The Labour Party Presidential Campaign Organisation says Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the party, will no longer attend debates where other candidates are not present.
The Director General of the LP PCO, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said this at a news conference in Abuja on Monday.
He said that the absence of presidential candidates in debates has become a growing trend in the 2023 electioneering.
Okupe said: “Let us make it clear today, that these recurring acts will no longer be acceptable to the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Organisation.
“While our candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, and vice presidential candidate, Dr. Yusuf Baba-Ahmed, are prepared at all times to engage other candidates and the Nigerian people in any duly scheduled debates, town hall meetings and any other appearances as designated and scheduled this election season, they will only be prepared to mount the podium with their peers in this presidential race and not with any surrogate or diversionary delegated representation.
“This stand is taken with the utmost respect for the rights and desires of Nigerians to full and direct information and first hand responses and presentations necessary for the best assessment of worthiness, capacity, capability, competence, character, integrity and disposition as required to make the right choice in these coming election.”
Okupe said that on August 22, 2022, the Nigerian Bar Association invited the leading presidential candidates to address its Annual Bar Conference and the Nigerian people at the epic occasion.
He said again on September 13 and 14, 2022, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry invited the major parties presidential candidates to interact with them and the Nigerian people.
He said that the event was an opportunity for them to unveil their economic and general policy initiatives as a prelude to the presidential election.
He, however, said that while Obi and other invited candidates appeared in person, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, sent his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, to represent him.
Okupe added: “Once again, yesterday, November 6, at the First AriseTV Town Hall Meeting, in contradiction to the understanding reached with the organisers about allowing only presidential candidates to attend the event, the vice presidential candidate of the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party and Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa) was allowed to represent the presidential candidate.”
Okupe said this sparked a protest and rowdy situation by supporters of other presidential candidates present, adding: “Obi and the Presidential Campaign Organisation totally condemn this disregard for the electorate and the people by the these absentee presidential candidates.
“The decision to present oneself as a presidential candidate does not start and end with the purchase, submission of forms and certification as a candidate by INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission).
“It also forebodes on the candidate a high degree of responsibility to present himself for open discussions and explanations on his policies, visions and plans for the people to enable a better understanding and engender an appropriate choice by the electorate in the coming election.
“Anything short of the simple, transparent and honest adherence to this basic contract of responsibility falls short of the standards of fair contest and engagement.
“This could only be interpreted as a mischievous evasion of the desired interface with the people.”
The DG of the LP PCO said it was totally reprehensible and inconceivable why any presidential candidate should think that they are doing the voting public and indeed all Nigerians a favour by appearing in person.
Okupe said Obi was currently the leading candidate in this presidential race and yet did not display the baseless and arrogant disposition of some of his co-candidates.
“The joint ticket in a presidential election and in a substantive presidency is a constitutional provision for temporary or permanent substitution, where the presidential candidate is primarily incapacitated or otherwise critically unavailable,” he said.