By Richard Elesho
With their reputation for cutting corners to maximize gains, stories of building collapse are not strange to Nigerians. And just like a house built with spittle, part of the moral castle being constructed around the Labour Party and its Presidential candidate, Chief Peter Obi, has suffered a sudden collapse.
The unbundling happened on Monday, 19th December in the court of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu. The Judge of Federal High Court, Abuja convicted Dr Doyin Okupe of money laundering charges and sentenced him to two years imprisonment with an option of fine.
Okupe was the Director General of the Obi/ Datti Presidential Campaign Council. To guard the remnant of his integrity, the Ogun-born Medical Practitioner, promptly tendered his resignation as a lead campaigner of the LP Presidential ticket.
Okupe’s conviction is an instance of ashes of several years retaining enough heat to burn a finger. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had indicted Okupe in the 2 billion dollar arms deal involving Col. Sambo Dasuki, Chief of Staff to former President Goodluck Jonathan. Okunpe was Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to Jonathan and was subsequently charged on 59 counts, bordering on money laundering, and criminal diversion of funds to the tune of N702, 000,000 (Seven Hundred and Two Million Naira) only.
During the trial in 2019, the anti-graft agency provided proof and witnesses to show how the offences were committed between 2012 and 2014. Okupe was found guilty in 26 out of the 59 counts.
The Judge ordered that the 26 counts, which attracted a 2-year jail term each, would run concurrently. She, however, gave an option of N500, 000 fine in each of the counts, amounting to N13 million, which must be paid before 4:30 pm that day.
She further ruled that Okupe should be taken to Kuje Correctional Centre to serve his prison term if he failed to meet the option of a fine within the time frame. It was a window the Publicist would not allow slip. Promptly, he rallied to pay the fine and managed to stay off the gaol.
Once securing his freedom, Okupe resorted to Twitter to complain about his legal troubles and his enemies, saying, “God is not man. The enemies have tried in so many ways but kept on failing. Victory is of God.” He took another step to mitigate the effect of his conviction. The following day, he stepped aside from his role as campaign DG. He dispatched a resignation letter to his boss.
The letter partly read, “Dear Peter, you will recall that I briefed you yesterday about my travails in seeking justice and clearing my name using the Nigerian Legal System to pursue the same.
“I have invested too much in your campaign to allow my travails to become a source of distraction.
“In the circumstances, I have opted to step aside and plead that you appoint a new Campaign DG who can continue the assignment with zero distractions. God bless you and your family.” Needly to say that his resignation was swiftly accepted by the candidate.
Nigerians did not expect the LP apparatchik to behave otherwise. At the centre of the Party’s manifestos is zero tolerance for corruption. The candidates also profess commitment to populist ideology, welfarism and accountability, which are incompatible with fraud, greed and anything that contradicts due process.
That Okupe would eventually become the first casualty of Obi’s well-mouthed anti-corruption profile was a question of time. The ex-DG, who once served as Vice presidential candidate placeholder has lost much time to the tar of accusations of shady deals.
In fact, on Thursday, 1 December, Okupe was expelled from the party by the Executive of his state chapter. Ogun State Chairman of the party, Michael Ashade, who announced the expulsion at a media briefing in Abeokuta accused Okupe and ten others of financial misdeeds and maladministration. Although the national exco came to the rescue, Okupe was rattled and his mage battered by the action.
As he shrinks from his travails, Okupe has gone theological in its hermeneutics. On Thursday 22 December he lamented his recent experience in a tweet.
“Dear Obedience. Many are d afflictions of d righteous but God delivers him from them all. I have been wounded on d Frontlines. By God’s Grace, I will heal quickly &resume
rear guard. Our mission to Aso Rock in ’23 is irreversible & unstoppable, God being our helper. Merry Xmas ALL.”
For now, being out of jail must be more than enough reason to tweet.