Mr. Omisore had in early July accepted the challenge to debate Governor Rauf Aregbesola. But he did not turn up at Saturday’s radio debate.
The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] in the August 9 governorship election in Osun state, Iyiola Omisore, on Saturday failed to show up at a radio debate organized for the three leading candidates in the election.
Also absent at the debate organized by the International Republican Institute [IRI] was the candidate of the Labour Party [LP] in the election, Fatai Akinbade.
The absence of other leading contenders in the election left the candidate of the All Progressives Congress [APC], Rauf Aregbesola, having all the time allotted for the “Manifesto Hour” programme to himself.
The LP candidate, Mr. Akinbade, sent his running mate to stand in for him but organisers disallowed him from participating, saying the rule was that candidates would not be represented by proxies.
The candidate of the Unity Party of Nigeria [UPN], Ibrahim Adeoti, who was not invited to the debate, however walked into the studio towards the end of the programme, insisting to be allowed to participate. He was allowed time to speak.
Organizers said they were shocked that Messrs Omisore and Akinbade failed to attend the debate.
“We wrote to them and up to 20 minutes to the beginning of the programme, they were still giving us the impression they would be attending,” said Ezenwa Nwagwu, an official of the Partners for Electoral Reform, who moderated the debate on behalf of the IRI.
“We even started the debate 45 minutes late just because we were waiting for the PDP and LP candidates to show up.”
But when contacted, Mr. Omisore said he was not properly invited to the debate.
Speaking through his Director of Media and Strategy, Diran Odeyemi, Mr. Omisore said he did not receive any formal letter inviting him, a claim the organizers rejected.
“It was only this morning that our candidate (Mr. Omisore) received a text message reminding him of the debate and that he was being expected at the OSBC studios,” Mr. Odeyemi told PREMIUM TIMES.
“We did not receive any letter from them. We have a rally today in Ikirun and as I speak to you, we are on our way there.”
But Mr. Nwagwu rejected Mr. Odeyemi’s claim, describing it as “mere political shenanigan”.
“We invited them properly,” Mr. Nwagwu said. “It was not verbal invitations. We wrote them letters and the records are there. If we did not properly invite them, how did the APC candidate attend? How did the LP candidate get to send his running mate?”
The Labour Party however told PREMIUM TIMES its candidate was properly invited to the debate but that he could not attend because he had to be elsewhere.
“In order not to create a vacuum, he sent his running mate but the organizers did not allow him to speak,” said Kayode Oladeji, the spokesperson for Mr. Akinbade, the LP candidate.
“As far as we are concerned, we fulfilled all righteousness. It is the organisers thst should explain why they did not allow our candidate’s running mate to participate.”
In response, Mr. Nwagwu said the rules were clear from the start. “We had made it clear that only candidates, and not their running mates were expected to participate. There was no room for running mates and they all know that.”