The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State has accused Jimi Agbaje, its governorship candidate in the just-concluded general election, of allegedly hijacking funds meant for the prosecution of the elections in the state.
The party said the governorship candidate’s action contributed significantly to its disastrous performance in the state.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Daily Independent, Dr. Adegbola Dominic, the state chairman of the party, also accused Agbaje of flagrant disregard for party rules and its leadership, including the apex leader of the party, Chief Olabode George.
Reacting to the statement made by Agbaje last week that he was being attacked for failing to share money meant for the elections with party leaders, Dominic said aside fraudulently obtaining the money without the knowledge of the party leaders, Agbaje had been unable to account for how he disbursed the money.
According to him, the party’s presidential candidate in the last election, Atiku Abubakar, had sent one of his aides to bring the money to Lagos and hand it over to six people, including Agbaje, the state chairman (Dominic), Chief Olabode George, a representative of the senatorial candidates, and two House of Representatives candidates.
He added that Chief George, however, declined to be part of the process, asking the other five people to ensure the money was judiciously used for the purpose it was meant.
The state chairman said while the other representatives assembled at the agreed location to wait for the aide and Agbaje, Agbaje had, unknown to them, made another arrangement with the aide sent to deliver the money and received it without informing anybody, including the party chairman.
“I didn’t want to talk about the issue of money because I don’t like getting myself involved in issues like that, based on my record of integrity.
“But this was a presidential election. It has nothing to do with Jimi Agbaje. Only the presidential candidate and National Assembly candidates were involved in that election held on February 23.
“The funding came from the presidential candidate of the party himself for his own election. As the state chairman of the party, I was called by one of the aides of our presidential candidate who said I should meet him at a location in Lagos because he had some money to give us for the election.
“He told me that he was instructed to handover the money to the governorship candidate, the state chairman, a representative of the senatorial candidates, and two representatives of our House of Reps candidates. He asked me to call the other people which I did, and we met at the hotel where he lodged.
“We had to break because on that night, President Buhari was going to make a broadcast to the nation and we feared that he might postpone the election. So, we deferred our meeting till after the broadcast.
“By the time we got back to our meeting place, after we discovered that the election will not be postponed, we didn’t meet Jimi Agbaje.
“I was there with the state publicity secretary and two other persons. The fellow who was to hand over the money to us had told us Jimi Agbaje will soon be around.
“So, we all kept waiting. After some hours, I had to call the fellow that we had been waiting for more than three hours without him or Agbaje in sight.
“He now told me that he was sorry, that he didn’t know we were still waiting and that he had handed over the money to Jimi Agbaje.
“I stated all these during the open meeting that Agbaje was talking about and he couldn’t refute my claim. We all can see guilt written on his face that day.
“The man who brought the money said he was instructed to handover the money to five of us, including our leader, Chief Bode George, who said that he didn’t want to have anything to do with the money, that we should go and sort it out and use it for the purpose it was meant. But now, he was telling me that he had handed over the money to Agbaje and that he had gone.
“When I called Agbaje, he told me he was in another hotel disbursing the money, without the state chairman’s knowledge and other leaders of the party.
“He just called in 24 House of Reps candidates, about 24 of them, and gave them what pleased him after he had kept a larger percentage of the money to himself.
“I am suspecting there was a deal between him and the fellow who brought the money, because if you are instructed to hand over the money to six people, why will you hand it over to just one person?
“This is money for election campaign and party leaders should be involved, but Jimi Agbaje personally shared the money the way he liked.”
Dominic, who said many of the party agents refused to defend the party’s votes during the elections, said while Agbaje was unable to account for the money, some of the agents who worked for the party were still looking for him today to pay them for job done.
“Till now, we don’t know how much he took for himself and we don’t know how much he gave out.
“He claimed somebody instructed him to disburse the money the way he liked but he refused to mention the name of that person. We know that it is not true.
“There must have been a deal between him and the fellow who brought the money. Now, I asked him to give us a breakdown of the amount he shared for record purposes, up till today, he cannot render an account.
“From feelers we got, he kept one-third of the money for himself and he distributed the remainder,” Dominic said.
Speaking further, he said Agbaje never invited him to any of his outings despite his position as the party chairman in the state.
He said: “We had a governorship candidate who just decided to do things his own way. He ignored the party completely.
“I, as the party chairman in the state, was never invited to even a single outing of the governorship candidate. I didn’t know what he was doing and his plans. He didn’t carry anybody along in the mainstream of the party.
“Agbaje seems to have his own league of friends who are going about with him. He didn’t hold a single rally, and the party too did not hold any rally because the governorship candidate believed that rallies were not important.
“He kept on sneaking into areas in the name of holding town hall meetings. I am from Alimosho Local Government Area. As the party chairman, I was informed that Jimi Agbaje, our governorship candidate, had crept into the local government (area) and was holding a town hall meeting.
“Honestly, I didn’t know anything about the meeting until some party members phoned me, asking me if I was aware.
“The town hall meeting was scantily attended because the mainstream of the party and members were not aware. That is what happened across the 20 local government areas in the state.”
However, in his reaction, Agbaje, who admitted that he received the funds, said he had no reason to render any account of how the funds were disbursed to the party because the party did not give him the money, in the first place.
He said he had rendered the account to the person who gave out the money and that the person was satisfied with how the funds were disbursed.
“The state chairman was not the person who gave me the money. It wasn’t the party who gave me the money.
“So, why should I render an account to Dominic or any other person? I have rendered an account to the person who gave me the money, and that is what matters. Everybody who collected the money signed for it and the record has been given to the owner of the money.
“I stated it in my press release last week that an account has been rendered fully to the person who gave me the money, and he is satisfied,” Agbaje said.
Agbaje, who restated his commitment to the PDP, also threatened to take legal actions against the party leaders if they continued to tarnish his image.
“If they continue maligning me, I may just take it up legally with them because I will not allow them to continue tarnishing my name,” he said.