Two leading presidential candidates, Bola Tinubu of the APC and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, were absent at the presidential town hall meeting held Sunday evening.
While Atiku was represented at the event by his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa, Mr Tinubu had no representation and was replaced by the organisers with another presidential candidate.
The event was convened by the Centre for Democracy and Development and Arise Television.
Apart from Tinubu and Atiku, the other two presidential candidates invited for the debate were Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the NNPP. Who were present for the debate.
The four men were selected based on the performance of their parties in an online survey by the organisers during which all the 18 political parties were listed in alphabetical order.
A statement by the CDD revealed that after the survey was closed, nine parties did not receive a vote. The remaining nine received the following percentage of votes- African Action Congress (AAC) – 20.7%, All Progressives Congress (APC) – 86.2%, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) – 6.9%, Labour Party (LP) – 96.6%, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) – 51.7%, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – 82.8%, Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) – 6.9%, Social Democratic Party (SDP) – 6.9% and Young Progressive Party (YPP) – 13.8%.
The result of this survey informed our decision to invite the highest four scoring parties – LP, APC, PDP and NNPP to the town hall, the organisers said.______________
However, hours before the event, Tinubu was replaced with Kola Abiola of the Peoples Redemption Party who was present at the event.
The moderator, Reuben Abati, announced that Atiku was on his way back from Morocco and had communicated with the organisers to let Okowa represent him.
The All Progressives Congress Campaign Council on Sunday night justified the absence of its presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, saying the debate clashed with his engagements.
The campaign council’s clarification is coming in the wake of Tinubu’s absence at a live presidential debate held at Transcorp Hilton in Abuja.
The Director of Media and Communications, Bayo Onanuga, in an exclusive phone chat with The PUNCH said that the debate clashed with Tinubu’s campaign town hall meeting with agro-farmers in Minna, Niger State capital.
Onanuga made reference to the APC presidential campaign calendar to justify his position.
He said, “We are in Minna now for engagement with farmers and agro-commodities groups ahead of tomorrow. The media cannot suddenly come up with a debate and wants us to drop everything we are doing to attend it. It is wrong. We also have our campaign schedule to attend to.”
When reminded that the presidential candidate could still have shown up since the engagement in question is slated for Monday, Onanuga disagreed.
“Are we going to use jet to travel to Minna? As I earlier told you, we are in Minna already and cannot make it to the programme. In our own case, their proposal clashes with the campaign programme of our candidate. That’s why we didn’t turn up,” he stated.