The presidential candidate of People’s Democratic Party, Mr. Atiku Abubakar on Saturday walked out of the presidential debate saying he could not take part in the exercise in the absence of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari.
The debate slated for 7pm at Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja was organised by the Nigeria Election Debate Group (NEDG) in collaboration with the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON)
Candidates shortlisted for the debate alongside Atiku and Buhari included those of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Mr. Oby Ezekwesili; Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Mr. Fela Durotoye and Young Progressives Party (YPP), Prof. Kingsley Moghalu.
Atiku who was accompanied to the debate by stalwarts of the PDP including the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said he regretted cutting short his trip to the United States to debate with Buhari.
“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. 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. 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.”
“Secondly, with all due respect to my fellow candidates, Fela Durotoye, Oby Ezekwesili, Kingsley Moghalu and to the moderator and with all apologies to my fellow Nigerians here and at home expecting an interesting debate, I regret that I will not be able to go on with this debate due to President Buhari’s absence.
“I, however, challenge the President Buhari to choose a date and time for a debate where he will be present and I will be there, hopefully with the other candidates as well.”
In his reaction to the absence of the APC and PDP presidential candidates, Moghalu described the duo as a kettle and a pot.
Moghalu said the two presidential candidates were absent because they could not answer the intricate questions about security and economy.
Durotoye noted that Atiku and Buhari’s absence was another way of taking Nigerians for granted.
He said their attitude was another way of saying Nigerians don’t matter.
Also reacting, Ezekwesili lambasted the APC and PDP standard bearers for shunning the debate.
She said the nation needs the disruption of the status quo if it must move forward.
She said Buhari and Atiku had announced their exit from the Presidential race by their action.
“I am not surprised they are not here. They have simply announced their exit from the governance. I think it is important that we acknowledge there is a political class that needs to fade away from our country because the idea that the will of the people to be subjected to the whims and caprices of our politicians should be a total anomaly.
“Today as we focus on the competitive ideas that will develop country if the two dominant parties cared about our people, they would come here to contest ideas on how they will fix Nigeria,” she said.