by Yomi Odunuga
This is clearly not the best of times for the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olisa Metuh. The official megaphone of the deflated and defeated behemoth, which once declared 60 years’ invincibility against any form of electoral loss before ending its 16 years of impunity in power, now faces a Herculean battle on two broad fronts – within and outside the party. For a man who has taken up the challenge to engage the ruling All Progressives Congress toe-to-toe in the arena of political propaganda, this lonely voice in the wilderness could end up being a victim of the same system that propped him into national prominence. In truth and until now, Metuh has made a good job of shouting himself hoarse even as President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration effortlessly exhumes rotten secrets that passed on as governance in the last 16 years of the PDP’s rudderless leadership. No doubt, Metuh relishes his bird with a broken beak job.
However, there is some sort of wicked twist in the Metuh tale. Instead of getting decorated with a crest of honour for standing tall for all that was bad with the self-styled ‘Africa’s largest political party’, Metuh might just be on his last step into the hall of infamy if the allegations made against him by employees of the party’s secretariat are anything to go by. Perhaps, Metuh would not have been the issue today if all the matters relating to the financing of the 2015 general elections by the party had been settled when the issue had come up earlier in the year. Recall that Metuh, who had initially threatened fire and brimstone, was the same person that told an anxious public that the matter had been settled within the family. Now, the aggrieved workers in Wadata House have decided to open the can of worms concerning the financial malfeasance that crippled a party with a lofty dream of constructing a skyscraper as its National Headquarters. If we were to use the workers’ exposition as a template for determining how bad the books were in Wadata House, it would deepen the way we grasp the shocking realities of the mind-boggling figures that the Buhari administration has been reeling out as funds that were illegally siphoned in the last five years.
Here, we are talking about an embattled Metuh struggling to launder his ‘integrity’ before employees who describe him as nothing but a blubbering “repulse to professionalism and a source of embarrassment to party members.” Interestingly, while a clear and present danger was brewing under his watch as the party sinks into deeper crises, Metuh was busy blaming the APC for the self-inflicted misery afflicting his party. He said the aim was to hound him out of circulation as his “outspokenness” has discomfited the ruling APC. A statement signed by Metuh’s aide said the APC found a willing tool in a “handful of disgruntled PDP staff who are attacking him with a view to bringing him to public odium, distract him and deny our party a credible voice to propagate its positions.” That notwithstanding, Metuh has vowed to trudge on in his role “in the rebuilding of the PDP and in providing firm, credible and issue issues-based opposition to the ruling party.” Oh, how delusions can pervade the human mind!
For those who value informed discourse, Metuh’s stance should be a welcome development because it provides an opportunity to unravel the hidden truth about how the PDP had vended deception as governance for close to two decades. With his vast experience as “the longest serving member of the National Executive Committee due to hard work and the confidence members of the party reposed in him as an individual”, it would be an act of blind injustice for the party to ease off Metuh just because some common office employees are ranting. By the way, who is better qualified than Metuh to puncture the basket of lies being peddled by the APC on the callous manner the treasury was looted and raped by the last administration?
So, I wait with bated breath to see how Metuh would defend the latest accusation by the ‘uncomfortable’ APC that the last administration spent over N4.8 trillion on subsidy payments which dramatically jumped from a paltry N300 billion in 2010 to N1.9 trillion in 2012. I am sure this brave spokesperson is also studying the books to debunk the claim by the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) in its latest report that the country lost about 160 million barrels of crude valued at $13.7 billion to oil theft between 2009 and 2012. What tale would he tell us to disprove Buhari’s claim that the government is in possession of verifiable information on the banks where the billions of looted oil funds were stashed? Would Metuh also disprove that as one of the many lies of a President who is trying to make sense out of a mumbo-jumbo handover notes by a PDP-led government? Would Metuh also take the former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh, to task on his claim that the war against terror in the North-East was difficult to prosecute because the military lacked the relevant equipment and motivation in spite of the humongous money Jonathan claimed to have spent on re-equipping the military? What exactly would be his response to all the scandalous revelations of the blind, daylight looting being unearthed daily as Buhari clinically dissects the PDP’s padded shibboleths of treachery?
Okay, let us give it to Metuh. He has not allowed the domestic tiff with his co-workers in the party to weigh him down. After all, he still managed to issue a statement in which he described the government’s economic agenda as something lifted from the communist bookshelf. He speaks of a ‘unilateral imposition of new regulations” to firm up the naira against a skyrocketing dollar as archaic and outdated. How marvellous! Question is: how workable is the modern and digitalised system that the PDP left behind for Buhari to deal with some months back? What checks did the PDP’s corrupt- proof administration place on the illegal freighting of slush funds to foreign accounts owned by top members of that government and their hangars-on? Why were piles of audit queries, including the ones addressed to The Presidency left unanswered?
By the way, let us not forget the fact that the brouhaha started when the National Secretary of the PDP, Prof. Wale Oladipo, signed a circular indicating that they planned a 50 per cent reduction in the secretariat staff in addition to a 50 per cent reduction in the salaries and allowances of retained lucky staff. Could it then mean that the National Working Committee members were expecting the hands-on staff, who claimed to have worked in the Secretariat for 16 years, to accept the grim news with stoic equanimity? So, do we take it that the APC influenced the job-cutting strategy for a party that has been gloating since it lost out in the last election? Somehow, we need not blame Metuh if he chooses to ignore some of these questions. Sometimes, it is quite nerve-wracking when those who have worked with you in the same office for 16 years decide to take you up on your stewardship. That is exactly what the band of ‘disgruntled’ staff is doing. They not only dismiss Metuh’s plea of APC’s romance as “absolute bunkum, clumsy, and blundering blackmail,” they said their boss’ gloating was a ‘weak shot from a mortally crippled arsenal’ (Well, I am sure it is not my own Arsenal FC!). Instead of begging the question, they simply tabled their own set of audit queries, moral and financial, before Metuh.
They want him to defend an alleged endorsement of a rival party’s candidate when Prof. Charles Soludo was gunning for the Anambra State governorship seat and Metuh was National Chairman, South-East. They spoke of his open endorsement of an APGA candidate in the 2013 Anambra governorship election. As entrenched staff with deep knowledge of the party’s operational manual, they seek an explanation into how “a whopping sum of N450 million media fund earlier approved for the office of PDP Publicity Secretary by President Jonathan” was spent. They said it would not be out of place for Metuh to explain how he has been spending the N70m he allegedly collected in July this year, to prosecute a media war with the APC. Could it be true that the leadership of the party squandered the N12 billion being proceeds from the sale of nomination forms in the last general elections? Was another N1 billion that was realised from a compulsory levy of N10, 000 paid by delegates frittered by the NWC? What exactly was the role Metuh played in the widely-reported money-for-governorship-ticket bribery scandal involving a former House of Representatives member and the leadership of the party? What transpired in Kogi State at the party’s congresses in which some persons were said to have demanded another whopping N1 billion bribe to ensure the return of the incumbent governor as the state’s gubernatorial candidate in the forthcoming November elections?
Questions, questions and more questions. Surely, it is not enough for Metuh to brush the allegations off as witch-hunt by persons who are envious of his intimidating profile as the critical voice in a party that is just learning the ropes of what it takes to be an opposition party. No one learns that from the books. It comes with the sort of experience that resulted in the birth of the APC after fighting from the trenches for 16 solid years. Anyway, now that Metuh is insisting on standing up to be counted, he must first debunk the derisive jibes of the secretariat staff. No punch could be deadlier than the insinuation by the staff that Metuh’s trajectory in the PDP “in 1999 as a zonal youth leader, then National Ex-officio, Acting National Auditor, Zonal Vice Chairman and now publicity secretary” suggests that, “either his umbilical cord was buried at Wadata Plaza or that he can’t survive on any other thing except the PDP.” This is not simply a joke carried too far but also one that the self-styled anti-corruption tsar within the PDP should not stomach. The law of equity demands no less. Will Metuh burst the pipe this time or would he wait for the usual under-the-table ‘family affairs’ crisis resolution mechanism to shut out the aggrieved workers’ complaints and thereby bury the rotten truth? We wait for time to unravel the question.
Editor’s note: This piece, first published in August 8, 2015, becomes more relevant now that Metuh is presently telling the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission his role in the despicable $2.1m heist perpetuated by the Office of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki. It is a tragic twist of fate that Metuh is now the one to explain how N1.4bn found its way into the account of his private firm. Or could it be part of the money Dasuki had planned to kick off the presidential ambition Metuh glibly talked about?