XCLUSIVE – Why Okowa Chickened Out of Delta State Gubernatorial Debate: Inside Story!
The epoch-making Delta State Gubernatorial debate, a laudable project aimed at educating and stimulating the electorate, was so purposely frustrated when the Delta State People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate Senator Ifeanyi Okowa chickened out at the last minute.
At 6.20pm, the State Labour Party (LP) governorship candidate Great Ogboru arrived at the venue. At 6.45pm, the Delta State All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate Olorogun O’tega Emerhor arrived at the venue. At 7.10 pm, Okowa was nowhere to be found; he was missing in action! The organisers then insisted that since the two other candidates were present the debate could still go ahead. (Scroll down for Xclusive Photos of the event.)
At this point, the LP governorship candidate Great Ogboru was invited to the podium to address the audience. He insisted that he had come fully prepared to have a robust debate, but since his main contender Okowa was not there to participate he was graciously declining to debate with his APC counterpart. He left. But the APC gubernatorial candidate Olorogun Emerhor stayed back and made his presentation. He introduced himself and told the glamorous audience why he was running for Delta State Governor. He spoke on unemployment, militancy in the Niger Delta region, the under utilization of Delta ports and education.
A document obtained by Xclusive Magazine proved that the organizers of the event got a written commitment from Okowa himself to participate in the debate. As shown in the document, Senator Okowa met with organizers of the debate on 3 February 2015 and signed an acceptance letter indicating a clear interest to participate in the Delta State Gubernatorial debate. Thereafter, the organizers of the debate held several meetings with the Okowa’s campaign organization, apart from emails that went back and forth, in which they continued to reconfirm the willingness of their principal to participate in the debate.
However, on Friday, 20 March 2015, PDP and the Okowa suddenly developed cold feet. Xclusive Magazine can authoritatively report that Okowa’s Director of Communication and Delta State Commissioner for works, Funkekeme Solomon, called the event coordinator Jude Banye on phone that Friday to plead with him to cancel the debate or at least postpone it. The event organizer had vehemently refused, insisting that the debate would go on and if the PDP and Okowa had nothing to fear or hide, it would do them and the people of Delta State good to participate in the debate.
Mr Solomon then instigated a brief meeting which we understand took place on Sunday 22 March 2015 in his house. And again on Monday afternoon, 23 March 2015 the organisers were again called to another meeting with the Commissioner of works, this time in his office. The main content of the meetings on Sunday and Monday had centred on Funkekeme’s determined attempt to force the organisers to cancel the debate or, at least, postpone it. He had cited the possible negative effect of the debate on the PDP’s presidential campaign as their reason.
A PDP source told Xclusive Magazine in confidence that Okowa’s absence from the debate was as a result of the “order from above.” Our insider source was emphatic that President Goodluck Jonathan instructed that on no account should Okowa participate in the gubernatorial debate because it will not augur well for PDP. Our source did not tell us why President Jonathan thought that the debate would have negative effect on Okowa and the State PDP.
When all attempts to compel the organizers to cancel or postpone the event appeared to have failed, Funkekeme went on the National Television Authority on Tuesday, 24 March 2015, just a few hours to the debate, to announce that Okowa would not participate in the debate because they had a court case which, Xclusive Magazine reliably gathered, was never mentioned in all previous communique with the organizers. In the end, Okowa failed to turn up for the debate, thereby handing over the advantage of winning the governorship elections to his rivals.
Okowa’s absence at the debate has been the talk of the town since yesterday evening. Many Deltans are wondering why the PDP candidate who continues to pride himself as the front-runner in what is looking to be a keenly contested gubernatorial election failed to show up to articulate his vision for the State.
A flabbergasted Deltan, Maris Ikperikpe, reacted to Okowa’s absence by screaming on Facebook, “Ifeanyi Okowa has Buharized us!” Apparently referring to APC Presidential candidate General Muhammed Buhari’s refusal to face his PDP counterpart President Goodluck Jonathan in the Presidential Debate organized by the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG).
“He (Okowa) could have filled up the hall with his acolytes who would clap at any of his silliness. The conclusion was that his prosperity message may not be so defendable afterall since people would have liked him to explain what he had done to our prosperity that he was a part of for so many years that has now been windswept,” she said.
A statement released by Team Ogboru earlier today, Tuesday 25 March 2015, was scathing about Okowa’s failure to participate in the Delta State governorship debate. It reads: “Senator Ifeanyi Okowa’s last minute cancellation of his written commitment to appear at the Delta State governorship debate is most unfortunate. In our well-considered view, that action is either a clear display of cowardice or a failed plot to have two prominent opposition candidates to debate against themselves whilst Okowa enjoys their ‘internal fight’. Either way, it is dishonorable.
“But then, we knew that Okowa withdrew at the very last minute because he was too scared to face Ogboru. He had believed that Ogboru would not attend. We are aware that they had boasted of how Okowa would ‘shine like a million stars Ogboru will not come’. Okowa knew that Ogboru came with factual dossiers on him! He knew our team had gone so deep on him and he was not going to come out of that debate the same. So he flee.”
Xclusive Magazine understands that another round of Delta State governorship debate is scheduled for 4 April 2015. The debate is being organised by the Delta State Chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists in collaboration with the management of Channels Television. The question that is on everyone’s lips is: will Okowa, the man popularly called Ekwueme (meaning: “he does what he says”) chicken out again?
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