Richard Ihediwa, a defence witness in the ongoing trial of the former National Publicity Secretary of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, told the court on Thursday that in the heat of President Goodluck Jonathan’s reelection campaign in 2015, publicity activities were funded by the erstwhile National Publicity Secretary.
Led in evidence by the defence counsel, Emeka Etiaba, Ihediwa, said it came to a point that the ‘situation room’ was not funded by the party, and Metuh decided to pick up the burden and funded the activities of the publicity team from his pocket.
He said the financial status of the publicity arm was so bad that “It came to a point that companies that ran advert for us will come to the secretariat and demand their payment and we were not able to pay them”
He said it came to a time he wanted to resign because the work load was too much for him. But Metuh begged and asked him to understand that the office was not funded.
That was when it was decided that extra hands be hired but that he (Metuh) said he would pay them from his pocket.
According to Ihediwa: “Because of the nature of our schedule, I have to wake up 4.30 am every day till late in the night, to prepare story for media publication so as to make informed decisions, to make press statement, to guild national working committee and react to press publications. I literally broke down because of pressure of work. I couldn’t cope because I was alone.
“I told the first defendant (Metuh) I would not be able to continue except he hired other professionals. He reminded me that funding was issue in the party and said he had severally made case to the national working committee no avail. He pleaded I should continue but I said I couldn’t under such condition.
“The first defendant himself also had health issue with the work. We then agreed to hire more hands and five more media men were hired at the expense of first defendant.
“I was not happen that he was going to use his money to fund party publicity. I accosted him why he was doing so, he said he has decided to succeed as Publicity Secretary and for that he was prepared to make financial sacrifice.
“He went ahead to buy laptops, cameras, video cameras and was the one paying their monthly allowances.
“As I speak, the party has not refunded him that money.”
Ihediwa further narrated how the media team went beyond laundering the image of PDP to projecting and showcasing the achievements of the Federal Government.
This earned the attention of then President, who requested the team to prepare a presentation to be given to a consultant to handle.
“I remember sometime in that month of Nov. 2014 in one of our situation room meeting, Metuh told us that former President Goodluck Jonathan told him that he had an issue to discuss with us.
“We met and consider a request from then President through Metuh ahead the 2015 elections. He wanted us to make a presentation. At the time we were talking the was fuel scarcity in the country. There was a doomsday predictions by some countries that the nation would disintegrate. There was also fear in the polity. There were fears that 2015 elections were going to be marred by violence.
“What was paramount at that time was the stability of the nation. We were made to understand that there were other groups that wanted us to come up with programmes to counter these. Then we started researching and came up with our strategy. Then National Chairman of the party, Mau’zu, informed us that the President was ready to take on the bill. “Metuh then called in media consultant from Lagos.
“The consultant came, went through our materials we then proceeded to then President’s office.
“Cross River, Anambra Governors, Reuben Abati, one Special Assistant to the President, Mau’zu, were all there when we met with the President”, Ihediwa said.
When asked if the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd) was present when the issue of hiring and paying a consultant was discussed, he said he was not present.
The trial Judge, Justice Okon Abang adjourned till Oct. 31 for continuation of trial.