The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe, has insisted that his claim of having been born rich was a statement of fact and that he was not merely boasting about it.
Mr. Okupe had on Friday alerted his followers on twitter to his rich background, saying he has never known poverty all his life and apparently does not understand what it means to be poor.
“I have never been poor,” Mr. Okupe boasted on twitter during a discussion on the recent comment by the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, who said the largest chunk of the world’s poorest people are concentrated in Nigeria and four other countries. “My father was one of the richest of his time. He even owned a bank. I qualified a doctor and a successful one.”
But after PREMIUM TIMES published his I-was-born-rich comment, one of Mr. Okupe’s followers took him to task, asking him why he had to boast about having never tasted poverty.
“@doyinokupe boasted that he has never tasted poverty,” Usman Isyaku (@usman_isyaku) tweeted. “No wonder GEJ (Goodluck Ebele Jonathan) has forgotten his I-had-no-shoes origin so easily as advised by him.”
In response to Mr. Isyaku, Mr. Okupe said, “I did not boast. I made a statement of fact.”
He however added that even though he (Okupe) was born rich, he was aware that “It’s not just how you started that matters. Most successful men had humble beginnings.”
Mr. Okupe (@doyinokupe) had taken to Twitter on Friday to disparage media reporting of Mr. Kim’s comment, claiming that the World Bank’s President did not classify Nigeria as poor.
The presidential spokesperson made the claim even when the full transcript of Mr. Kim’s address at the Council For Foreign Relations, where he made the speech, is available in text, audio and video.
“World Bank recently classified Nigeria as a medium income economy,” Mr. Okupe argued. “How on earth can World Bank classify China the second largest world economy as extremely poor?”
But some of his followers, apparently irritated by his argument, quickly took him to task, asking him whether, without being told, he did not know that poverty is widespread and endemic in Nigeria.
“Nigeria or China as a nation is not poor but 80% of Nigerian citizens are poor. Are you such disconnected from the society?” a London-based economist, Ike Okeke (@comradop), asked.
Mr. Okupe responded by saying, “I have never been poor. My father was one of the richest of his time. He even owned a bank. I qualified a doctor and a successful one.”
Mr. Okeke then shot back saying Mr. Okupe could have inherited a fortune from his parents but that not many Nigerians were that lucky.
“No doubts about your generational wealth but how many Nigerians are privileged like you? The report (on the World Bank President’s comment) is a call for more work by government,” the economist said.
The presidential aide responded, “It is well taken. Just believe me when I tell you that this president is grossly underestimated. Everything is being done to turn things around.”
Before getting into the exchanges with Mr. Okeke, Mr. Okupe had raged in a series of tweets, accusing the Nigerian media of distorting news items to disparage the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
He claimed that the administration was doing excellently well, buildings railways and roads and repositioning the economy.
At a point, one Seun Ejiade (@ejiadeoluseun) challenged him to stop whining, and rather go to central Lagos, which has a large population of poor people, to test his popularity.
“Shut up and let’s have some peace,” Mr. Ejiade said. “Stop with the lies, like we don’t live in 9ja?#hiss. Go to Obalende with your drivel and see the reception you get.
“Instead of addressing issues dogging us in Nigeria, like unemployment, you choose to tweet about World Board’s assertions. And you are supposed to advise GEJ?”
That comment apparently irked Mr. Okupe, who charged back: “You hate the truth and facts irritate you. You are a shame to your generation. You cannot be part of the future we hope for. Mr. big mouth.”
Mr. Ejiade responded by saying, “I’m a part of the future which you are not going to be in…. why? Cos you would be dead.”
As the discussions progressed, another of Mr. Okupe’s followers asked him to disclose how much he earns in salary and allowances.
A Mr. Alapata 2.0 (@BolajiBolaji2) said, “Please sir, can you tell us about your salary and allowances for the sake of transparency and accountability? Thank you.”
Mr. Okupe answered, “I don’t have a special salary. I am a senior special assistance (sic) (SSA) to the president. Write to SGF (Secretary to the Government of the Federation). You ‘ll get what SSA is paid.”
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