Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, has been accused of colluding with his disgraced former campaign DG, Doyin Okupe, to pay his N13m criminal fine with campaign funds sourced from members of the public for party operations.
This comes days after Okupe’s criminal conviction by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja for the laundering of funds meant to purchase arms in the fight against terrorism during the life of the previous GEJ administration.
Doyin Okupe, who served former president Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP as a ranking media aide, was found guilty of receiving over 200 million naira in cash from then National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki. He was consequently sentenced to two years imprisonment with the option of a N13m to be paid before 4:30 pm on the day of the ruling.
Barely minutes after the ruling, a forlorn Okupe was recorded outside the court with his lawyer frantically pleading with law enforcement to afford him time and leeway to raise the fine and preserve his freedom.
Although it looked like the former Campaign DG of the Labour Party, who resigned from the position over the criminal conviction, was set for imprisonment, it was later announced that he had managed to pay the fine.
However, sources within the Labour Party are alleging that the N13m fine was paid with campaign funds raised from public donations as part of damage control measures masterminded by the candidate himself, Peter Obi.
It was alleged that Obi was wary of the ‘bad optics’ of his campaign director-general in prison after being found guilty of joining in the theft of funds meant to combat terror and save lives. As a result, he directed his closest aides who have perfected complete control of party operations, much to the exclusion of founding members, to help secure the payment of the fine with party funds.
“Obi perceived that Okupe’s imprisonment over charges that he stole money meant to strengthen our armed forces and protect poor Nigerians would completely forfeit his already slim chances of victory, so he helped with the bail,” one of the sources said, pleading anonymity to avoid backlash.
“What is upsetting about this, however, is that the fine was paid with party funds donated by the public. And this was right after Mr. Okupe was suspended by his state chapter for stealing funds meant to mobilize crowd at our southwest rally.”
“It is unfortunate that our candidate, together with his kinsmen who came with him from the PDP, continue to treat party funds as their personal loot which they can disburse and spend at will without any consultation or observance of established party processes.”
Another source who also confirmed the allegations said the resignation, which was made to look like an independent and reflective action by Okupe, was a tactical move hatched by Obi to prevent Okupe’s travails from strengthening earlier insinuations that although he promises a new dawn, he remains in bed with figures from Nigeria’s ugly past.
“The resignation was all part of the plan. Okupe was told by Obi to hand in his resignation in exchange for the payment. He (Obi) didn’t think that his message of being different would have any legitimacy left if he kept Okupe in charge following the conviction,” the source said.
“Obi knew of Okupe’s past before he appointed him. What he didn’t factor in was that he would be convicted before the elections. Besides Okupe, who has now been found out, there remain several dark figures from the PDP who Obi relies on and continues to fraternize with. The party is now scrambling to cover those tracks.”
The allegations have placed further questions on the management of public donations received by the Labour Party under the leadership of Peter Obi who has endured criticism for his insular and tribal politics. Months back, as part of a ploy to raise funds ostensibly for his run, Obi billed Nigerians to hear him speak at an event abroad, sparking controversy for using his unlikely bid to grow his personal fortune crookedly.
Although Doyin Okupe vowed to fight his criminal conviction, little has been heard from him since. Also, besides the public acceptance of Okupe’s resignation, Obi and the Labour Party have ignored the subject, with hopes that it would recede from public memory.