How Tinubu, Atiku camps reduce contest to brilliance in TV debate

Tunde Joshua, Abuja 

 Two presidential candidates, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been at each other’s throat over recent happenings in their parties with their respective camps trading accusations.

At the weekend, both the Tinubu Campaign Organisation and the Atiku Media Office exchanged hot words following Friday’s interview granted by the former vice president on an Arise TV programme.

The PDP presidential candidate had during the interview spoke on a number of issues including reactions to his choice of running mate, affairs of the ruling APC, particularly the Tinubu/ Shettima single-faith ticket and other national affairs.

Atiku drew the first blood when he not only castigated the APC over the Muslim/ Muslim ticket but disclosed how he had rejected Tinubu’s desire  to be his running mate in 2007 because of his loath for the ‘insensitivity’ in a  single faith ticket.

The Director, Media & Communication, Tinubu Campaign Organisation (TCO),Bayo Onanuga  faulted Atiku on some of his assertions while tutoring him on how not to lie on a public television.

In a swift reaction, head of the Atiku Media Office, Paul Ibe  while commending his principal for articulated answers and comportment during the Arise TV interview,  challenged  Tinubu to take the hot seat of a television interview.

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The PDP candidate had during the interview criticised the APC over its preference for a Muslim-Muslim ticket, describing the party as being unfair to followers of other religion in a secular  country like Nigeria.

He even supported his opposition to a same faith ticket by disclosing how he denied Tinubu the chance of running with him as vice presidential candidate  in  2007.

Atiku said “the diversity in the nation was from the APC led government. My fundamental disagreement and departure from Asiwaju politically was in 2007 on the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket.

“Remember i came out of PDP on the issue of zoning and together with him we formed ACN and i was given a ticket in Lagos and he insisted to be my running mate and i said no, i am not going to have s Muslim-Muslim Ticket. So he switched his support to the late Umaru Yar’adua, that was the departing point.

“And of course, it is also a fact when the President Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) emerged in 2015 in Lagos, i opposed the Muslim-Muslim Ticket and my opposition actually reinforced the decision of the president to pick a Christian running mate. So I have all along opposed that.  i don’t believe in that. I don’t believe is right for a country like Nigeria i am multi-ethnic, multi-religious and there should be balancing of interest.”

Slamming Atiku Abubakar for berating Tinubu  over  his choice of Kashim Shettima as a running mate, the TCO accused Atiku of  playing to the gallery on APC’s Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket.

Bayo Onanugu on behalf of the TCO said “Atiku ever an expert in not telling the truth also did not come clean over his once-upon a time preference for same-faith ticket. In 1993, after Atiku and Kingibe lost to MKO Abiola in the SDP presidential primary in Jos, Atiku was the choice of the Yar’Adua camp to become Abiola’s running mate. Abiola overlooked him and picked the more cerebral diplomat and bureaucrat, Babagana Kingibe.

In all the tonnes of biographies written about him, there was no where he said he opposed Shehu Yar’Adua’s support for his candidacy as Abiola’s VP. He was not against it, since it favoured him. Now, it is politically convenient and opportunistic for him to oppose Tinubu-Shettima ticket.

Earlier, the media aide to the APC candidate, Tunde Rahman had in a statement also called Atiku a hypocrite.

In the statement, Tinubu was quoted as saying, “Atiku has no business raising the issue of a Muslim-Muslim ticket except as a hypocrite. Perhaps he believes people have forgotten his antics during the 1993 election.

“After he woefully lost his bid to be the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party, what did he do? He canvassed and lobbied harder than anyone to become the running mate to late Chief MKO Abiola. When it benefitted him personally, Atiku did not see anything wrong with Muslim-Muslim ticket. He saw everything right in such a ticket as long as he was on it.

“Now, Atiku criticises my selection as running mate based on religion. He does so because he cannot criticise it on other ground.”

The TCO  also blasted Atiku for not considering  seeking to be President after 8years of a President Mugamnadu Buhari from the northern  part of Nigeria as politics of exclusion.

“Probed further, Atiku provided several contradictory answers. In one breath, he said power rotation is not in the constitution. In another breath, he said the PDP has never “micro zoned any position’. Then he admitted that the party has always rotated power between the North and the South. Atiku’s justification as to why he became PDP’s presidential candidate, instead of a southerner is a perfect example in ellipsis: “In politics”, he said, “we negotiate power through negotiations(Sic)”.  Whatever that means.

“Ask him  to justify why the PDP jettisoned  Section 3c of its own constitution which enshrines power rotation between the North and South,  Atiku tried to fudge his answer by focussing on Governor Nyesom Wike and his effort to reconcile with him after he, a northerner snatched the presidential ticket that ought to have been taken by a southerner,” Onanuga said.

In his response on behalf of Atiku, his media aide, Paul Ibe attempted to tutor  the TCO on what power rotation means.

He said “it seems the Tinubu campaign organisation (can a disorganised body be called an organisation?) does not know the meaning of rotation of power and micro zoning. So, we will gladly educate them.

“Rotation of power refers to a constitutional provision where power is zoned between North and South. Micro-zoning refers to a non constitutional idea, where power is zoned not between North and South, but amongst geo-political zones. We hope this cures the political illiteracy of the authors of that document.”

Further criticising Atiku, Onanuga  stated that “we have watched Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s interview on ARISE Television and were extremely shocked by the many lies and ignorance displayed by the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.

“In the interview, Alhaji Atiku exposed himself as a man who is not prepared for the job he is applying for and a man who can not be entrusted with our commonwealth. He was flippant in his response to important questions about his record of service and how he made money while serving in Customs. He muddled up facts and exhibited befudling absence of mind.

” PDP candidate is a law breaker: It was most shocking Atiku admitted that he cheated the system for decades and engaged in gross misconduct as a government worker. As a customs officer at the Idi-Iroko border, Atiku revealed that he ran a commercial taxi service, claiming ‘there is no law stopping public officers from doing business in Nigeria”. He punched harder, claiming there is no conflict of interest in doing so.

“We found this to be untrue.

“Every officer in the civil service is expected to comply with a code of conduct and service rules which bar civil and public servants from engaging in private business while in government employment to the detriment of the service he/she is employed to render to the public. The 1999 constitution further codifies this in Part I, Fifth Schedule, Section of 2 (b).

“It says a public officer shall not, except where he is not employed on full-time basis engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade. The rules however allow a public officer to engage in farming,” the statement claimed.

This was also faulted by Ibe who said “the Tinubu campaign exposed its gross desperation and vacuousness by citing the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) 1999, to declare Waziri Atiku Abubakar’s stance on engaging in a side business while he was a young custom officer as a breach of the law.

” It is pertinent to educate the Tinubu campaign organisation that Nigeria is not under a military regime and our Constitutions are not retroactive in nature.”

Tackling each other over Atiku’s comment on national issue, particularly on the economy,  TCO faulted Atiku for what it called his poor knowledge of key sectors of the economy:

Onanuga said “we also found it surprising that the PDP presidential candidate does not know the contribution of oil and gas industry to Nigeria’s GDP. He claimed the sector represents 20% of our national GDP whereas it is below 10 percent and it is still falling owing to the growth of non-oil sector under the current All Progressives Congress led administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“False Data from Egypt: Atiku Abubakar wanted to impress his audience with his supposed knowledge of international affairs. He ended up embarrassing himself with false data he cited from Egypt. We found his claim that Egypt has 2 million police officers on the streets to be untrue. Various sources put the number at about 500,000 for a population of 104 million and not 80 million as falsely claimed by Atiku.

But the Atiku media dismissed this by replying that  the Tinubu campaign betrayed either dishonesty or lack of attention to detail by claiming that Atiku Abubakar said oil contributed 20% of Nigeria’s GDP.

“That is a lie. What the Waziri said is as follows: “Oil only maybe accounts for about 20% of our GDP”.

“The use of the word maybe by the Waziri was in reflection to the different figures given. While the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics states a figure close to 10%, other multilateral organisations have given a much higher figure of between 15-20%. So, while the jury is still out, it is right to qualify the contribution of oil and gas as a maybe,” said Paul Ibe.

On the international scene, Onanuga said Atiku exhibited poor knowledge of history when he claimed that Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s famous leaders contested the presidency five to six times before he eventually won.

Rather, he said that Lincoln contested U.S.Presidency twice  in 1860 and 1864 and won both, before he was assassinated on 15 April, 1865.

The TCO said “the false story about Lincoln’s failed presidential bids sprang from his previous failed state and national elections, from his state of Illinois. They were not the same as America’s presidential election.

According to historians, Lincoln  lost his first election in 1832 for Illinois state legislature.  In 1834, he ran again and won.

In 1843 he ran for Congress. He lost. Three years after in 1846, Lincoln ran for Congress again – this time he won  and went to Washington. From established history, in 1848, Lincoln ran for re-election to Congress and lost. In 1854, he ran for Senate of the United States. He  lost. Lincoln also made another failed bid for U.S. Senate from Illinois in 1858. He lost to Democrat Steven Douglas.

Responding, the Atiku campaign team disagreed with  assertion of the TCO on  President Lincoln.

Ibe said “we are afraid the poor student of history is the Tinubu campaign disorganisation. Yes, it is true that Lincoln ran for President with his name on the ballot twice. But he ran at other times, and failed to get his name on the ballot.”

Concluding, both parties insisted that  principal of the other camp cannot prove the level of their preparedness in an articulated television interview

Onanuga said “our conclusion is that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is ill-prepared to be President of Nigeria if he could bungle a Television interview that was planned well ahead of the day and time the duo of Dr. Reuben Abati and Ms.Tundun Abiola conducted it.

“We expected the PDP presidential candidate to be well informed on any issue before coming on national television to expose himself to avoidable ridicule.”

Challenging Tinubu to a hot seat, Ibe said “we would like to challenge Bola Tinubu to subject himself to an hour long interview, like the Waziri did, and if he is able to be as articulate and mentally present as our candidate, then he can talk.

“Until then, we will only want to remind him and his yes men that they are not in a position to point fingers when they have not sat on the hot seat.”

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