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.
Why can't Buhari debate ? We need to know what APC is offering as well. No blind sentimental BS pls.
— Wendee (@yewandai) February 2, 2015
Social commentator Chxta thought:
Buhari's refusing to debate makes sense from their own POV, but is the wrong decision given that his mantra is “change”. — Chxta of Greece (@Chxta) February 2, 2015
Writer Tunde Leye chided APC supporters for defending Buhari's move:
From the way people are turning logic on its head about Buhari's refusal to debate, u see sycophancy is deep rooted in our psyche.
— Tunde Leye (@tundeleye) February 2, 2015
Chidi was not surprised, since Buhari has already turned down other debates in the past:
Buhari ‘pulled out’ of Oputa panel, NEDG & Channels tv debate. I'm here wondering wen & how his ideas will ‘fertilise’ — Mallam Chidi Ajuzie (@chidiajuzie) February 2, 2015
Same with this Twitter user:
Buhari will also not attend a debate organized by ChannelsTV. Why should anyone not be concerned? This is 2015. The General has not changed — Enyi Kwo N'azu! (@meks2850) February 2, 2015
MrFixNigeria fed the trolls:
However, not everyone thought the opposition candidate should debate. For instance, Akin questioned:
I ask, do we have anything in the constitution or statute books that demands presidential debates as part of the electoral process?
— Akin Akíntáyọ̀ (@forakin) February 2, 2015
This debate matter is our continued shameless elitist entitlement to be spoken to with more refinement than the market-woman. — Akin Akíntáyọ̀ (@forakin) February 2, 2015
Mr M wrote:
And some are clamoring for GMB's participation not because it'll change their minds or make any difference but solely for mischief.
— Mr M|WordsworthGwary (@m_gwary) February 2, 2015
KD insisted that it's another distraction:
We've gradually exited the certificate saga! The debate is up next!
— KD #IHaveDecided (@kunledee) February 2, 2015
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.