By Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has said that its presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, was not under any compulsion to attend the presidential debate organised under the auspices of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON).
The party also described the visit of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to the United State, as a non-issue, adding that for him to have waited for 12 years, only to sneak out like a fugitive to the US, was enough to confirm that all was not well with him.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday in Abuja, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Lanre Isa-Onilu, said Buhari did not have to explain his absence from last Saturday’s presidential debate, because there are several other platforms available to him.
He said it is an insult for anyone to expect the president to come to the level of the former vice president and others seeking power.
Onilu said, “The president doesn’t have to give any reason at all for not attending that debate. The debate is just one of the several platforms that are available for our candidate to engage with the public; 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 platform we want to use. Debate with who? That is an insult, that the president will come debate with who?’’
Onilu said contrary to issues being raised by the main opposition party and its candidate about the absence of the president at the debate, Buhari considers the engagement he had on that day, commissioning projects more important and rewarding.
However, the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation (PPCO) has said that Buhari and the APC were so disturbed about Atiku’s acceptance by the international community that they wasted billions of naira from the coffers of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to organise a failed protest in the US.
The Director of Media and Publicity, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement yesterday, said the presidency should hide its face in shame that after spending billions of naira in propaganda to stop the trip, Atiku, freely travelled to the US.
He stressed that unlike the president’s wasteful trips, Atiku engaged in fruitful sessions with critical international business entities on ways to revamp the country’s economy ruined by Buhari.
Ologbondiyan stressed, “President Buhari and the APC were so disturbed about Atiku Abubakar’s acceptance by the international community that they wasted billions of naira from the coffers of the NDDC to organise a failed protest in the US.
“When that failed, they attempted to use the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to threaten and level spurious allegations against Atiku Abubakar, which also came to naught, as the entire world saw through the fabrications.”
Ologbondiyan added that Buhari’s failure in all his plots against the former vice president signposts his eventual failure before him (Atiku) at the February 16, 2019 presidential election, as Nigerians have since reached a consensus to vote him in as their next president.
He noted that if Buhari has anything to tell or ask Atiku, he should be bold to meet him at an open debate any day, any time and at any venue.
Meanwhile, the APC has said Atiku’s visit has backfired as the issues around his image remained largely unresolved.
Before Atiku’s sudden visit to the US, the APC campaign groups had labelled him a wanted criminal in the US, saying the former vice president has a corruption charge hanging on his neck.
However, in a statement issued yesterday by the Director, Strategic Communications, APC Presidential Campaign Council, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, the APC described the visit as a non-event.
“We were not surprised by his visit to the US. For us, this visit is really a non-event considering the issues involved in the forthcoming election. However, we have bad news for those who think this is a momentous event for Atiku Abubakar: the visit was nothing but a downright catastrophe because rather than dispel the fact of indictments hanging over his head,” he said.
While faulting the visit, APC said it was an anomaly that the candidate of the major opposition party in Nigeria sneaked into America and did not meet large sections of political leaders of similar ideologies and persuasions towards which he claims to be inclined.
APC’s presidential campaign council said the visit had all the trappings of a fugitive sneaking into America under a “special diplomatic waiver.”
It noted that for the candidate of the major opposition party in Nigeria, it is an absolute disaster that the visit was not announced ahead of time in Nigeria, with his programmes and itinerary clearly spelt out.
According to the APC, the style of Atiku’s travel to the US was a clear departure from the “decent and customary minimum standard of such visits”.
The APC presidential campaign further punched holes in what the PDP sees as a major political point, saying that Atiku could not address a single international press conference during the visit.