A leader of National Consultative Front (NCF), Pat Utomi, has distanced himself and the presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, from the controversial sale of tickets in the United States to support Mr Obi in the 2023 election.
Mr Obi, in a video posted on social media, last week said he would be a guest speaker at several events being organised by Nigerians in five U.S. states from 31 August to 3 September.
However, one of the flyers being distributed shows that the cheapest ticket to attend the Atlanta version of the meeting costs $250 (N175,000) while the VIP and Executive tickets cost $1,000 and $5,000 respectively.
The costs of the tickets attracted criticisms from some of Mr Obi’s supporters who had extolled his prudence and acclaimed love for a better Nigeria.
“Ordinary seat = $250, VIP seat = $1000, Executive seat = $5000.
“Peter Obi is just a clever man that knows he will not win and wants to use this election to cash out! Look at the prices he is charging. And he says he is for the poor! If you don’t have shishi, stay away!,” one of his strong critics and former presidential aide, Reno Omokri, said in a tweet in reaction to the development.
Responding to the question on the controversy on “Sunday Politics”, a programme aired on Channels Television, Mr Utomi said the LP presidential candidate knew nothing about the charges.
He said the money for tickets may be a way to cater for attendees breakfast or dinner but they definitely have no hand in it.
“We have been invited to an event, we don’t know what the mechanics are. You know, so, in America it is a tradition, if some people will give it breakfast or dinner, they may want to charge people that come to eat, but we have never not been associated with anything. We just get invited by Nigerian groups and we attend. So I don’t think that is an issue,” Mr Utomi said.
With reference to how Diaspora helped the historic change in Japan, India, among others, he said it would be unthoughtful not to engage Nigerians in Diaspora in Mr Obi’s mission to rescue Nigeria from the grip of its current leadership.
Given the precarious situation of the country’s economy, Mr Utomi noted that it is not the time to underrate the help Nigerians in Diaspora can offer through foreign remittances.
“When the time is right. The Diaspora will give money, they have always given money to campaigns. I have run for president as you know before and I got support from the Diaspora in 2006 and 2007, and then when I ran in 2011.
“When the time is right, we’re going to solicit obviously from Nigerians across the board. We are already setting up portals where people can give money,” he said.
He also dismissed speculations of disagreement between him and Mr Obi over campaign structures and funding ahead of the exercise.
The leadership of the LP recently rejected the choice of Charles Odigbo as spokesperson of Mr Obi’s presidential campaign team.
Mr Odigbo’s appointment was announced by Mr Utomi-led NCF at the unveiling of the LP media team in Lagos.
The group is an umbrella body of some Third Force parties jostling to end the political dominance of the ruling APC and its main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the 2023 General Elections.