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September 12, 2010

Babangida Campaign Chief Accuses Nigerian President's Supporters of Threats

by James Butty

A Nigerian media tycoon has said he stands by his allegation that supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan have threatened to kidnap his eldest son.

Raymond Dokpesi, who is director general of the presidential campaign for former Nigerian military leader Ibrahim Babangida, said he received several phone calls also threatening to attack his business if he did not step down from his post.

He said the alleged threats also involve the militant group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, known as MEND.

“On [last] Tuesday, a group of leaders from the South-South who are frontline campaigners from President Goodluck Jonathan met and decided to expel me from a body which I am not a member of, which calls, or styles, itself as a South-South Leaders and Elders Forum. Less than 24 hours after that, MEND [Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta] decided to issue a claim declaring me persona non grata in the zone from which I come,” he said.

Dokpesi said, soon after the MEND statement, which he said included a threat, he began to receive telephone calls threatening his family.

“Now, after that [the MEND threat] came in, the members of my family, including my children, received various telephone calls threatening that my eldest son, Raymond Dokpesi, Jr. would be kidnapped on Monday if, by mid-day, I do not step down,” he said.

He said he was certain that some elements of the militant group were supporters of President Jonathan.

“I am stating unequivocally that some elements in MEND, or MEND by their release, have clearly shown that they are supporters of Jonathan,” Dokpesi said.

Dokpesi said he has alerted Nigerian police about the threat to kidnap his eldest son.

“I have reported it to the police; I’ve reported it to everybody. I’ve intensified my own personal security, and I pray that it does not happen,” he said.

Efforts to reach President Jonathan’s office on the allegations failed. But, a U.S.-based Nigerian Internet publication quotes a statement from the president’s spokesman, Ima Niboro, as denying the allegations.

He dismissed suggestions by some that he should stay out of politics as a media tycoon. On the contrary, Dokpesi said he has been a politician for most of his life.

“I have been a politician all my life. I sought to be president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I also had run for the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, my antecedent as a politician has never been doubt. But, I should also add that I have stepped aside as chairman of the media group,” he said.

Dokpesi said he has written a letter to the National Broadcasting Commission notifying them of his temporary withdrawal as chairman.

President Jonathan has not formally said that he would stand as a candidate in next year’s election, although he has  told southern governors that he would.

Dokpesi said he had made it clear that it would be a bad idea if Mr. Jonathan were to stand as a candidate.

“Let me say that I had personally written and have met with President Jonathan on several occasions to tell him, and to state emphatically, that it may constitutionally right, but it is morally wrong, and it is against the constitution of the party, which he belongs to,” Dokpesi said.

He said, if Jonathan runs, it would violate the zoning understanding between the northern and southern members of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).