The Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation said on Friday that the decision by the All Progressives Congress [APC] not to participate in the presidential debate being organized by the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) is simply to shield from Nigerians and the international audience its candidate, Muhammadu Buhari’s intellectual laziness.
It also alleged that it was also meant to hide Mr. Buhari’s inability to constructively engage on contemporary national issues in a live television and radio debate.
The APC Presidential Campaign Organisation had announced Thursday that its candidate would not participate in the debate organised by BON because the organisers are supporters of the PDP.
In a statement by the organisation’s Director of Media and Publicity, Femi Fani-Kayode, the organisation said APC knew that its candidate would flunk it if he was subjected to the rigours of debate on issues of national governance and development.
The PDP campaign organisation said it was aware that the APC had already expressed its concerns when approached by an international news channel for a debate, about the intellectual acumen of Mr.Buhari, and had assured the news channel that it was only comfortable with its vice presidential candidate, Yemi Osinbajo, who has capacity to feature brilliantly on the programme.
“We have just read a report in the media credited to the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation that the party would not allow its candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, to participate in the radio and television presidential debate organized by the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, BON,” the statement said.
“The APC accused the organisers of the debate of unhidden bias and campaign of calumny by some key organisers of the programme against the corporate political interest of the party and its candidates.
“Whilst we will not bother ourselves with the many reasons adduced by the APC, we wish to state that we see the APC’s decision as an attempt to shield its presidential candidate from displaying his intellectual laziness and inability to constructively engage contemporary national issues in a live television and radio debate.”
“We had envisaged that the APC would be reluctant to expose Mr. Buhari to the rigours of a live television debate because the opposition party knows that its candidate will flunk it. If the APC truly believes that it is ‘a party of progressive intellectuals’, as it claims it should allow General Buhari to prove that at the debate.”
The organisation said if the APC failed to participate in the debate, it would also show the disdain both the party and its candidate have for the Nigerian people.
It said the opposition would have denied Nigerians the opportunity to make informed choices on the basis of what each candidate will articulate as propositions on issues that will be raised.
It said, “We are convinced that General Buhari does not have what it takes to sustain a coherent argument on germane issues of governance and development.
“We challenge General Buhari to a debate on any national and international medium of mass communication and our candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan, will be ready to participate.
“On the other hand, President Jonathan’s running mate, Vice President Namadi Sambo, is also ready to participate in the debate and any other debate.
“Our presidential candidate and his running mate will not raise flimsy and escapist excuses such as “unhidden bias” and the like, since we believe that they are well-rounded intellectuals who have been prepared by their experience in office to answer any question under the sun on the governance of our nation.”
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the United Progressives Party, UPP, Chekwas Okorie, has pleaded with Mr. Buhari to reconsider his decision not to attend the debate.
“The news that the APC presidential candidate, General Buhari, will not participate in the scheduled debates is a great disappointment,” Mr. Okorie said in a statement Friday.
The UPP flag-bearer said he was looking forward to the debate because “the match-up was consistent with independent poling around the country that identified President Jonathan’s PDP, General Buhari’s APC, and Chief Okorie’s UPP as the three most serious contenders in the highly anticipated general elections to choose Nigeria’s next president for a four-year term.”
He therefore said he did not find the rationale given by the APC for withdrawing from the debates convincing.
Mr Okorie added, “My Vice Presidential candidate, Barrister Bello Umar (SAN) and I are ready for the debates. I urge my compatriot, General Buhari, to reject his advisors’ voices and show up for the debates. That is what the nation and the international community expect of him.”