The All Progressives Congress, President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, stayed away from the debate organised by the Nigeria Elections Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria.
It was learnt that Buhari was advised by his campaign team to stay away from the debate after what was perceived as a poor outing on Wednesday’s town hall meeting titled, ‘The Candidate’, which was moderated by ace journalist, Kadariah Ahmed.
At the town hall meeting which Buhari attended alongside Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the President failed to properly answer some questions asked, causing the Vice-President to bail him out on several occasions.
A source close to Buhari said, “The President wanted to come but you can see that he is not ready to debate some people. It is better for him to miss the debate so that his words would not be used against him. After all, silence cannot be quoted.”
The source said the President had already told Nigerians what he wanted to do at the last town hall and that was enough.
“You want the President to go up against motivational speakers who do this for a living? You want him to give them a platform to lambast him? No way! The elections will be won on the field and not on a podium.”
Atiku, it was learnt, had arrived from the United States at least four hours before the event.
He proceeded to the Transcorp Hotel where the event was taking place but immediately it was discovered that Buhari would not be attending the event, he made a u-turn and stormed out of the event.
In a series of tweets, Atiku wrote, “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.
“As a leader and former Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, let me first apologise to all Nigerians, my fellow candidates and the moderator for the APC Presidential candidate’s absence in this debate. His non-appearance is a slight on all of us and our democracy.
“With respect to my fellow candidates, Fela Durotoye, Oby Ezekwesili, Kingsley Moghalu to moderator Mark Sugar and with apologies to Nigerians here and 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.
“After all, you cannot shave a man’s head in his absence. I do not believe in attacking a man who is not here to defend himself.
The three Presidential candidates at the debate including a former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, motivational speaker, Mr Fela Durotoye, and a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Kingsley Moghalu.