The Osun Governorship Election Debate held on Saturday with Rauf Aregbesola as the only candidate present, but controversies have continued to trail the organization of the event.
With the absence of the other gubernatorial contestants, Mr. Aregbesola, the State governor and candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, ended up having all the time allotted for the ‘Manifesto Hour’ to himself.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted him on Saturday, Iyiola Omisore, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, candidate said that he was not properly invited to the debate. He added that he only received a text message on Saturday morning.
However, in a press statement released shortly afterwards, Mr. Omisore accused the APC of financing the debate.
“Senator Omisore is ever ready to debate with other aspirants to present his vision and mission,” said the statement issued by Diran Odeyemi, Mr. Omisore’s Director of Media and Publicity.
“As a widely known public figure, the PDP candidate has embarked on an unprecedented campaign model, reaching directly voters in all the Political wards and at times in voting units across the state. Any opportunity to share vision of how to rescue Osun State from the mess by the APC government is welcome,” Mr. Odeyemi said.
“The sordid organization on the part of the organizers also raised questions about their credibility and financiers.
“Our checks confirmed that the organizers operate from Government House in Oshogbo while they work for an organization financed by the APC political family,” Mr. Odeyemi said.
“Worldwide, election debates are organized by professionally impartial body demonstrating the highest level of professional competence.
“No responsible political organization will submit to a biased and badly organized election debate especially by a group whose political profile is shady and whose motive is suspect,” he added.
The debate organized by the International Republican Institute, IRI, also had Fatai Akinbade, the Labour Party, LP, candidate absent.
Efforts to get the organizers of the debate to respond to the accusation of being financed by the state’s ruling party was not successful. Phone calls were not answered.
While the LP’s Mr. Akinbade did not attend the debate, he sent Michael Adenipekun, his running mate, to stand in for him.
The organizers disallowed Mr. Adenipekun, insisting that candidates would not be represented by proxies.
An angry Mr. Akinbade lashed out at the organizers for disrespecting his running mate.
“My deputy, who was accompanied to the programme by the state chairman of our party, Barrister Tunde Olatunji, and others, was shabbily treated. He was not allowed to feature,” Mr. Akinbade said on Sunday through his Director of Media, Kayode Oladeji.
“Despite the fact that the information supplied by the organizers was not full, I still made sure I was represented not just by anybody but by my running mate in person of M.I.T Adenipekun. So for anybody to say I shunned the event is nothing but mischief,” he added.
Mr. Akinbade insisted that the organizer’s notice of invitation did not specify that a running mate cannot represent a gubernatorial candidate.
“How then do they want me to know that I could not be represented? Besides, the office of the governor is one which explains why the country’s constitution created the position of deputy or vice as the case may be. With that, if (I’m) not available, my deputy automatically fills the gap,” Mr. Akinbade added.
But the APC said that Mr. Omisore’s absence at the debate was a deliberate plot since he is unfit for public office.
The Bureau of Communication and Strategy in the Office of the Osun State Governor said, on Sunday, that Mr. Omisore again demonstrated his well-known integrity deficit by denying he was not invited by the organisers for the debate.
The Bureau in a statement by the Director, Semiu Okanlawon, said Mr. Omisore’s alibi for not showing up at the debate stood logic on its head.
“For a candidate who believes in the veracity of his wild claims against Aregbesola over alleged capital flight, the so-called debt burden and other frivolous claims he had been making for months now, where else could he have confronted him better than such a golden platform as the debate put together by the International Republican Institute and broadcast live?