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Outrage: Tinubu Opts For Abuja Birthday Party, Shuns Arise TV Presidential Town Hall Event, Okowa Booed As Atiku’s Representative, Obi Shines

The absence of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the Town Hall meeting series organised for candidates gunning for the presidency has sparked outrage.

The Presidential Candidates of Labour Party, Peter Obi, Rabiu Kwakwaso, of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Kola Abiola of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) all attended the Town Hall meeting while the ruling APC Flag bearer Tinubu was conspicuously absent with no reason, nor represented.

In fact, the anger of Nigerians was more when photos surfaced on social media showing Tinubu attending the 80th birthday celebration of Colonel Sani Bello (Rtd) at the International Conference Center (ICC), Abuja – which is eight minutes’ drive (4.7 km) to Transcorp Hotel venue of the Town Hall event..

The APC candidate’s action has drawn criticism from some Nigerians.

But the first in the series of Presidential Town Hall Meetings organized by the Arise Television, Center for Development and Democracy and other partners almost ended in fracas, as protests erupted over the representation of the PDP Presidential Candidate Atiku Abubakar, by his running mate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.

Shortly before the meeting started, supporters of other Presidential candidates insisted that Governor Okowa must step down, since the meeting was for Presidential candidates only.

It took several appeals to calm frayed nerves  and bring the angry supporters to agreement ,for Governor Okowa to stay on at the meeting.

There was a mild drama when some youths kicked against the presence of Okowa and insisted that only presidential candidates should be given the floor.

“We want only Presidential Candidates here,” they shouted on top of their voices as they booed the Delta governor.

Maintaining his calm, Okowa reached out to the audience, saying the Presidential ticket is one, but the aggrieved youth thundered, “No!!!”

However, normalcy was later restored and the programme kicked off behind schedule.

This is not the first time Tinubu and Atiku would be absent at events meant for presidential candidates.

In August, Shettima stood in for Tinubu at the NBA Annual General conference at Eko Hotels, Victoria Island, Lagos state.

In September, Shettimma had represented Tinubu at the National Peace Accord.

In October, Shettimma represented Tinubu at an event organised by Women Radio 91.7 for major presidential candidates at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja.

Atiku was also not at the Women Radio event.

During the question and answer session LP Candidate Obi stole the show with his consistent verifiable figures which were confirmed by fact check team led by the Premium Times.

Obi, speaking on security challenges, reiterated his earlier position that pulling people out of poverty is surest way to reduce criminality.

He said that Nigerians must in 2023, avoid electing persons who could not in their past, account for resources entrusted in their official care.

Responding to a question on the  oneness of the Office of the President and the Vice President, Obi said the buck stops on the desk of the President, who is the single Commander-in-Chief, even though he  works as a family with the Vice President,

However interchangeability is not automatic, hence the President is required to formally hand over in writing to his Vice if going overseas for an extended period.

Obi was emphatic on the issue of subsidy, saying that he will remove it, but invest the saved revenue properly even as he insisted that oil theft is an organized crime which very much involves regulators.

On borrowing Peter Obi said he has never been against borrowing, but said it must be for production, not for consumption and wastages in government must be blocked to boost revenue and manage the exchange rate.

Speaking about diversification of the economy, Obi said the economy was already diversified but not enough attention had been made to boost production

Obi said military experience was no prerequisite in tackling security challenges, what was required was a good understanding of the problems and the ability to apply the right human and material resources to their urgent eradication.

On devolution of power Obi said women and youth will be the engine of his administration if elected President and his record in Anambra State speaks for itself as women occupied critical positions in his administration as Governor, Deputy Governor, Chief of Staff, Commissioners for Finance, Education etc.

Borno State has very low production of agricuture in relation its large mass of land, but he promised to make this a priority

On Power, Obi said the production capacity is  12000kw, but this cannot be effectively transmitted , because the transmission capacity is not beyond 6000 kw ,

he then promised to increase the transmission infrastructure , by declaring war on the Power sector.

On flood control, Obi said it was not impossible to effectively check it, if Egypt  had made so much progress in flood control, with much bigger flood potential,

The solution, he said , lies in the reappraisal of dredging and channeling solutions , many of which had been articulated in the past, but the funds wasted on corruption.

Obi described himself as a wealth creator in his private life , and his public record,  and he promised to apply the same principle, if elected to the Presidency.

The Town Hall meeting lasted for over four hours from 8pm to 11.50pm

Meanwhile, Tinubu and Atiku’s absence at the latest event has been condemned by Twitter users. Below are some of such comments:

Tweeting via @ozii_baba, a social media user, Ozii Baba Anieto, wrote:  “Imagine Biden sending his V.P to a US Presidential Debate. These guys don’t rate us at all.”

@Okezman007: “And why is Tinubu missing on this lists????,”

Mavis Ikpeme @mavisikpeme said, “I’m more worried that the APC and PDP presidential candidates and their teams don’t understand simple English Arise Tv specifically said presidential debate / town hall and they send in their Vps ; okowa Dino melaye and shettima?”

@Jkali1972: “So BAT won’t come?.. make una use una head o”

Another Twitter user, @StandingFann said, “Someone tell Arise TV that be it town hall or not If it’s for Presidential Candidates, it should be strictly for Presidential Candidates and not vices These rubbish is not acceptable.”

@iam_7even: “What about Bola Ahmed Tinubu?? He’s the candidate of the most popular political in the West African sun region & the government in power. He shouldn’t be excluded.”

@Emmanueprincef: “Wait! Series one? I suppose there will be two then. But why should the APC candidate not be on the first series? Oh so he has not been lectured yet they want to know the question first this is bad.”

@gracify: “In the earlier announcement yesterday, Agbodo’s name was there, why removing him now?”

But reacting to the outrage in a statement issued late Sunday, the Tinubu Presidential Campaign Organization gave three reasons for its candidate’s refusal to honour his invitation to attend the town hall meeting.

Festus Keyamo, spokesman for the campaign said: “Firstly, many radio and TV networks in Nigeria have indicated interests to host such debates and out of deference to other TV and radio stations, our candidate will not be making selective appearances in some networks, whilst ignoring others. As President of Nigeria, by the Special Grace of God, he intends to treat all persons and businesses fairly and equally.

“Secondly, the busy and hectic campaign schedules of Asiwaju Tinubu will not permit him to honour all such invitations by different radio and TV networks, hence our decision for him not to start with one TV station and later ignore others.

“Thirdly, our candidate had long before now realised the importance of speaking directly to Nigerians and shortly after unfolding his Action Plan as President embarked on Town Hall meetings beginning with his interaction with the Business Community and other stakeholders in Kano followed by the Town Hall meeting and presentation by experts last week in Lagos. Tomorrow, he will be interacting with Agro and Commodity Groups in Minna, Niger State.”

Keyamo added that, “Whilst we thank Arise TV for the invitation, we want to assure Nigerians that we shall continue to hold these debate groups and Nigerians in high esteem. Nigerians will hear from our candidate loud and clear through other forums.”

“Lastly, out of profound respect for Nigerians, we urge all our party structures and supporters at the grassroots to continue to organise town hall meetings to educate Nigerians on the Action Plan of our candidate as we believe a grassroots-approach to reach Nigerians will also be more profound.”

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