The All Progressives Congress and its allied groups on Sunday said the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, would trounce his Peoples Democratic Party’s counterpart, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, in any debate.
But the Peoples Democratic Party restated its challenge to Tinubu that he should subject himself to an hour media interview to test if he would be mentally present to do so.
APC chieftains including the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka; Director-General of Asiwaju Tinubu Presidential Campaign Organisation, Bayo Shittu: the Coordinator, Tinubu Mandate Group, Pastor Olufemi Bakare; and the Director-General of Bola Ahmed Tinubu Sanwo-Olu Projects, Mr Emmanuel Amuwo, however, faulted the PDP, saying Tinubu would defeat Atiku in any debate.
The contention between the two leading candidates started when Atiku, in an interview with Arise TV on Friday, said he turned down Tinubu’s request to be his running mate in the 2007 presidential election because he was opposed a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
In his response, Tinubu said he never lobbied to be Atiku’s running mate but was instead offered the ticket by the former Vice-President when they were members of the Action Congress which Atiku had joined after leaving the PDP.
Atiku’s spokesman, Paul Ibe, had in a statement on Saturday night challenged Tinubu to subject himself to an hour interview as Atiku did if he was mentally present and articulate to do so.
Atiku incapable of defeating anybody, he has nothing to offer – APC spokesman
Commenting on the challenge, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, in an interview with The PUNCH, said Atiku could not defeat anybody in any debate, adding that he had nothing to offer.
Morka disclosed that the APC presidential candidate was a very busy man who would prefer to rather attend to important matters associated with his campaign than listen to ‘’the rant of the opposition who has little or nothing to contribute positively.’’
This is even as Morka stated that Atiku was incapable of beating anybody.
He said, “Atiku is simply bluffing and incapable of defeating anybody. He has nothing to discuss or offer Nigerians. I don’t think anybody is taking Atiku seriously.
“But beyond just the debate, I expect more of deliberations on policy engagements and conversations.”
Also, the Tinubu Mandate Group, Ondo and Ekiti States chapter, said Atiku could not match his APC counterpart in any debate.
The group said Tinubu had a lot of achievements to talk about, particularly, in the area of human development.
The Coordinator the group, Pastor Olufemi Bakare, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said Tinubu was ready for any debate and would floor his opponent.
He said , “What does Atiku have to say comparing with what Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has done to this country? How many people has he (Atiku) developed or built politically?
“Tinubu has made a lot of people in the political circle. He has made a vice president, many governors, many ministers and a lot of people. So who has Atiku made and what he had done before that make him Tinubu’s match, let him come out to tell us.
“ Tinubu turned Lagos State from a state that generated IGR over N50billion per month. No problem we won’t say much when we get to the bridge we shall cross.”
The Coordinator, South West Agenda For Asiwaju Tinubu 2023, Prince Bamigboye Adegoroye, noted that any debate anytime is welcome for the APC presidential candidate.
Adegoroye, wondered what the PDP presidential candidate wanted, saying, “Without any debate, Asiwaju Tinubu has always expressed himself and spoken out anytime he has the opportunity. He is always there.’’
Shittu berates Atiku
A former Minister of Communication and Director-General of Asiwaju Tinubu Presidential Campaign Organisation, Adebayo Shittu also boasted that his principal would trounce Atiku, who he believed was merely seeking for attention.
He stated, “When I heard Atiku challenging Tinubu to a one-hour public debate, I laughed. One thing he seems to be forgetting is that the individual capacity during a debate differs. He may probably have assumed that Asiwaju can’t beat him in an open contest because he is a taciturn fellow.
“Honestly, I think Atiku is frustrated. He knows this is his last card after several attempts to become the president. As I earlier mentioned, the people in his constituency have been lamenting that he has not contributed anything to the development of their community. Even the road to his hometown is not in the best shape,” he said.
Another support group, Tinubu Campaign Organisation, says the APC standard-bearer only would accept to engage his counterpart when the electoral campaign kicks off in September.
The clarification was made on Sunday by TCO Director of Media and Communication, Bayo Onanuga.
In a phone interview with one of our correspondents, Onanuga urged opposition candidate to read up the Electoral Act before throwing such a challenge.
A party chieftain and former Lagos APC Chairman, Henry Ajomale, also expressed optimism that Atiku could not outwit his party standard-bearer in debate or any given contest because of his experience.
Ajomale said, “That can’t happen. There is no way an Atiku can ever beat Tinubu in any contest. He will need more than just intelligence and wits to match Asiwaju’s brain. Somebody who has been repeatedly coming for every election? Maybe when he is defeated again, he will eventually quit.
“I pity people who take Atiku seriously. How many times has been running for this presidency? He has been contesting for president since 1993 during the MKO Abiola’s period. Despite being the governor of Adamawa and vice president of the country, what economic changes have he brought to the country?”
The APC Zonal Publicity Secretary for North West, Musa Mailafiya Mada, wondered what could have prompted the former vice president to throw out such a challenge in the first place.
Mada stated that the former governor of Adamawa would be in for a shocker if he attempts to engage the former governor of Lagos in any intellectual debate.
But clarifying his position Atiku’s spokesman, Ibe in a statement again challenged Tinubu to an hour-long media interview.
Ibe had 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 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.
“Atiku Abubakar has earned Master’s degree from Anglia Ruskin University. We challenge any of the present Presidential candidates to present an equal or higher degree. Moreover, his university attendance is a matter of verified record. Can we say the same about some other persons?”
Ibe reiterated the challenge in a phone interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, saying the former vice-presdient was not interested in a debate with Tinubu for now because the Independent National Electoral Commission had not given the go-ahead for campaigns.
He stated, “The campaign does not start until September because there is no room for that. So, we are not challenging him for a debate rather to have an hour interview like we did in Arise TV.
“So, when the time comes for debate we will challenge him for that. Let them have a press interview.”
Also speaking, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, asked Tinubu to take responsibility for the ‘’monumental failure we are witnessing today.’’
According to him, the ex-Lagos State governor is vicariously liable for the failure of the current regime.
He stated, “The evidence are there, Nigerians have spoken vocally with the election in Osun which is a reflection. Nigerians are ready to stand with the PDP.
“This is a government that Bola Tinubu admitted and said he brought to power; the monumental failure we are witnessing today and he must take responsibility. This is called vicarious responsibility in law. The Nigerian people are wiser, and with the electronic transmission we will be victorious.”
Ologunagba described Atiku and his running mate as experienced leaders.
“Our candidate is very experienced, a consummate politician, a man with so much measure, an industrialist par excellence with a dogged vice presidential candidate, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State; so experienced in executive and legislature. That is what our party is bringing to the table,’’ he said.
But the Director-General of Bola Ahmed Tinubu Sanwo-Olu Projects, Mr Emmanuel Amuwo, during a phone interview with The PUNCH, said Atiku should be ignored.
“Looking at competency and achievements, Atiku is not even close to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Atiku has been a Vice President for eight years, what did he do in Adamawa State?,’’ he asked.