At the Nigerian presidential debate on February 12, 2023, only one candidate, Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), made a solo appearance.
The other three invitees, Peter Obi of the Labour Party, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), failed to attend.
The debate, hosted at the International Conference Centre in Abuja and co-organized by the Nigerian Elections Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), saw Kwankwaso standing alone on the stage meant for the four leading presidential candidates.
This type of scenario is not uncommon in Nigerian election debates, as candidates have a history of declining invitations. Tinubu had previously announced he would only participate in debates organized by his campaign council, which may have contributed to his absence.
Obi, who tweeted earlier in the day that he planned to attend, later cited a faulty aircraft as the reason for his non-appearance.
A statement from the Obi/Datti campaign organization explained that he was forced to divert to Lagos after encountering technical issues en route to Abuja from Ondo State.
“After an engagement in Akure, Ondo State, he meant to head for Abuja for the debate but was advised otherwise due to technical issues with the aircraft which made the pilot decide to head for Lagos instead.
“It must be noted that in anticipation of Mr Obi’s arrival, senior members of the campaign and the party had gathered at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, venue of the programme,” the statement read.
As for Atiku, as of the time of filing this report, his party and his campaign council were yet to explain why he didn’t honour the invitation.
This may not be far-fetched as the former vice president, like Tinubu, had also stated last year that he would stop honouring debate invitations.