Buhari, Atiku and the 2019 Presidential Debate: Matters Arising! - Ishola Adebayo

January 25, 2019

The decision by President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar not to participate in the 2019 Presidential Election Debate organized for the various party candidates contesting the polls has not gone down well with Nigerians.

The debate, which was organized by the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG) in conjunction with the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), was to feature the five presidential candidates of the APC, PDP, the Allied Congress of Nigeria (ACPN), Young Progressive Party (YPP) and Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN).

But only three out of the five candidates participated in the debate as President Buhari did not show up while Alhaji Atiku came to the venue and later stormed out, refusing to take part in the debate, giving the absence of the president as reason.

But some Nigerians who took to the social media condemned the action of the candidates of the two main political parties, saying that they were grossly disappointed by their failure to participate in the debate to marshal out how they intend to make the country better.

While the other three candidates spoke on their lofty plans around issues ranging from security, job creation, education and so on, the contestants did not hesitate to throw heavy jibes at both Atiku of People's Democratic Party (PDP), and the incumbent President Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) whose administration has been abysmal. Long before the debate, at every opportunistic moment, some of these 3 candidates do hit at Atiku especially and then at Buhari as being too evil to continue with attempts at ruling the nation. So it was with gusto that they seized the opportunity of the absentees to sell themselves as the better candidates to millions who watched the debate.

Nigerian electorates deserve to scrutinize the candidates and programmes of the two individuals that have come to be known as the "two evils of Nigerian politics". Their absence under whatever excuse(s) shows their contempt for the electorates. Knowing how politics operates across the world, even in advanced countries, all of the dirty things which unfold before and during campaigns is often regarded as fair in times of real politicking. So a lot of accusations and allegations which could have passed as libelous do go scot-free.

But then, weighing the odds of the elections, what chances do these three presidential candidates who debated among themselves beautifully have against both Atiku of People's Democratic Party (PDP), and the incumbent President Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Already, Oby Ezekwesili, the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria during the week made announcement of her withdrawal from the presidential race. The announcement is coming barely weeks to the presidential election scheduled to hold on February 16.

Ezekwesili said, her action was as a result of consultation with Nigerians both at home and abroad, who were clamoring for a coalition candidate to face the two main parties, the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party. One wonders how much more weight the "third force" would be able to pull in the late hours.

Although debates are not mandatory yet in Nigeria, according to the electoral act, it is very much mandatory in advanced countries such as in the United States which we can emulate as well. And as it is widely believed that the coherence a leader or political candidate shows in a grueling public debate is a good additional test to prove the readiness and capacity of politicians, it is right about time that citizens make up their minds on who they feel has the best plans for the progress of our nation come February 16th, the presidential and national assembly election day.