The Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN, a group passionately campaigning for a second term for Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, has been hit by allegation of fraud, with some members of the group accusing it of staging a crowd in support of the president and refusing to pay them as agreed.
TAN has conducted regional rallies in support of Mr. Jonathan since August, with the last of its six conventions held in Kano, for the northwest, which comprises Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, and Kaduna States.
The Kano event held Saturday, September 27. As with the previous five regional rallies, the event was attended by senior officials of the federal government, and thousands of supporters.
Much of the crowd at the event was rented, some aggrieved members of the group have told PREMIUM TIMES.
The politicians, who are members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Kano State, and were drafted to be part of the TAN rally, have narrated how they were asked to rent a crowd for the president for an agreed fee, only to be left stranded without money to compensate hundreds of youth and women hired for the rally.
The matter is threatening to tear the support organization apart with the aggrieved members threatening to seek redress and to expose the sham they claim was on parade at the event.
The aggrieved agents now have a pile of debt to settle and some of them who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES say they do not know who to talk to about the money they spent in bringing in supporters.
One of the agents, Ibrahim Lawan, who said he is the Secretary of the PDP Youth Awareness Initiative, Kano, told PREMIUM TIMES that he was instructed to bring in 500 youth and women and to hire buses that will transport them to the venue of the rally in Kano city.
The arrangement, according to Mr. Lawan, was that each participant would be paid N500 on arrival, and N2, 000 for each bus. Those contracted to rent the crowd hired at least 50 busloads of supporters, he said.
The story changed once they arrived at the venue, he told PREMIUM TIMES.
“But to my utmost surprise and confusion, as we entered the venue we tried to locate the organizers but we could not see them. When I called them they said I should be patient as they would settle everything after the event. But almost immediately, we realized that the whole thing is a scam because nobody was talking to us again,” Mr. Lawan said.
He said they were left to source money and settle some of the youth who became restive and attacked them and their personal vehicles, and seized their belongings, including phones.
“This left us in rancour with over 600 angry youths who went wild due to frustrations of spending lots of hours, no food or water and also no available transportation back to their various destinations,” he said.
Mr. Lawan said he managed to escape while two of his guards were injured in the fray that followed.
Students in the state, who were also asked to put up a showing at the event, were treated the same way, he said.
Another agent, Bello Dan Alkarya, also told PREMIUM TIMES that he was asked to bring in women and youth to the venue and would be given N500 naira for each of them.
Mr. Alkarya said he did, but unlike Mr. Lawan, he was short-changed as only N300 was paid for each person transported to the rally venue.
TAN has no official representation in Kano, PREMIUM TIMES understands. Our correspondent, who made findings in Kano, was told the group has only two resource persons who are responsible for the entire northwest.
One of the officials, who agreed to speak, but on the condition his identity be protected, said he had received several complaints of people short-changed by the group after the event.
“I simply told them I am not an insider into the activities of TAN because I don’t know much about them. We are only two of us in the whole of North West Region and we don’t have any office. The only way I get to them is when they call me, I don’t know anything about them,” he said.
“In fact, the only person who holds everything is the owner of the group, Ifeanyi Uba. He is the one who directed one Jibrin to make sure that they get some people to bring in women and youth. Now you can see that there is a problem in the whole thing,” the man said.
TAN’s Director of Communication and Strategy, Udenta Udenta, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview on Saturday that the association was not aware of the issue and could not have been involved in such an arrangement.
“Kano rally was our last rally. The response of Nigerians to our objective and rallies was spontaneous and they are full of passion and conviction. From the South East rally to the North West, that has been the trend.
“However, stakeholders, including those contesting elections, can mobilize people to come to the rallies. It is not like TAN is doing the entire mobilization. It is like a market place. TAN only set up a platform to accommodate various interests. Therefore, whoever made the accusation (you are talking about) should be clear on it; he should state clearly who is responsible, when the agreement was reached, date and if not, such a story should be dismissed.”
Mr. Lawan said he and others affected have decided to reach out to the media, the PDP leadership and the police.
“Till now those in charge of the mobilisation and payment of transport fares and feeding stipends are nowhere to be found or contacted,” he said. “It’s indeed a pity to see how things are being organised by TAN Northwest (Kano). Please PDP, GDG and TAN members, come to my aid, I am currently under pressure and threatened by angry PDP youths to pay them their stipends.”
TAN has been at the centre of controversy before. During its earlier rallies, the group staged the events at the peak of the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria defying complaints and warnings from Nigerians about the possibility of helping to spread the deadly virus.