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Ex-Nigerian Military Dictator Running for President Dodges TV Debate

The main opposition candidate for Nigeria's presidential election Muhammad Buhari. Photo released into public domain by the US State Department.

The main opposition candidate for Nigeria's presidential election Muhammad Buhari. Photo released into public domain by the US State Department.

Nigerians will be voting for a new president on February 14, 2014. The two major contenders for the presidential seat are the incumbent, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and former military dictator and retired General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC). 

General Buhari overthrew a democratically elected government in December 31, 1983 and was Military Head of State until August 27, 1985. His regime was infamous for human rights violations and gagging of the press. This will be his forth attempt to be elected into Nigerian's highest office after three unsuccessful outings in 2003, 2007 and 2011.    

The political climate is already tense and the Nigerian social media scene had been aflame with conversations about the elections. General Buhari of the APC recently declined participating in a presidential debate due to be aired on national televisions and radios. This news stirred the already volatile climate of Nigerian netizens. The APC accused the organizing media houses of “unhidden bias and campaign of calumny” against their candidate. According to the Scoop:

Garba Shehu, Director Media and Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation (APCPCO) said in a press statement on Thursday in Abuja that the Nigeria Election Debate Group (NEDG) powered debate was fraught with fundamental errors from the outset, by wearing the toga of government control, especially being composed mainly of agencies and allies of the incumbent People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) administration.

“A salutary inspection of the composition of NEGD brings into focus the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), National Television Authority (NTA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and the Africa Independent Television (AIT, owned by a PDP chieftain). And going by the avalanche of inflammatory statements, misinformation and blatant lies being propagated by some of these media against our Party and candidates contrary to the Koffi Annan brokered Abuja Peace Accord, and the failure of these aggressors to desist and apologise, have left the APC Campaign with no option than to steer clear of any premeditated smear campaign that could be inimical to our prospective electoral success,” Shehu said.

Global Voices reported in our Special Coverage of the Nigerian Elections 2011 the ruckus generated by netizens when President Goodluck Jonathan declined to attend a similar debate. Take a leap four years later and Nigerian netizens are demanding that General Buhari stands for a debate. 

Social commentator Chxta thought:   

Writer Tunde Leye chided APC supporters for defending Buhari's move: 

Chidi was not surprised, since Buhari has already turned down other debates in the past: 

Same with this Twitter user:

MrFixNigeria fed the trolls: 

However, not everyone thought the opposition candidate should debate. For instance, Akin questioned: 

Akin continued: 

Mr M wrote: 

KD insisted that it's another distraction: 

In this blog post, Ogundana Michael gave General Buhari some reasons why he should attend the presidential debate: 

This will give him the opportunity to once again air his views, mission, strategies and plans for the people. The point is; you have to get people listening before you can change their minds. Also, the debate will give him the opportunity to correct those misconceptions and blackmails against him.

In addition, it will go a long way to show to the people, especially the presidency that he is not like President Jonathan that boycotted the debates in 2011 for flimsy excuses. If General Buhari fails to debate because President Jonathan didn’t debate in 2011 for similar reasons or because of other reasons surrounding the organization of the debate, then he does not in any way differ from the President.
 

  • james

    we have heard Muhari speaking and telling us what he intends to do if elected. what other new thing did we expect to hear him say at the debate. If you love nigeria, remove jona than (pdp) before colapse the entire country. when oil was selling well, payment of senators wage was not a problem. now that the price has fallen, mine and yours may be used to pay their wages. this what is to come if this administration continues in office.

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