These are not the best of times for Doyin Okupe, a medical doctor recently hired by President Goodluck Jonathan to step into the role of presidential “attack dog.”
Since his appointment, Mr. Okupe has faced a barrage of criticism over his involvement in several contract scams. At least two state governments, Imo and Benue, have accused the new presidential aide of failing to execute contracts that were awarded to his company.
The criticisms have taken a toll on Mr. Okupe’s integrity, calling his suitability to be a public official to question.
“It’s honestly embarrassing that the Presidency would appoint somebody like Dr. Okupe as a special assistant to the President on public communications without vetting his credentials and examining his past,” said a vocal civic rights advocate based in Abuja.
Mr. Okupe, who once served as spokesperson for former President Olusegun Obasanjo, is accused of bolting away with N634m worth of contract in Benue State when George Akume was the governor of the state. The Benue State Commissioner of Works and Transport, Benjamin Ashaver, has said that the state has reported Mr. Okupe to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for recovery of the mobilization fees paid to Okupe’s company for work that was never done.
Last Sunday, the embattled Mr. Okupe hosted several bureau chiefs of media houses in his hotel room at Hilton Hotel, Abuja. A source familiar with the meeting told SaharaReporters that the presidential aide told the reporters that he wanted their cooperation in the midst of widespread attacks questioning his integrity.
The source revealed that Mr. Okupe was visibly rattled when one reporter asked him to explain what he knew about the contract. “Having carefully selected those who were invited to the parley, Dr. Okupe did not expect the question and showed that he was taken aback,” said our source. Mr. Okupe merely said he had hired a Lagos-based legal practitioner, Festus Keyamo, to issue a statement on the matter. He stated that Mr. Keyamo’s statement would be released by Monday.
“My lawyer, Festus Keyamo, will speak on the matter, please. For now, let me face my job,” he told the reporters.
However, a source in the Benue State government told SaharaReporters that Mr. Okupe has no credible defense for taking the state’s funds and then absconding. “If he’s claiming that Keyamo is going to issue a statement, he is merely begging for time, hoping that Nigerians will soon forget about the matter,” the source asserted.