Alex Enumah in Abuja
A fourth defence witness (DW4) in the ongoing trial of the erstwhile National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, Mr. Antony Okeke, yesterday told a Federal High Court in Abuja that the ‘smear campaign’ of the then opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), injured the image of former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, badly.
The witness, a lawyer and a former acting National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, who handed over to Metuh in September 2013, told the court at the resumed trial that it was not surprising for him to learn that the sum of N400 million was authorised by President Jonathan to counter the opposition campaign.
Okeke said APC’s campaign had a devastating impact on Jonathan’s image which warranted the engagement of a number of consultants to help change public perception about the former president before the 2015 presidential election.
The witness in his testimony disclosed that Jonathan’s image was surrounded by a lot of issues that needed clarification.
He said: “The image of the party and that of Jonathan was seriously battered by the APC, and as a result of that, the important assignment of the party at that time was the re-election.
“The party was doing all it could to be accepted by the voting public, so it has to present a good image to the public.”
He also told the court that funds raised by individuals for the purpose of the campaign were paid directly to Jonathan and that Jonathan was responsible for the disbursement of the funds.
Under cross-examination by Tochukwu Nwugbufor (SAN), counsel to the second defendant, the witness said no fund was passed to him when he assumed the office of acting National Publicity Secretary of the party on June 20, 2013, and he also did not pass any to Metuh by the time he (Okeke) handed over to Metuh in September of the same year.
According to Okeke, Metuh is a man who had “an unrivalled passion for his job and was so determined to make a success in his job as the National Publicity Secretary of the party.”
However, prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, did not cross-examine the witness.
After Okeke was discharged from the witness box, the defence called the fifth witness, Mr. Richard Ihediwa, a journalist.
Ihediwa told the court that he was appointed by Metuh as his Special Assistant in January 2013, and that the major challenge then was the image of the PDP which according to him, was at the lowest ebb and the onus lies on Metuh and anybody who will work with him to help shore up the image of the party.
However Ihediwa was stopped by the judge midway in his testimony following an application filed by Metuh, praying the court for the release of his international passport to enable him travel to the United Kingdom to treat himself of an undisclosed ailment.
Metuh’s counsel, Ikpeazu, while moving the application, prayed the court to grant the application, saying it has inherent powers to grant the application.
But Tahir strongly opposed the application for the release of Metuh’s passport.
He argued that even though the court has jurisdiction to grant the prayers of the defence, the prayers were not properly made.
“There was no specific prayer asking the court to vary its earlier bail condition and in the absent of that, there is a doubt as to whether the court should make a contrary order,” he said.
However, the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, after listening to submissions of all counsel in the matter, adjourned to May, 25, 2016, to rule on whether or not to grant the application, while the trial was adjourned to today for the witness to continue with his testimony.