The leadership award received by President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday did not emanate from the Martin Luther King Centre, Abike Dabiri-Erewa has clarified.
The president’s special assistant on diaspora affairs said the Buhari administration did not claim the honour was bestowed by the King Centre, accusing anti-Buhari elements of propagating “fake news”.
Mr. Buhari received the award at the State House on Monday. His media aides and supporters started circulating messages to emphasise the significance of the award and the connection that those who gave it to the president had with Martin Luther King, Jr, a foremost American civil rights campaigner who was assassinated in 1968.
Isaac Newton-Farris, one of the organisers of the award, was later quoted in the media as saying Mr. Buhari is a foremost African leader who should be reelected in 2019.
Some critics of the president demanded a retraction from Mr. Newton-Farris, saying he should not be making partisan political statement.
They also directed requests to The King Centre in the United States to confirm whether the memorial was involved in organising the award.
Some also argued that the award did not exist prior to its conferment on Mr. Buhari this week.
The centre replied late Wednesday, saying it had no connection whatsoever with the award.
“The award given to President Buhari of Nigeria was not given by The King Center, at the request of The King Center or by the children of #MLK and #CorettaScottKing. @MrFixNigeria,” it said on Twitter.
On Thursday morning, Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa responded to the centre’s disclaimer and other allegations of sharp practices directed at the Buhari administration over the controversy.
Her media aide, Abdurrahman Balogun, explained the issues as follows:
“Our attention has been drawn to obviously fake on line news reports on the visit of some members of the MLK family to Nigeria.
“The members, led by the Matriarch of MLK, Naomi Barbara King, were in Nigeria as part of the activities initiated to celebrate a low- key Black History Month in Nigeria as part of deepening partnership between Africa and its Diaspora.
” As part of the activities, they visited President Muhammadu Buhari and gave him a commemorative plaque for his fight against corruption and what they termed from the “ Africania Diaspora” a term for Africans in Diaspora for which the oldest of them all Naomi Barbara King was selected to present on behalf of the family (NOT MLK CENTER) as a sign of appreciation to the Nigerian President.
It must be categorically stated here that the trip was totally privately funded and not one kobo was spent by the Nigerian government as it was all a private initiative.
However, after two days in Nigeria, one of the members apparently granted an interview which was seen as being political , asking Nigerians to give President Muhammadu Buhari a chance to continue his good works especially of fighting corruption in Nigeria.
As a non political group , he was asked to refute the statement , which he refused to , insisting that was how he felt , and it was his personal opinion, not that of the family nor the centre, of which he is a board member and was the Chief Operating Officer for over five years.
This may have led to some arguements among them , which they have said they will resolve when they get back to the US., which apparently led to the tweet being circulated
The visit to Nigeria was quite successful that they extended their stay for two major days, surprised at the negative reports on Nigeria.
Members of the public are hereby urged to please discountenance any fake news about the visit and avoid the temptation of destroying all the good things for the sake of Politics. as the administration marches on in the fight against against corruption.
S.A. Media to Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa
SSA to the President on Foreign And Diaspora.