President Goodluck Jonathan has made some traditional rulers in the South-West geopolitical zone millions of naira richer by raining heavy drops of dollars on them in order to get their support in the forthcoming general elections.
Following the postponement of the polls, the president relocated to the South-West, where he held a series of meetings with traditional rulers, groups and individuals.
According to analysts, South-West voters might determine the outcome of the presidential election. Therefore, the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party are making great efforts to win the votes of the people in the region.
The Punch has learnt that Jonathan and his team doled out various amounts of money in dollars to monarchs during his recent visits to the region. However, a few of the traditional rulers and chiefs refused to take the money. Reliable sources revealed that some traditional rulers received as much as $250,000 (N50m) each, while others were given $10,000 (N2.2m) each.
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Sources also disclosed that the sum of money given to each traditional ruler was determined by a set of criteria, which ranged from status and class to the popularity and perceived political clout of the monarch.
A prominent lawyer, who was speaking with The Punch correspondent in confidence, alleged that each of the paramount rulers received about $250,000 (about N50m). He also added that some of the senior Obas were expected to share the largesse with their subordinate Obas and chiefs.
“We learnt that the Yoruba Obas in the highest category got $250,000, a part of which will go to the lower Obas. Ironically, a son of one of the prominent Obas is contesting on the platform of the opposition, APC. Interestingly, when the President visited the palace, the father dressed the son with the same attire as the others.”
It was learnt on March 13, 2015 that a similar scenario played out in Ekiti state. The president met Ekiti monarchs when he visited the state for the PDP campaign in January. About 50 traditional rulers were present at the meeting and Jonathan took time to shake hands with all of them.
A source within the PDP disclosed that traditional rulers, categorised as ‘mere traditional chiefs’, were given $10,000 each by the President’s aides. The monetary gift was given to “appreciate the presence of the traditional rulers and solicit their support for the President’s re-election.”
Similarly, a source in the palace of a prominent traditional ruler in one of the South-West states, confirmed the information, saying:
“It is true that the President gave out money to the kings. But it was not a huge sum as speculated. Thus, the kings should not be seen as being bought over. Our kings are men of good standing in the public. Their consciences are not for sale and could not have been bought.”
The windfall from the president is not limited to traditional rulers alone as groups and individuals have benefitted hugely from it.
The groups, which included market women, students, professional and ethnic groups, have recently visited Jonathan at the State House, Marina. Sunday Punch learnt that all of them went home richer.
A member of a popular Yoruba group that visited Jonathan in Lagos said his group received $50,000. Speaking under the condition of anonymity, he said:
“We were given $50,000 when we finished meeting the President; but to my surprise, our leader gave me only $500. A lot of us are not happy with what he did.”
Oba Adedapo Aderemi, the secretary of the Board of Trustees of the National Council of Traditional Rulers in Nigeria, told to a correspondent on the telephone that he knew nothing about the president’s largesse. According to Aderemi, the monarchs did not collect any bribes, neither were they offered.
“I do not know anything about the bribe. The President invited us and we went to meet him. Jonathan is our son just like Buhari is our son. As the number one citizen of the country, Jonathan invited us and we honoured the invitation.
“There is none of us who is hungry. Obas in Nigeria are not hungry as far as I know.”
Recently, the Lagos state governor, Babatunde Fashola, urged the people of the state to reject US dollars and other incentives being shared by the PDP as inducements in its desperation to win the elections in the state.