The APC presidential campaign had said in a statement on Thursday, signed by Mr. Garba Shehu, Director Media and Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation, in Abuja, that its candidates would stay away from the event because of the unhidden bias of the organisers of the programme against the corporate political interest of the APC.Some constitutional lawyers have urged the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd), to participate in the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria organised election debate.
On Friday, one of the lawyers, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, told SUNDAY PUNCH that, “There is nothing unconstitutional in presidential debates. Everybody has a freedom of speech, but the fact remains that the people need to know who their prospective or potential president is, by way of intellectual engagement.
“They can nominate their representatives to go on board, but they should not deprive Nigerians of their views on the crucial issues that will be informative to the people. I think it is in their interest for their candidate to participate.”
He also said people could easily spot partial questions and that questions put to one PERSON should be put to the other. According to him, it is important that every candidate should face Nigerians.
“Nigerians want to know who their candidates are; they have been talking generally without being specific on issues. They should be able to expand their theory, conception, views, mission and vision.
“This is the opportunity to narrow down to specifics so that people can assess them. As at today, there are still a large number of voters that are undecided, whether they should vote for A or B,” Oyetibo added.
Similarly, another lawyer, Mr. Fred Agbaje said boycotting the debate would only go to show that Buhari does not have solutions to Nigeria’s problems.
Agbaje said, “I think he should have participated in that debate. Some of the questions might be embarrassing and he could tell them he would not answer them.
“He has to participate; majority of Nigerians will see it as if he is running away from it. It (boycotting) will further affect his political career because Nigerians will see it as if he does not have solutions to Nigeria’s problem, or that he is arrogant.”
But Professor Itse Sagay believed Buhari had no legal obligation to appear for the debate. According to him, President Jonathan did not appear for a similar debate in 2011, so the other candidates had the debate without him.
Sagay said, “Because of the lack of independence and objectivity, and the fact that they have their agenda, there is no reason why Buhari should subject himself to that sort of inquisition, because that is what it is going to be; it is going to be very unfair.”