Festus Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and Director of Strategic Communication for the Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation, Saturday night, gave reasons for the president’s absence at the Presidential Debate organized by the Nigeria Election Debate Group, NEDG, and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, BON.
Major among the easons cited by Keyamo was Preisdent Buhari’s water-tight schedule on Saturday which made it humanly possible for him to attend.
Buhari and Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, were conspicuously absent at the five man debate, that featured Dr. Oby Esekwezili, Dr. Kingsley Moghalu and Mr. Fela Durotoye.
Though Abubakar eventually made it to the venue, he left after learning that the president was not participating, saying he would have loved Buhari to “defend” himself and his policies so far in power. He, however, challenged the president to a fresh debate.
But in explaining Buhari’s absence at the event, Festus Keyamo, in a statement, said the water-tight schedule of the president clashed with the debate. For instance, he said the president commissioned the Baro Inland Water Port in Niger State and campaigned in Niger and Plateau States.
Besides, the Buhari Campaign spokesperson said out of the several opportunities afforded the president 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.
This is an apparent reference to the The Candidate, a programme organised by the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, and Deria Media. Keyamo also asserted that the president was joined at that town-hall meeting by the Vice Ppresident and his running mate, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
Here is the statement in full:
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.
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.
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.