LAGOS — Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, have cited hectic campaign schedules and resolved not to give any television station preference, among others, as reasons for their absence at Sunday’s town hall meeting of presidential candidates in Abuja.
The event was organised by Arise Television and the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, in partnership with Vanguard Newspapers, Premium Times, Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, and Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ.
Three presidential candidates- Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian People’s Party, NNPP, and Chief Kola Abiola of the People’s Redemption Party, PRP-attended the meeting.
The People’s Democratic Party, PDP flagbearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who is out of the country, was represented by his running mate, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa.
Tinubu spoke as Peter Obi criticized the APC flag-bearer for his absence, saying he will not attend future events where candidates are represented by proxies or surrogates.
Also, the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, PCC, chided Tinubu and Shettima, saying they did not attend the town hall meeting because they were afraid to face Nigerians.
Why Tinubu was absent
Explaining Tinubu’s absence, the Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, in a statement by its Chief Spokesman, Mr. Festus Keyamo, said: “Tinubu did not attend the Presidential Debate organised by ARISE TV on Sunday, November 6, 2022, for the following reasons:
“Firstly, many radio and TV networks in Nigeria have indicated interests to host such debates and out of deference to other TV and radio stations, our candidate will not be making selective appearances in some networks, whilst ignoring others. As President of Nigeria, by the special Grace of God, he intends to treat all persons and businesses fairly and equally.
“Secondly, the busy and hectic campaign schedules of Asiwaju Tinubu will not permit him to honour all such invitations by different radio and TV networks, hence our decision for him not to start with one TV station and later ignore others.
“Thirdly, our candidate had long before now realised the importance of speaking directly to Nigerians and shortly after unfolding his Action Plan as President embarked on town hall meetings, beginning with his interaction with the Business Community and other stakeholders in Kano followed by the town hall meeting and presentation by experts last week in Lagos. Next, he will be interacting with Agro and Commodity Groups in Minna, Niger State.
“Whilst we thank Arise TV for the invitation, we want to assure Nigerians that we shall continue to hold these debate groups and Nigerians in high esteem. Nigerians will hear from our candidate loud and clear through other forums.
“Lastly, out of profound respect for Nigerians, we urge all our party structures and supporters at the grassroots to continue to organise town hall meetings to educate Nigerians on the Action Plan of our candidate as we believe a grassroots-approach to reach Nigerians will also be more profound.”
We won’t attend debates where Tinubu, Atiku are absent – Obi, Datti
However, the Obi-Datti Campaign organization has threatened to steer clear of future presidential debates/town hall meetings where persons other than candidates of political parties are allowed to stand in for the presidential candidate.
Director-General of the Obi-Datti Campaign Organisation, Dr. Doyin Okupe said the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi will no longer show up for debates if his counterparts in other parties do not show up.
Okupe, who made this known at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, decried a situation where candidates were unequally yoked with surrogates for such very important engagements and said that
Obi will back out of any debate even at the last minute should other presidential candidates fail to show up.
Okupe said: “Yesterday’s event (Arise TV presidential town hall meeting) was clearly for presidential candidates, not vice presidential candidates. The APC did not turn up and did not send a representative. I respect that. We will no longer be part of any presidential debate where surrogates are sent to represent the candidate.
“We are aware that over 85 per cent of Nigerians who tune in to listen to these debates want to listen to the voice of our candidate, Peter Obi,” Okupe said.
He also described the continued absence of the APC presidential candidate at events organized to afford candidates an opportunity to speak directly to Nigerians about their plans for the country as “disrespectful” to voters.
Okupe cited the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA conference, and the debate organized by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce where Tinubu sent his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima as representative and his conspicuous absence from the Arise TV Towh Hall meeting, on Sunday, as copious examples of the level of contempt with which the APC candidate holds Nigerian voters.
Tinubu/Shettima afraid to face Nigerians
Speaking in like manner, the PDP Presidential Campaign Council said that Tinubu and Shettima are running away from presidential debates because they are afraid of responding to probing questions from Nigerians.
Spokesperson of the Atiku/Okowa PCC, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said in a statement that “Asiwaju Tinubu has a record of avoiding debates and public interrogations following a mortal fear that Nigerians will put him to task on his alleged stinking corruption record, reported proxy treasury looting, obvious incompetence, ethnic bigotry as well as his alleged master-minding of APC’s anti-people policies that wrecked our nation in the last seven and half years.
“The APC presidential candidate and his running mate cannot face debates for fears of having Tinubu’s claims of building Lagos State publicly exposed as a hoax as he cannot point to any legacy development project he achieved in the State as Governor.
“Asiwaju Tinubu is also aware that he cannot face the public to answer questions bordering on his past, particularly the question on his ancestry, the Alpha-Beta tax saga; as well as his alleged stranglehold on the business, politics and lives of Lagosians from 1999 till date.
“He is afraid of being exposed of fleecing Lagos State for eight years through multiple and harsh tax regimes with nothing to show other than rulership by brawl, breeding of touts and raising criminal street gangs, only to turn around now to attempt to claim the achievements of succeeding governors as his.”
The PDP Campaign further noted that Nigerians will recall that the APC presidential candidate did not attend the signing of the National Peace Accord in Abuja. “He (Tinubu) failed to turn up at Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries, he avoided the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Conference and shunned the televised debate organized by credible media houses and civil society groups in Abuja on Sunday to attend a marriage bash in the same nation’s capital.
“Is it not strange that Tinubu, who claims to be a progressive, is dodging debate, a hallmark of progressivism?“
According to him, Tinubu and Shettima have turned themselves into butts of public jokes over their reported inability to even defend the scripts that were written for them with spurious claims and litany of fake promises which Nigerians have appropriately tagged as ‘Renewed Hopelessness.’
He further said: “Moreover, it is apparent that the APC presidential candidate could not detail his running mate to represent him at the Abuja debate ostensibly because of Senator Shettima’s abysmal performance at the last Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries outing.
“Besides, the Tinubu/Shettima Campaign is challenged to come clean on allegations in the public domain that Shettima is avoiding the debates for fear of awaiting probing questions on the alleged compromising of security as governor of Borno State during which about 270 students were abducted in Chibok.
“Also, under his watch as governor, there are unanswered questions over series of deadly terrorist attacks in the Borno State. Is Senator Shettima afraid of explaining to Nigerians why his government did not heed the alleged security warning and directive by the Federal Government to relocate the schoolgirls to a safer location which would have averted the abduction?“
The PDP campaign argued that in shunning public debates, both Tinubu and Shettima have shown that they have nothing to offer and that they are in the presidential race just for personal aggrandisement and not to serve Nigerians.