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Nigerians give ‘red card’ to Atiku, Buhari for shunning debate

THE long-awaited debate for the top presidential candidates in the 2019 general election has come and gone with the two top candidates, Muhammadu Buhari and Abubakar Atiku boycotting the event, causing dismay among the electorate.

Both men avoided the debate, despite a nearly two-month notice.

While Buhari said he had a busy schedule on Saturday, Atiku, who had flown into the country from the United States of America, was at the Transcorp Hilton venue of the debate but left when it became obvious Buhari would not attend.

During the debate, the three other presidential candidates namely, Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressives Party, Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria, and Obiageli Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, described the absence of the septuagenarian duo of Atiku and Buhari as a confirmation that both men have little or no role to play in the future of Nigeria.

But outside the debate hall, many Nigerians made their feelings known using the easiest means they could – the social media.

Thousands of posts were made on Facebook and Twitter as Nigerians described the actions of Atiku and Buhari in boycotting the debate as disgraceful and disrespectful.

One of such tweets, by Dipo Awojide, whose username is @OgbeniDipo, read: “Ezekwesili – present, Durotoye – present, Atiku – absent, Buhari – absent, Mogalu – present. Disgraceful and disrespectful for Buhari and Atiku to have ignored this debate.”

Another tweet by one Shina Peller described the boycott as an “insult” on Nigerians.

Many others, however, believe that Atiku is the worst loser as he blew an opportunity to warm his way into the hearts of many Nigerians as the leader who really cares about them.

Amadi Chima, a member of Atiku’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could not hide his disappointment. “Sir Atiku,” he wrote, “we asked you to walk away if PMB sends a surrogate to the debate NOT if he didn’t show up. Today was an opportunity to speak directly to the Nigerian people on your programs away from the jamboree and charade of rallies.

Another popular Twitter user, Segun Awosanya (@segalink), wrote: “Is Atiku running to beat Buhari or Running for President of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria? The people know that Atiku may not be as articulate as the trio of Moghalu Kingsley, Fela Durotoye, Oby Ezekwesili, or as ruthless as Omoyele Sowore, but showing up side by side with these ones count.”

Hundreds of other Nigerians have condemned Buhari and Atiku on Facebook for failing to participate in the long-awaited debate.

But while the anger and tantrums continue about how the so-called political elites do not care a bit about the ordinary Nigerians, on Twitter user, Kemi Lala Akindoju, asked an important question. She said: “I hope this anger on Twitter streets will translate to REAL votes. How many of us here saying we are disappointed in Atiku and Buhari have collected our PVCs?”

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