Dr. Doyin Okupe
Sustained calls for the removal of Dr. Doyin Okupe as Senior Special Assistant, Public Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan, have been a major pre-occupation of some of the leading opposition parties in the country. But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not taking this kindly, writes Davidson Iriekpen
For the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some opposition political parties, such as the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), their rivalry seems to transcend differing ideologies. Their kind of opposition, from all indications, may not be averse to treading the path to personal attacks, the latest being the sustained attacks on Dr. Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to President Goodluck Jonathan.
Okupe is barely two months at his desk and the direction of attack had been a sustained campaign for his removal. And as it were, there seems to be no respite yet for Okupe.
While the ACN is alleging that Okupe is not fit to occupy the position on grounds of corruption; for failing to execute contracts he got from Imo and Benue states after collecting mobilisation fees, other parties want the SSA removed for his uncouth attacks on them and their members.
A statement by ACN’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, asked the Presidency to immediately sack Okupe for bringing the administration into disrepute. It challenged it and the PDP to respond to allegations that Okupe bolted away with mobilisation fees as well as failed to execute the contracts.
But PDP in its reaction advised President Jonathan to ignore those canvassing Okupe’s removal and decried what it termed campaign of calumny against his person by the ACN. In a statement by PDP’s Deputy National Secretary, Binta Masi Garba, the party said Jonathan, by the appointment, “has taken the right decision to engage members of the public on salient issues of national importance.”
Describing ACN’s call as sheer blackmail that President Jonathan would not fall for, the PDP said matters of contracts were basically civil issues between contracting parties and most contract documents contain clauses for dispute resolutions.
It added that since the anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had come out to say that Okupe was not currently under any criminal investigation by them as claimed by the ACN nor had he been indicted by any court of competent jurisdiction or any panel of investigative committee, “it stands to reason under our laws that he should be deemed innocent until otherwise proven. The call for Okupe’s removal is therefore not only baseless and unwarranted, but equally malicious.”
The party asked the ACN to first ask the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, who is currently standing trial on a 20-count charge of fraud before a Federal High Court in Lagos allegedly for stealing over N7 billion belonging to Lagos State House of Assembly.
It also queried the continued stay in the House of Representatives by Femi Gbajabiamila after he admitted publicly that he was indicted in the United States of America for converting the sum of $25,000 USD belonging to his client into personal use.
PDP therefore said ACN lacked the moral authority to raise the issue of corruption against Okupe because the “ACN is full of cheats and liars. This is nothing but a deliberate attempt to obfuscate issues and a case of comparing apples with oranges.”
Also, PDP South-west Zonal Publicity Secretary, Kayode Babade, in a different statement, raised further concerns. “In spite of being tried by a competent court for fraud, Ikuforiji is still presiding over the affairs of the House and the hypocrites in ACN have not deemed it necessary to ask him to resign or step aside until the criminal trial is dispensed with.
“It offends the sensibilities of right thinking Nigerians that Mohammed would close his eyes and mouth to the log in the eyes of members of his party who are leaders in their own party while battling a leader in another party over an issue EFCC has declared non-existent. This attitude being exhibited by the ACN spokesperson has largely defied a popular and timeless maxim that ‘one who lives in a glass house should not throw stones.”
But that was not going to glide past the ACN. Responding, the party said the allegations were different. According to it, Ikuforiji had been charged before a court of law, adding: “He has pleaded not guilty. The law presumes him innocent until proven guilty. The case is still on ongoing therefore any call for his resignation is an attempt to stampede justice.
“The case of Doyin Okupe is completely different. He has been confronted with allegations that he has swindled both Imo and Benue state governments of hundreds of millions of naira. He cannot continue to be the President’s spokesman until he clears himself of these allegations.”
Interestingly, there is a growing feeling amongst the Nigerian people that there are more to the bickering by the opposition parties than meet the eye. For instance, for some time now, the ACN and Mohammed alongside the defeated presidential running mate of the CPC, Pastor Tunde Bakare, former minister of the Federal Capital Territory and a chieftain of the CPC, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai have had a field day attacking the person of the President, his character and status.
For everything that happens in states and local governments where there are elected governors and council chairmen, the trio was quick to finding a link to the federal government on whose shoulders it heaped the blames. Hardly did any week go by without any of them having one or two reasons to castigate the federal administration, sometimes on mundane issues and they relished every moment that their comments were celebrated in the media.
But those sympathetic to President Jonathan, despite his lackluster nature were concerned about the trend because people hardly hear about government policies and programmes and it appeared President Jonathan had been blinking in the dark.
But the appointment of Okupe was believed to have come as a form of relief to the President and his sympathizers who were of the opinion that he needed someone who could checkmate the excesses of the opposition.
Barely a few days after Okupe was engaged by the President, Bakare and el-Rufai, had called for the resignation of President Jonathan over the Boko Haram insurgency. Okupe who understood his brief took up the challenge and responded in the language they understood. He not only reminded Bakare that there is a line between the pulpit and partisan politics but told el-Rufai, a major beneficiary of PDP government to stop behaving “like a derailed or deranged politician.”