The All Progressives Congress (APC) has defended the absence its candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, at a presidential debate held for five candidates gunning for the top seat in next month’s elections.
The ruling party in its defence on Sunday also said Mr Buhari is “not in the same class with the presidential candidate of the main opposition Peoples democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar”.
The national publicity secretary of the APC, Lanre Issa-Onilu, said this Sunday evening during a press conference with journalists in Abuja.
“We are not in the same class with Atiku and PDP to come and share the same stage with people who ruined this country to talk about what? Debate with who? That’s an insult that the president will come and debate with who?” he said.
Mr Buhari courted controversy when he shunned the debate, while Mr Abubakar, who had just returned from a trip to the U.S. came briefly but left when told Mr Buhari was not available to debate.
Those who debated were: Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria and Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressives Party.
While Mr Buhari failed to attend because “of his strict schedule,” according to his campaign team, Mr Abubakar, who was seen at the venue of the debate, said he decided to withdraw his participation, after learning Mr Buhari had chosen to stay away.
In the statement Sunday, Mr Issa-Onilu said the debate is not the only platform for its candidate to interact with Nigerians and “there is no way the party will use all platforms”.
He also said the president does not have to give a reason for his absence.
“The president doesn’t have to give any reason at all for not attending that debate. The debate is just one of several platforms available to candidates; it is up to them to choose that which best suits their interest,” he said.
Making reference to the town hall meeting the president and his vice, Yemi Osibanjo held two days ago, he said “that is a platform that best represents them”.
“That for us is what our candidate needs, that for us is more important, that for us gives us the platform to say we are different,” he said. “We cannot exhaust all the platforms so we pick the platforms that are most impactful and we are the ones in the position to determine which platforms we want to use.”
He said the president, as part of his ‘more important’ duties, was in Niger State where he inaugurated the Baro Inland Water Port.
“The president is already engaging with the public so that particular debate may not be important. I think it (debate) is important to people who are seeking power, not for somebody who has a lot speaking for him already.”