By Farooq Kperogi
I’ve read commentaries that aver that Atiku’s decision to bail out of Saturday’s presidential debate in protest against Buhari’s decision not to participate in it was a tactical error. I disagree. Here is why.
The presidential debate is designed to be a match–or, if you like, a push and pull– between the defending champion, i.e., Buhari, and contenders to the title he holds, i.e., Atiku, Moghalu, Madam Oby, Sowore, and others. If the defending champion declines to thrown his hat into the ring, the entire match becomes pointlessly self-injurious to the challengers. In other words, it would have been a fatal strategic and tactical error for Atiku to partake in a potentially bruising contest with other challengers while the defending championing sits pretty somewhere unhurt.
I’ve read other people suggest that Atiku, being Buhari’s closest challenger, should have used the opportunity of the debate to sell himself to Nigerians. Well, that’s what #NgTheCandidates town hall chat is there for. You don’t sell your agenda by making yourself vulnerable to potentially deathly blows from other challengers who don’t hold the title you are fighting for.
Instead of pillorying Atiku for not taking part in the debate, we should question the other candidates for agreeing to participate in a meaningless dueling match with each other when the defending champion who holds the crown they want to grab chose to run away. Their performance in the debate would only be meaningful if it’s measured against the performance of the defending champion.
From a tactical point of view, I also don’t blame Buhari for refusing to show up for the debate. His mental and physical infirmities are now on full display and would be exposed even more in the unscripted, back-and-forth format of a debate. The cabal that minds him already deeply regrets allowing him to take part in Thursday’s town-hall chat because his cringe-worthy performance at the event dramatized his dementia and aggrandized his unfitness for the job of president. His campaign trail mishaps aren’t helping, either. Another bruise from a debate would seal his fate before Election Day.
In a tragic irony, Buhari and Atiku are less qualified for the presidency than all the other contenders are, yet it is either of them that will emerge president in February. That’s why bo