Senator Shehu Sani has lamented the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, at the 2019 presidential debate held on Saturday, January 19.
The senator representing Kaduna central senatorial district, in a tweet via his official Twitter handle, @ShehuSani, said: “It’s unfortunate and ironic that candidates who flaunt crowds of supporters in hundreds of thousands in open stadiums, have fear of a microphone and a few people in a Hall.”
The presidential debate was, however, attended by three other presidential candidates: Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) and Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressives Party (YPP).
Both President Buhari and Atiku have also explained why they failed to attend the debate which was organised by the Nigerian Election Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) and broadcast live on Channels TV.
President Buhari attributed his absence at the presidential debate to his “hectic schedule”.
Festus Keyamo, the spokesman of President Buhari’s campaign, said “the busy and hectic official and campaign schedules of Mr President clashed with this programme”.
He dismissed the reports that Buhari’s absence was deliberate, explaining that “our presidential candidate has taken full advantage of another town-hall meeting organized by another group which held on Wednesday, January 16, 2019”.
In his own explanation, Atiku who showed up at Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja, the venue of the debate, said he decided to pull out because of President Buhari’s absence.
He said: "We came here for a Presidential debate, not a candidacy debate, and I, Atiku Abubakar cannot challenge or question an administration where the man at the helm of the affairs of the nation is not present to defend himself or his policies.”
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Meanwhile, a poll conducted by Legit.ng on Facebook and Twitter indicates that a good number of Nigerians may not vote for the presidential candidates who failed to show up at the debate.
Of the 7,577 Facebook users that participated in the poll, 64% said they will not vote any presidential candidate that is absent from the debate while 36% said they will go ahead to vote a candidate of their choice even if the candidate fails to participate in the debate.
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