ANAP Foundation has decried the failure of Bola Tinubu, presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), and Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to attend a townhall on Sunday night.
The presidential candidates of the Labour Party, LP, Peter Obi; New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso; and Peoples Redemption Party, Kola Abiola were present at the event, while Atiku was represented by his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa.
They shared their agendas on how they would tackle insecurity and revamp the economy if elected president.
The presidential townhall was organised by the Arise TV and Centre for Democracy and Development, in partnership with Vanguard Newspapers, Premium Times, Nigerian Guild of Editors, and Nigerian Union of Journalists.
The commencement of the event was delayed by arguments and counterarguments between supporters of Obi and Atiku.
Obi’s supporters had protested against Okowa standing in as representative of Atiku while Atiku’s supporters insisted that the presidential ticket was a joint one. Okowa was later allowed to stand in for Atiku.
“The importance of presidential debates cannot be overstated. It was a shame that APC’s Bola Tinubu and PDP’s Atiku Abubakar did not attend yesterday’s Presidential town hall. Events like this should not be taken for granted,” ANAP, founded by Atedo Peterside, said on Twitter on Monday.
It said the Nigerian people must witness the ability of candidates to witness public scrutiny of their policies by their opponents.
“It is crucial for us to see our presidential candidates debate the important issues so that we can make more informed decisions when it comes to choosing our future leaders,” the foundation said.
Tunde Daramola, former chairman of African Democratic Congress, Lagos State, said: “Bola Tinubu refused to attend because he does not want his inadequacies to become obvious to Nigerians. He knows the APC has performed woefully; he is confused on what to tell Nigerians.
“How can you claim to be national leader of a party and you are afraid to come out and talk about what the party has achieved in the last eight years? It just shows he has something to hide. I know the electioneering period is stressful, but when you are avoiding all the debates, it is not good for your candidacy. The ball is now on Nigerians to elect that candidate that would move us from this position to where we want to be.”
Yomi Farounbi, former president of Nigeria Bar Association, Ikeja branch, said the refusal of Tinubu to attend the townhall meeting of the presidential candidates should not be misinterpreted.
He said: “I know when you are a public figure you can’t be in all these programmes, because you are not a robot. For instance, you fly to attend a meeting in several parts of the country – meaning that you have to prioritise your programmes.
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“It is not anybody’s business to plan your routine for you. It is the duty of Nigerians to elect someone next year, and they should weigh the options. There is no link to how attendance at debates translates to good leaders in Nigeria. He has set his priorities; Nigerians should decide who is the best to rule.”
The APC Presidential Campaign Council through its spokesman, Festus Keyamo, explained in a statement why its presidential candidate, Tinubu, failed to attend the event.
It said: “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. Tomorrow (Monday), he will be interacting with Agro and Commodity Groups in Minna, Niger State.”