“The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose and it will defend itself’’- St. Augustine.
For the last few weeks, I have been the subject of absurd and outlandish headline stories in various newspapers, which have accused me of being a fraudster and which have claimed that funds were transferred into my bank account by the former National Security Advisor, Col. Sambo Dasuki, and by the Governor of the Central Bank Bank of Nigeria.
They have also claimed that I used public funds for the Presidential campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan.
The attempt to tarnish my name, paint me as a common criminal and convict me of wrongdoing in the court of public opinion without even hearing my side of the story is petty, shameful and nauseating.
It is also a reflection of the desperation of those that seek to pull me down and destroy me simply because my opposition to this government has been unrelenting.
In January 2015, I was appointed as the Director of Media and Publicity for the Jonathan/Sambo Presidential Campaign Organisation by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Director-General of the Campaign Organisation was Senator Ahmadu Alli and the Deputy Directors-General were Alhaji Ibrahim Turaki, SAN (north) and Governor Peter Obi (south).
Chief Tony Anenih, an elderstatesman and one of the most distinguished and reverred leaders in our country, was the Presidential Advisor to the Campaign Organisation.
There were, at least, 10 other directors and directorates apart from me and mine, including the Directorate of Mobilisation, which was led by the respected Professor Jerry Gana and the Directorate of Administration, which was led by Alhaji Aliyu Modibbo. There were also zonal and state directors of the Presidential Campaign Organisation in all the zones and states of the country.
All these names that I have mentioned, including all the other directors whose names I have not mentioned are, as far as I am aware, men and women of immense integrity and good character and they have mostly been either ministers of the Federal Republic or state governors at one time or another in our history. It was an honour to serve alongside such people and I have absolutely no regrets about doing so.
Yet given the fact that I was not the only director in the Campaign Organisation and in view of the fact that all the directors and zonal and state directors got their funds from the same source and account as I did, one wonders why only I and three others should be singled out for this reprehensible treatment and these false allegations.
I chose to remain silent on the issue up until now simply because the allegations have not been officially made by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or anyone else but the newspapers keep citing their sources “inside the EFCC” as their basis for these shameful allegations.
Mr. Josef Goebbels, Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s Information Minister when Germany was in the terrible grip of the Nazi party, said that once a lie is repeated enough times, it becomes truth to those who are continuously subjected to it. This is especially so if it goes unchallenged.
I cannot sit by silently, as my name is dragged through the mud in this way and I am convicted in the court of public opinion. This has happened to me once before and it took me seven years to clear my name. It will not happen to me again.
Consequently, I am constrained to take this opportunity to state the facts of this matter, set the record straight and await my traducers and accusers to make their next move. It is indeed time to challenge those that are making these allegations and to kill the lie.
The fact that my bank account was frozen on the orders of the EFCC two weeks ago without any explanation is proof of the fact that I am being targetted and that those that seek to have their wicked way with me are about to pounce.
Given this, it is important that all the relevant facts are put before the world before I am subjected to the Dasuki treatment, put away indefinately and not given the opportunity to defend myself before the public. Meanwhile, in their usual manner, after this is done, the EFCC will then flood the media with all manner of lies about my so-called atrocities, which only exist in the figment of their imagination.
The allegation of fraud and the receipt of public funds from the National Security Advisors Office and Central Bank into my bank account is false.
These allegations are baseless, wicked, shameful and irresponsible. It is not true that ANY money was paid into my account by or from the National Security Advisor’s Office, the Central Bank of Nigeria or any other government agency or institution last year or at any other time.
As the Director of Media and Publicity of the Jonathan Presidential Campaign Organisation, I was asked to submit a budget for my Directorate by Chief Tony Anenih, the Presidential Advisor to the Presidential Campaign Organisation and Mrs. Nenadi Usman, the Director of Finance.
My team and I prepared the budget and it was approved.
Rather than collect cash, for security reasons and the purposes of accountability, I was advised by the Director of Finance to open a bank account for this purpose, which I did.
The funds were paid into that account in installments at the beginning of last year by the Director of Finance and each deposit was authorised and approved by the Presidential Advisor to the PCO, Chief Tony Anenih. The account that they used to transfer the money to me was a private company account, which was owned or under the control of the Director of Finance.
It was the same company and account that was used to send money to all the other Directors of the PCO and the Zonal Directors, State Directors and all our PDP governorship and legislative candidates during the various campaigns.
I made a point of asking what the source of the funds in this account were and I was told by the Director of Finance that the funds were sourced from private individuals and private companies, who opted to support and fund President Jonathan’s campaign. She told me that no money was paid into her company from any government official, account or agency. This she told me in the prescence of witnesses and I believed her.
I was told that there was a fundraising event held by our party (PDP), which took place in early January 2015 in which billions of naira was raised specifically for the Presidential campaign. I believed this to be true and I had no reason to doubt it.
Our funds were given to us by the President, who was the leader of our party through the Director of Finance of the PCO and we were not in a position to inquire into the sources of funding of the party’s campaign. Indeed, it was not our responsibility to do so.
Once I got these clarifications and confirmation, I agreed to receive the funds into my bank account and use them for their stated purpose.
The transfers were made and I used the funds to carry out all our operations during the course of the presidential campaign.
It was an aggressive and well-run campaign and we gave our opponents a very hard time indeed. It was also very expensive and we barely had the resources that we really needed but we did an effective job with the little we were given.
The whole nation, including our friends and our enemies, can bear witness to that and they saw the excellent quality of our work. Hardly anyone can dispute this, yet some fail to appreciate the fact that such a strong showing cost a lot of money. Media and publicity campaigns cannot be run on goodwill alone: You need cash and plenty of it.
During the course of the election and after its conclusion, I submitted detailed accounts of our expenses and evidence of our work to the Director of Finance of the PCO for onward transmission to the Director-General of the PCO and ultimately President Jonathan himself about how the money was spent and they were satisfied.
Given the fact that these were not public funds, the only legal body that can inquire into our expenditure of campaign funds is President Goodluck Jonathan, who set up the PCO.
I was commended for my efforts by him and I can proudly say that my Directorate did not owe any individual, service provider, organisation or media outfit that provided any services to us one kobo at the close of the campaign.
All our debts were paid and obligations met during and just after the election. The suggestion that there was any fraud in any of this or that I colluded and conspired with others to use government money to run a campaign is false and very insulting.
The suggestion that the money was some kind of “cash bonanza” or “bazaar” as has been reported by the leading pro-government newspaper in the country today is childish and absurd.
If that had been the case, I doubt that I would have been foolish enough to open a bank account to receive government funds or “bazaar funds” as this would have been easily traced.
If I had anything to hide or if I was doing anything wrong, I would have insisted on collecting cash for my operations, which would have been far easier to conceal.
The fact that the EFCC gained access to my bank account and leaked details of it to the media, including my inflows is not only a gross violation of my privacy but it is also unlawful.
I was a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ten years ago and I was a key official in the Presidency thirteen years ago. I had the honour and privilage of serving my country in these two capacities when the father of our nation, President Olusegun Obasanjo, was our President. Consequently, I am familiar with the workings and importance of accountability, due diligence and due process.
This is why I was very careful with how we managed our resources at the Directorate and why I appointed a seasoned civil servant, who retired from the civil service with commendation at the Director level, as my Director of Finance in my Directorate.
I was also mindful of the fact that I had to be very careful with the management of funds that were put under my care given the fact that I had been wrongly accused and viciously persecuted by the Yar’adua administration and the Farida Waziri-led EFCC with trumped up and baseless criminal charges for the previous seven years.
To be continued next Tuesday