- Criticism continues to pile up on Bola Ahmed Tinubu's continuous absence from presidential debates and special meetings
- Political pundits, enthusiasts and civil society groups have also questioned his capability to lead the Nigerians
- Rights activist and entertainer Charles Chukwuemeka Oputa, aka Charly Boy, described it as a disrespect to the Nigerian people
FCT, Abuja - Nigerians and party members have concerns over the constant failure of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Tinubu, to attend special political events ahead of the 2023 elections.
Legit.ng reports that the APC presidential candidate has been avoiding public appearances, especially events that allow interactions to know the minds and the intentions of the presidential candidates.
Though Atiku had missed on some occasions, including the Sunday Town Hall meeting organised by Arise TV, Nigerians are more concerned about Tinubu's constant absence from public events, without sending a representative in some cases.
Tinubu and the NBA conference
In August, Nigerians were shocked when instead of appearing in person, Shettima stood in for Tinubu at the NBA Annual General conference at Eko Hotels, Victoria Island, Lagos state. The NBA event is one. Nigerians had chided the APC presidential candidate and mocked Shettima's dress code for the event.
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A trending video and an image of Shettima had gone viral where he was seen in a big suit and sports shoes at the event.
A former presidential aide to Goodluck Jonathan and a PDP chieftain, Reno Omokri, had criticised Tinubu for failing to attend the NBA event despite the close distance of the venue to his house. Omokri said Tinubu would have no excuse because Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi flew from Abuja to the event.
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He had said:
"If Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi can fly to Lagos to speak at the Nigerian Bar Association Annual General Conference, what excuse can Bola Tinubu have if he does not show face there? It is happening in Lagos. He lives in Lagos. Lagos is his base. He claims to be from Lagos."
But Mr Adamu Garba, a former presidential aspirant under the APC and a party chieftain, said Tinubu was represented by his running mate to show inclusion as he does not want to leave his running mate behind.
Garba, in a tweet, dismissed all condemnations, saying Tinubu had shown through the singular act that he is committed to an inclusive leadership style.
Garba said the APC presidential candidate has no plan to "bury" Kashim to be everywhere.
“Tinubu absent, Tinubu absent. You guys don't understand the true meaning of inclusive leadership."
Tinubu missing again at National Peace Accord
Recall that in September, Shettima stood in for Tinubu at the National Peace Accord. The Peace Accord was a forum organised by the peace committee to have a rancour-free 2023 election.
According to Abdulsalami Abubakar, chairman of NPC, the accord was to ensure peaceful activities before, during and after the 2023 election.
Tinubu's absence from the event also generated controversial comments from political stakeholders and the opposition, who believe the APC candidate could not attend because of his health. They have argued that a candidate that cannot attend such a public event does not have what it takes to govern Nigeria.
But Tinubu, in one of his tweets, had declared his readiness to govern the country. He said he was well and ready for the task.
According to him:
"Many have said I have died; others claimed I have withdrawn from the presidential race. Well…nope. This is the reality: I am strong, I am healthy and I am ready to serve Nigeria from day one."
He was then seen on a bike exercising.
Shettima represents Tinubu at a women's event in Abuja
Shettima also represented Tinubu at an event organised by Women Radio 91.7 at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja. In this event, Atiku was completely absent.
The programme, which was supported by Voice of Woman Empowerment Foundation in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, had in attendance Peter Obi, Labour Party (LP), Prince Adewole Adebayo, Social Democratic Party (SDP), Abdulmalik Ado Ibrahim, Young Progressives Party (YPP), and Hamza Al-Mustapha, Action Alliance (AA).
Tinubu completely absent at Arise TV Town Hall meeting
The APC presidential candidate was conspicuously absent at the Sunday Arise Tv debate tagged "Town Hall meeting", held at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja and transmitted live to millions of Nigerians.
Though his absence did not generate much controversy as it did in the past, Atiku, who sent a representative, had a terrible outing as his representative, Ifeanyi Okowa, was almost chased away from the event. Attendees protested that the invitation was for Atiku Abubakar and not for Okowa.
But Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, the presidential candidate of the New Nigerian Peoples Party, NNPP, sent a message to Tinubu at the event, saying it's better to attend with a representative than not to attend at all.
Political actors raise concerns
Speaking with Legit.ng on condition of anonymity, an APC chieftain said Tinubu's absence from events and debates was becoming a source of worry.
According to him:
"This is no longer funny. Millions of Nigerians tune in to most of these debates and events and are always watching out for comments and promises from their candidates. Tinubu's absence from some of these events will greatly affect our party.
"I don't know who is advising him, but even if you are not healthy enough to attend an event, send someone to speak for you. See the way Okowa made Atiku proud at the event. We can't continue with this hide-and-seek. This is the real campaign. You need to push yourself in people's faces and not always in a positive way. His continuous absence will create the impression that he is not well as widely held."
But another source who pleaded not to be mentioned said Tinubu's strategy was working, and there was no cause for alarm.
According to him:
"His continuous absence from events shows he is the big masquerade. A big masquerade does not show his face every time. I think it will be an insult should he go on a debate with all those candidates that can't stand his personality. At the right time, Nigerians will hear from Asiwaju."
Charly Boy reacts to Legit.ng question on absence of Tinubu, Atiku
A right activist and popular entertainer, Charlyboy, who is a supporter of Peter Obi's candidacy, while responding to a question on whether Tinubu and Atiku's absence at political events is an added advantage, said it is meaningless for Peter Obi to be going for debates where his main contenders would not show up.
"I don't think there is any need for Obi to continue to attend debates not attended by some of these politicians contesting. What is the point? The people he is vying for the position don't even see the need to explain what they can offer to ordinary Nigerians. And that is because they don't see the common person as important. They don't care.
"That's why somebody will stand up and say it's my turn. What's your turn? It's nobody's turn. People are applying for a job, so what's your turn? It's about your credential. It's about your certificate; it's about your qualification. It's about your antecedents; it is about what you have done in the past."
Presidential debates: You can run but not hide, Atiku’s aide tackles Tinubu
Similarly, Bola Tinubu’s decision to avoid public scrutiny via presidential debates continues to generate reactions.
Shaibu urged Nigerians to reject a candidate who wants to be president but does not want to be interviewed for the job.