Former head of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Ndidi Okereke-Onyuike, on Tuesday said she did not mobilise campaign funds for U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2008 election.
Mrs. Okereke-Onyuike, who left the exchange in 2010, drew fierce criticisms from the public for floating a platform to source for funds ahead of Mr. Obama’s election as the first African American president.
She was condemned for using her sensitive position to seek favour from capital market players for a venture that hardly affected Nigeria, and that could have been concluded without noticing her effort.
Many Nigerians said the venture was certain not to be transparent as there was no assurance that the realised funds would be accounted for. Critics alleged the drive was aimed at taking donors’ money and recommended her sack.
A sensitive political subject for the Americans, Mr. Obama issued a disclaimer denying authorizing or having links with such endeavour around the world, ahead of the elections.
Although Mrs. Okereke-Onyuike survived he heat after she suspended the campaigns, the effort has remained a refrain used to back allegations of her indiscretions. The matter again came up at the on-going House of Representatives investigation of the near-collapse of the capital market on Tuesday.
At the House sitting, the former NSE boss said she knew Mr. Obama personally before the current U.S. president even declared to seek the highest office, and that she only intended to raise awareness mainly for Nigerians in the U.S. who have the right to vote there.
“I am not dumb, I am smart. I knew Obama before elections. I knew the electoral laws of America and Nigeria. I knew I cannot raise money for a candidate like that,” she said when asked to comment on her role.
She recalled meeting Mr. Obama at an award event in Washington, where she was amongst four African Americans awarded for their works in capital markets, since she had earlier worked at the New York Stock Exchange for years.
Mr. Obama, then a senator, was in attendance at that event, and when attendees were asked to line up behind any of the awardees they wished to have photographs with, Mr. Obama chose her.
“Obama stood behind my picture and we snapped together. I still have the photograph,” the former NSE Director General told lawmakers.
“I didn’t commit any offence; I didn’t collect one kobo for Obama. I did because Obama is someone I met and is 50% African,” she said.
When criticism eventually stirred the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) into attempting to investigate the affair, Mrs. Okereke-Onyuike said she only presented the videos of the event to the former EFCC boss, Farida Waziri, and after watching, she was released.
She also explained her role in the failed Transcorp venture by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
She was criticized for accepting to head a new company that would be listed on the stock exchange she was already in charge of.
Mrs. Okereke-Onyuike said she accepted the job as a national assignment specially requested by Mr. Obasanjo, after the former president literally compelled her to take it. She said Mr. Obasanjo had planned to build the organization modelled after the Asian tiger.
Others involved in the Transorp project, which was to take over the Nicon Hilton hotel, Nitel and other privatized government companies, included billionaires, Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola and Mike Adenuga.
When she opposed taking a role, Mrs. Okereke-Onyuike said, Mr. Obasanjo met the only condition she put forward – writing to formally secure the approval of the council of the stock exchange.