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.
“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,” Mr Keyamo said.