The ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on Sunday challenged the competence of Muhammadu Buhari to debate President Goodluck Jonathan.
The PDP alleged that Mr. Buhari, the All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential candidate, is not capable of debating Mr. Jonathan.
As the APC had pulled out of a debate organised by the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, BON, citing the alleged bias and impartiality of the organisers, the PDP dared the opposition party to organise any other debate, promising that President Jonathan is ready to challenge his major opponent.
“Let them be the ones to organise it; let them set up the panel; let them bring out the questions; let them show their candidate the questions before hand and let them prepare answers to those questions for their candidate,” the PDP Campaign Organisation spokesperson, Femi Fani-Kayode, said while addressing journalists.
“Let them write it down for him; let them come and we will still debate with them as long as it is live and as long as our candidate is allowed to give his answers and as long as he is not cut short. As long as they would do that, we are ready to debate with them.”
The spokesperson added that “even in those circumstances, General Muhammadu Buhari would not be able to stand against President Goodluck Jonathan. They know that; we know that and the entire country knows that and that is why they are running away.”
Mr. Fani-Kayode said his party was aware there were some Nigerians who were yet to make up their mind on who to vote in the February 14 election, and so was willing to attend a debate to present the achievements of Mr. Jonathan.
“But for those that are yet to decide and perhaps for those who are leaning towards Buhari, if we have a live debate and everybody is allowed to speak his or her mind freely and fairly, I assure you that by the end of that exercise, General Buhari will be exposed for what he is and President Jonathan will be able to give the Nigerian people a glimpse of what he has to offer and also a good account of his records for the last four years,” he said.
“That is why the other side is running away. So, I think at the end of the exercise, after such a debate, whether APC-organised or whether organised by anybody else, President Jonathan will come out in flying colours while General Buhari will come out a very unhappy man.”
But in a prompt response, the APC Campaign Organisation said it is considering featuring its candidate at other credible media fora without the prompting of Mr. Fani-Kayode.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Garba Shehu, the APC campaign said Mr. Buhari will not shy away from explaining his policy plank on how to rebuild Nigeria from the current situation put in place by Mr. Jonathan.
“What is the hullabaloo about GMB (General Muhammadu Buhari) not attending a debate organised by elements that have shown unhidden bias towards his person, family, career and political interest?” Mr. Shehu said.
“It is on record that the man (Buhari) had participated in previous presidential debates in 2007 and 2011 respectively, which the PDP candidate did not attend,” he added in reference to the 2011 presidential debate boycotted by Mr. Jonathan, but attended by Mr. Buhari and other major opposition candidates. Mr. Buhari had also attended the debate in 2007, which was boycotted by the PDP candidate, late Umaru Yar’Adua, who eventually won the election.
Mr. Shehu added that “the APC and General Buhari have received several media invitations to the presidential election from different organisations and the party is still vetting the ones to attend, due to time constraints and motive of the organisers.”
He dismissed the insinuations from Mr. Fani-Kayode that the boycott by the APC amounts to “shielding Buhari from intellectual discussion.”
Mr. Shehu described Mr. Fani-Kayode’s remarks as the ranting of a man “with deficit communication acumen and mastery of simple logic.”
“The interpretation by the spokesman of the PDP Campaign is a huge lie. Nigerians know Buhari as a man of high integrity and one that would not shy away from public scrutiny. He is the type that would declare his asset publicly, a no-go area to the sitting President who once said ‘I don’t give a damn’ when challenged to do so in the past.
“Buhari has been to almost 32 states to explain his plans for the revival and resuscitation of our nation, and his endearing utterances have been aired to Nigerians who now support his cause en masse, unlike those who are losing party loyalists per second.”