The All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, on Saturday morning, left the country for United Kingdom ahead of his scheduled engagement at Chatham House in London on Monday.
The APC standard bearer is expected to speak on Security, Economy and Foreign Policy.
The development is coming on the eve of the Presidential Town Hall meeting organised by Arise News for candidates of the major four political parties.
While the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Atiku Abubakar; his counterpart in New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Labour Party’s Peter Obi, have indicated interest in participating, Tinubu has opted out of the Sunday night town hall meeting.
His campaign team has, however, defended the APC candidate’s absence in previous edition, citing bias and partisanship on the part of the television station’s anchors.
A statement issued on Saturday by Director of Media and Publicity for APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, confirmed the absence of the candidate.
The statement read, “The APC Presidential candidate has his own schedule of campaign activities and other engagements within and outside Nigeria. One of such events is his scheduled event for Monday, December 5, 2022 at Chatham House in London where he will speak on Security, Economy and Foreign Policy.
“Asiwaju Tinubu travelled to United Kingdom early Saturday for this earlier scheduled engagement. We want to reiterate for the umpteenth time that no amount of blackmail, intimidation and media bully and innuendos by the owner and management of Arise News will change the position our campaign has taken on this matter.”
Onanuga also knocked the organisers of the town hall meeting for repeatedly promoting the event using his principal’s image and name, despite earlier notification that he won’t attend.
While admitting that the media has a duty to hold public office holders accountable as part of its roles as the watchdog of the society, the campaign media director described Arise News recent action as ‘unprofessional’ and an act of ‘blackmail.’
He said, “We find it shocking and downright anomalous that Arise News continues to broadcast the participation of All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in its Presidential Town Hall meeting scheduled to hold on 4 December, 2022 despite our earlier statement that our candidate will not be available.
“We noticed that Arise News has also been running a campaign on the so-called constitutional duty of the presidential candidates to participate in its debate by dubiously citing section 22 of the Constitution of Nigeria on the obligation of the Mass Media.
“While it is trite that the media has clear constitutional duty to hold public office holders accountable to the citizens and its role as the watchdog of the society, there is no part of the Constitution and the section 22 that says a presidential candidate of any political party and least of all, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu must participate in Arise News Town Hall event or any media organised event at all.
“The same Constitution grants all citizens of Nigeria including, Asiwaju Tinubu the right and freedom of choice and association. The APC Presidential candidate has a right to decide where he goes and events to participate in as he seeks the mandate of Nigerians to be elected as the next President of our country.
“We want to make it abundantly clear again that Tinubu will not participate and will not attend the Arise News Town Hall meeting slated for Sunday, December 4, 2022 and any other ones it may plan before the February 2023 presidential election.
“We want to stress that Arise News has consistently shown a pattern of bias against Asiwaju Tinubu and we don’t consider the medium as credible and impartial.
“We seize this opportunity to warn our spokesmen and supporters to steer clear of this station over its consistent unprofessionalism and bias against our candidate and party.”