by Ogala Emmanuel
The unit of the President Goodluck Jonathan campaign organisation responsible for mobilizing the civil society has been hit by a corruption scandal that has now paralysed its operations.
Members of the committee are divided over the leadership style of its chairman, Nick Eze, a professor.
They accused Mr. Eze of cornering the kick-off funds he received from the presidency and of sabotaging the entire campaign.
“As far as the presidential campaign organization is concerned, the Civil Society committee is a fraud,” an aggrieved member told PREMIUM TIMES. “Professor Nick has abandoned his office and is now running the committee from his bedroom.”
Several members of the committee, who spoke with this newspaper, expressed frustration with Mr. Eze’s management of the committee.
“On one occasion, he called a meeting and we asked for accounts, he insulted us and said that he is a personal friend of the president and only reports to him directly,” another committee member said. “We are just committee members on paper.”
The committee is currently dormant as members appear disillusioned and too disgruntled to mobilize voters for the president.
A member of the committee, who said he stopped work since early February, claimed that highhandedness is widespread amongst other committees. He explained that the selfish interest of the committee chairman is the reason the president is going round by himself meeting with every group.
“Ordinarily, we should have done that for the president,” he said.
Mr. Eze dismissed the accusations. He said they were “unfounded” and coming from “jobless people.”
He blamed the opposition for sponsoring the “jobless people” making the accusations.
Troubles began when Mr. Eze bought a bulletproof Prado SUV, shortly after receiving the kick-off funds. Members of the committee, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES, accused the professor of enriching himself with the funds rather than applying it to the campaigns.
They also claim that Mr. Eze cornered other cars meant for the committee and drove them down to his home in Enugu state, South East Nigeria, where he is currently hiding them. He is also accused of not letting money go round committee members and owing sitting allowances.
A committee member said Mr. Eze’s posturing is strengthening claims that the PDP is almost always about “sharing money” even if its earmarked for public good.
PREMIUM TIMES understands that the crisis in the committee peaked early February when angered committee members protested alleged claim by Mr. Eze that he had spent N100 million in organising campaign events.
Some committee members challenged the claim, saying the less than 140 attendees at the events in Abuja and Lagos were drawn locally and paid N3,000 each in stipends.
Members of the committee subsequently complained to the National Campaign Adviser, Tony Anenih.
“He refused to show up after Anenih summoned him,” a member of the committee said. “He was later forced to appear before Anenih after police officers were used to bring him in.”
Several members of the committee are now up in arms against Mr. Eze. Thursday last week, angered members of the committee planned a meeting to pass a vote of no confidence on him and demand his removal as well as a refund of all funds he had so far received.
Shortly before the meeting, Rufai Alkali, the special adviser to the president on political matters and a close friend of Mr. Eze, intervened.
The “temporary truce” was reached in Mr. Alkali’s office, members of the committee told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr. Eze denied the meeting was over the scandal. He argued that only the chairman can summon meeting and that the absence of minutes from the Thursday meeting invalidates its existence.
“Committee members did not give me money,” he said in defence of accusations he is not accountable.
The no-confidence vote was stalled but committee members remain angered and are spoiling for fresh showdown with Mr. Eze.
The spokesperson for the Campaign, Femi Fani-Kayode, did not answer or return calls seeking his comments for this story.