12 October 2017

Nigeria: Ex-U.S. Ambassador Denies Working for Buhari, Expresses Worry Over NNPC Scandal

A former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, on Tuesday replied Reno Omokri, a former aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan who accused him of being a political lackey for President Muhammadu Buhari.

Mr. Campbell said Mr. Omokri had mistaken his appreciation of Mr. Buhari's anti-corruption efforts for consultancy services.

"I am not a consultant to any Nigerian, to any Nigerian corporation, to the presidency, nor to any part of the Nigerian government," Mr. Campbell told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday.

The retired diplomat, now a senior at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., was responding to an email enquiry from PREMIUM TIMES over a slew of unflattering remarks which Mr. Omokri directed at him.

Mr. Omokri had in a statement Sunday said that Mr. Campbell was trying to divert attention from corruption allegations currently rocking the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in order to protect Mr. Buhari's public image.

"It is most unfortunate that the former US Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, who is now a consultant to certain Nigerians and a self-confessed admirer of President Muhammadu Buhari, would again insult Nigerians with his procured opinions meant to divert the public from the monumental $26 billion corruption scam recently uncovered in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation of which President Muhammadu Buhari is the supervising minister," Mr. Omokri said in a statement to PREMIUM TIMES Sunday.

The former presidential social media assistant was responding to a blog post which Mr. Campbell published on the Website of Council of Foreign Relations, a public policy think-tank which has its headquarters in New York.

In his article, Mr. Campbell criticised the Nigerian House of Representatives for issuing a warrant of arrest for the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu.

The EFCC is currently probing several millions of dollars linked to Mrs. Jonathan, some of which she has claimed to be hers.

Mr. Campbell said the arrest warrant was orchestrated by most "Christian" Nigerian lawmakers and they were hounding Mr. Magu for daring to go after Mrs. Jonathan, from whom they had benefitted while her husband was in power.

Mr. Campbell also castigated Mrs. Jonathan as being "arrogant and flamboyant" and questioned how she was able to amass such stupendous wealth as a career civil servant.

In his Sunday statement, Mr. Omokri said Mr. Campbell was ignorant of issues in Nigeria, adding that Mrs. Jonathan had been a businesswoman who was never confined to "the other room", in an apparent mockery of Mr. Buhari who last October said his wife, Aisha, belongs to the kitchen and the other room.

He also defended the House's invitation to Mr. Magu, saying the lower chamber "is a legally constituted legislative body with powers to summon."

PREMIUM TIMES wrote to Mr. Campbell for reactions to Mr. Omokri's attacks on Sunday, but the diplomat did not respond before the story was published on Monday evening.

He later sent in his response, saying Mr. Omokri had mischaracterised some elements of his article.

"Contrary to what Mr. Omokri seems to imply, I did not maintain that the PDP dominates the House of Representatives.

"Rather, I said that the Committee on Public Petitions' move to issue a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Magu was led by PDP representatives, as it was. I did not comment one way or another on the justification for the arrest warrant, which is controversial.

"Nor did I comment on laudable steps taken by the Jonathan government for the empowerment of women," Mr. Campbell said.

Mr. Campbell said although he supports Mr. Buhari's anti-corruption efforts, he was equally as worried about corruption at the NNPC as Mr. Omokri.

"I share Mr. Omokri's concern about corruption within the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation," Mr. Campbell said while applauding "certain initiatives taken by President Muhammadu Buhari, especially with respect to corruption."

The diplomat, however, maintained his assertion that the influence of Christians was most pronounced in Mr. Jonathan's government, with the exception of some powerful Muslims in the cabinet at the time.

"I stand by my characterisation of the Jonathan government as being predominately Christian in colouration," Mr. Campbell said. "I did note, however, that former National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki, charged with corruption, is a northern Muslim. I stand by my characterisation of the former first lady."


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