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I was already engrossed with an engagement when I suddenly jacked up and checked the time, alas, it was just 14 minutes to 7pm! - The kickoff time for the Nigeria Presidential Debate organized by the Nigerian Election Debate Group in collaboration with the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria in Abuja.

In the speed of light, I disappeared and got home in no time. But unfortunately, an emergency came up and it seemed I wouldn't be watching the debate. Sadness crept in automatically - how would I miss what I've been yearning for months to watch? I eventually gave in to the idea of twitter and live streaming - which I did.

The first story that twitter greeted me with was the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress's predicted absence. Another flip of the hot news showed me the arrival of the Presidential candidate of the People's Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to the venue, Congress Hall of the Hilton. But already at the venue ahead of the 2 major gladiators were the 3 other presidential candidates that were invited by the NEDG/BON and hosted by Mark Sugar 'Eddo'.

Then the news broke out that President Muhammadu Buhari won't be attending the debate - as generally perceived. And to the disbelief of everybody, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar took to his twitter handle to declare his decision to boycott the presidential debate because the President whom he referred to as his major contender is absent - while also apologizing to the other candidates for leaving, the candidate of the Young Progressives Party, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, the candidate of the Alliance for New Nigeria, Mr Fela Durotoye and Prof. Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria.

But the whole scenario seemed like a well played game and striking strategy between the two major contenders.

However, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar's boycott of the debate became the point of discussion. Now, let me voice my opinion about what I think of his decision.

Literally, he's right and at the same time wrong for the decision taken, so, I adjudge it a 50/50 thing.

To how he is right. According to his tweet, he said "It's a presidential debate and not a 'candidacy' debate". I pretty much concur with that because apart from the 2 major gladiators, others are really 'candidates' who cannot even win their polling units not to talk of their respective local governments. He further explained that the debate and even the election is a referendum on the incumbency. This is basically true because the debate will be basically centered around the performance of the incumbent who other candidates want to take over from. This is sad but it is the reality and frankly speaking - politically.

So in other words, if the incumbent is absent at the debate, why should he debate 'candidates' that cannot even win their polling units?

And how did he got it wrong? Showing up and taking part in the presidential debate would have accorded him the opportunity and better chance to present himself to the electorate and win or convinced more hearts/voters. It would have also been a better chance to take the stage in connection with Nigerians on what he really has to offer. He apparently got it wrong on this part.

But hey, there's more to meet the eye. The campaign council of Atiku without no doubt employed what I called a simple 'strategy'.

Let's not deceive ourselves. In terms of economic, governmental, structural, political and leadership experience, Atiku doesn't belong to their space and will surely have answers to posed questions within this area. After all, he's not lifeless and clueless.

The only advantage the 'candidates' have is that they are young, ready to define a new, modern and youth appealing form of leadership. And talk about integrity, they all surpass Atiku on that.

'The Strategy' - "If he eventually attends the debate without Buhari in attendance, the 3 other candidates will overwhelmingly and naturally gang up against him - "#APCPDP #BuTiku #Corruption #TrackRecord", and that will eventually reduce Atiku's bright chances of having a higher scorecard because the incumbent is not there to share the blame of the "16 years of PDP" and "3½ years of Anti-Kwaruption". But assuming President Muhammadu Buhari turned up, it would have been like a referendum on the incumbency and  this would have channelled/focused the tantrums and bullets more at the incumbent president".

The 'candidates' all did well at the debate but my advice for 2023 ambition is for them to come together, pull resources and structures together if they truly want to liberate Nigeria from these recycled politicians because Nigeria's political reality differs from their fantasies.

May our votes count and may the better presidential candidate win. This is Nigeria!

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