Obama disowns Okereke-Onyiuke, others
Letter written by Senator Obama
Senator Barrack Obama
The campaign organisation of the Democratic Party‘s candidate for the November 2008 United States presidential election, Senator Barack Obama, has dissociated itself from the activities of a Nigeria-based group, Africa for Obama.
The campaign organisation said in a letter to the Editor, PUNCH online, that it was doing so based on an advertisement that the Nigerian group was organising a fundraiser for Obama.
‘Africa for Obama’ led by the Director-General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Prof. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, had at its dinner/concert in Lagos on Monday August 11, reportedly raised about N100m.
The letter by the Staff Counsel for the Obama for America, Ms. Kendall C. Burman, reads, “We want to inform you that Obama for America, Inc, which is the principal campaign committee for Senator Barrack Obama in his campaign for President of the United States, and the Democratic National Committee are in no way affiliated with this event or with this organisation.
“Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee will not accept any funds raised at this event or through the fundraising activities of this group.
“We want to make it clear that the event and this organisation are in no way associated with Obama for America of the Democratic National Committee should this organisation seek to place additional advertisement in your paper.”
At the dinner in which notable artistes performed, tickets were sold in the category of Platinum (Corporate table for eight people for N2.5m and individual N325,000.
For the gold category, the ticket was sold for N2m for corporate table of eight and N275,000 for an individual.
But in a swift response, Okereke-Onyiuke said the event organised by ‘Africa for Obama’ was not aimed at raising funds for Obama but to sensitise Africans living in America.
The NSE chief who spoke with one of our correspondents on the telephone on Monday said, ”At no time did we say we were raising money for Obama.
“What we are saying is that Obama is for the world and he has been getting support from Europeans, from Arabs and from all over and Nigerians should not be different.
“We are not collecting money for Obama. I lived in the US for 14 years; I am a Green Card holder and I know the law. We are just mobilising people who are eligible voters to go out and register and voter for him and I don‘t know why this should be an issue.
“The event was a concert and people bought tickets on their own volition. People have been saying I used my position as D-G to compel corporate organisations to donate money. I am tired of all these. This is not true. No corporate organisation gave any cheques.
“The guests came in their personal capacity, whether they work in a bank or anywhere else I do not know. Even the table I bought for my friends and relations was paid for out of my own pocket and the money was used for the food and to pay for the artistes. We ate and danced and enjoyed ourselves.
“Some people, including journalists, came in for free and what I said there was that if there is any surplus, after the accounts have been done, the money will be used for mobilisation.”
She explained that the mobilisation campaign would involve advertisements and online campaigns to encourage African-Americans to register and vote for Obama.
Okereke-Onyuike, who stressed that the event was a private affair, wondered why eyebrows were not raised over similar events where tables went for eight figures.
She said, ”Nobody was forced to attend the event. I have paid N10m for a table at a concert; nobody was forced to pay. The event was a private thing and I used my own money to put it together. Some people like to sit in front of the television and watch history in the making but we chose to mobilise people to vote for someone we believe in.”
The NSE boss, who expressed her frustrations over negative insinuation about the real intentions of the organisers of the event, said that she was very careful in wording the media adverts that preceded the event.
She stressed that it was not a fund raising event.
She said, ”I am a very intelligent person; I have a PhD that I did not buy. We were careful with our advertisements and we were transparent in all we did. I don‘t understand why Nigerians like to be negative. People have been mobilising support for Obama all over the world and they are not being castigated.
“I want to make it clear that I am a Nigerian and I have the right to do anything I want with my time and my money.”
The emergence of Okereke-Onyiuke as the chairman of the group had raised dust as some Nigerians made reference to her role in a fundraiser for former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s re-election in 2003. She did so under the umbrella of Corporate Nigeria.
Okereke-Onyiuke was also believed to be a staunch supporter of Obasanjo in his bid to extend his tenure in 2006.
Many critics had argued against raising money for Obama as US presidential candidates are barred from receiving funds from abroad.
The immediate past General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Nimi Walson-Jack, had argued in an article published in THE PUNCH on Monday that ”Political candidates may legally take donations from American citizens or from permanent residents of the United States wherever they happen to live, even if the money is raised overseas.
”But the US political candidates cannot legally accept donations from individuals who are neither US citizens nor permanent US residents.”
Also speaking on the matter, human rights advocate and lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, described the dinner/concert as an illegal action that could impact negatively on Obama‘s presidential aspiration.
Falana said, ”The funds raised at the dinner will be contributed to the Barack Obama Campaign Fund contrary to the Electoral Laws of the US, which forbids any form of external financing of political campaigns.
”In view of the clear provisions of the US law on external funding of political campaigns, the ‘Africa for Obama ‘08’ should be restrained from raising funds for Obama‘s campaign. Otherwise, Obama is surely going to be scandalised by a powerful section of the US media controlled by the Republican Party.”
- Obama: SEC writes Okereke-Onyiuke (Tuesday, August 19, 2008)
There were indications on Tuesday that the Securities and Exchange Commission might have demanded explanation from the Director-General, Nigerian Stock Exchange, Dr. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, on her role in the ‘Africa for Obama fundraiser.’
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