How could anyone, regardless of their political leaning, justify the slip up ofpresidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party and former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, on Saturday?
A man, desirous of leading 180 million people, out of which you will find millions of the world’s brightest, travels across the world to be part of a well-advertised presidential debate, gets to the venue alongside his retinue of associates and then, decides to back out because the incumbent did not present himself?
Now, this is not about justifying the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to turn up for the debate. Even though not unexpected, the President’s absence and the excuses that followed make a mockery of the basic democratic demand for accountability.
Handlers of politicians talk about campaigns being the most effective platforms to account for their stewardship and unveil their manifesto for the new mandate that they seek. But that is hogwash.
Political campaigns in Nigeria are nothing but mere jamborees where money is shared, popular music is played, ridiculous dance steps are displayed by politicians and violence erupts every now and then.
Politicians are always in a hurry to end the display of the routine that political campaigns are here.
They reel out vacuous promises, which none of their listeners, even if the cacophony around would allow them to hear, is interested in.
They thereafter dash off to the next campaign event to tell their half-truths to the hapless citizens waiting in regardless of the unreserved protestations and anger of the elements, whatever it is, rain or shine!
Why aren’t those at campaigns interested in what politicians are saying? Two reasons: the first being that they have been paid upfront by some political stalwart who has taken the contract to deliver a tumultuous crowd.
Second, the people have heard these same stories over and over again such that they have lost meaning. So, do not be deceived.
Those videos and photos you see showing a sea of heads at political campaigns, at literarily almost all campaigns in Nigeria, are largely contrived and involuntary! The people have learnt enough to demand instant gratification for standing in the rain or sun waiting for any politician, so it is money for hand, back for ground, as they say. But I digress.
The point is that campaigns are no way to sell a political agenda to the people, debates are. This is why it is a tragedy that any politician genuinely seeking the mandate of the people turns down an opportunity to sell their ideas to them through the opportunity that debates present.
It is worse in Atiku’s case because his campaign organisation had claimed that he returned from his triumphant trip to the United States of America for this same debate that he walked out of because his major opponent did not turn up!
It is a ludicrous position on a lot of fronts. First off, Buhari on whose score Atiku walked out on millions of Nigerians who looked forward to the debate is the person to beat in this contest.
Not only have the people of Nigeria seen the best and worst possible of Buhari such that he has no new thing to prove to them, the power of incumbency also lies with him.
And that, the power of incumbency, is nothing to joke with in this side of the world and Atiku and his PDP should know that better than anyone as their party had deployed that resource at occasions in the past.
More importantly, they have tried to sell fears of the possible compromise of the 2019 elections to Nigerians. Unless their daily shriek about plans by the ruling All Progressive Congress to collude with the Independent National Electoral Commission and the security agencies to manipulate the upcoming elections is sheer crying wolf.
Whether these claims are true or not however, Atiku’s only chances lie in his ability to convince the people of Nigeria that he has anything different from what Nigerians have see