The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is spending about $1,080,000 (about N388million) on its ongoing lobbying in the United States, The Nation newspaper reports.
The party is also polishing its image in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, but the budget remains unknown.
The U.S. lobbying is believed to have paved the way for the recent visit of the party’s presidential candidate, Alh. Atiku Abubakar, to Washington DC for talks with some congressmen and groups.
Former Aviation Minister Osita Chidoka, however, said the contract was designed to “promote free and fair elections”.
Chidoka, who was part of Atiku’s delegation to the United States, said the agreement to hire a strategic consulting firm predated the emergence of the party’s presidential candidate.
But the National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the agreement had sinister motives.
He said blowing N388million on such a venture was “a sign of the recklessness which PDP is noted for”.
In the agreement between PDP and Ballard Partners, Inc. the party is expected to pay the firm $90,000 per month for 12 months.
The lobbying is expected to run from September, 2018 to September 20, 2019.
The agreement was signed by Chidoka (the PDP Special Advisor) and Brian D. Ballard (the President of Ballard Partners, Inc.).
It reads in part: “This agreement shall become effective in September, 2018 and shall remain effective until September 20, 2019. This agreement shall automatically renew for successive one-year period on the anniversary of the effective date of the agreement unless either party terminates the agreement. Upon renewal, this agreement may be terminated within thirty (30) days written notice by either party.
”It shall be the Firm’s duty to consult with the Client and advocate on its behalf those issues the Client deems necessary and appropriate before the US Federal government.
“Issues and objectives may include, but not be limited to enhancement of U.S. Nigerian relations, strengthening and advancing democratic values and the rule of law in Nigeria, with a special focus in the coming months on maintaining political and security conditions free of intimidation and interference in order to ensure the success and fairness of Nigeria’s national election for president in 2019.
“It shall further be the Firm’s duty to inform the Client of developments in legislation and policy relevant to the Client’s issues and objectives.
“It shall be the Client’s duty to provide the Firm the information necessary to best represent the Client. It shall also be the Client’s duty to timely compensate the Firm for its services.”
The Nation stumbled on a document, which states the terms of the contract and its cost. The PDP will shell out at least $90,000 a month for 12 months.
The document said: “The Firm shall receive from the Client $90 000 a month, payable in quarterly installments for this agreement, plus the reasonable cost associated with the representation, including but not limited to, necessary registration fees; and travel expenses such as hotel, air fare, car services and meals, excluding cost typically associated with the operation of an office such as overhead, staff, and equipment.
“The fee shall be paid in quarterly installments of $270,000 with the first installment being due immediately upon execution of this agreement; second installment due on December 21st, 2018; third installment due on 21 March, 2019; fourth installment due on June 21, 2019; and continuing to be due on quarterly basis until the termination of the agreement. The Firm will bill costs quarterly.”
A PDP source , who spoke in confidence, said: “Nothing is secret, nothing is untoward in the agreement. The agreement predated the emergence of Atiku.
“The engagement of the firm was only about lobbying in the US because we want free and fair elections in February. The All Progressives Congress(APC) did the same thing in 2014.”
Responding to a question, the source said: “The agreement has nothing to do with the issuance of visa to Atiku and his trip to the United States. We entered into the agreement on September 21, 2019 and we had our primaries on October 7, 2019.
“As at the time we signed the strategic consulting contract, the PDP did not have any presidential aspirant in mind. We just wanted to be heard by the United States Government and its people.
“It is not a function of anything to do with Atiku.”
Asked of the motives behind the agreement, the source said there was nothing sinister.
“How can anybody sign an agreement to destabilise this country. I don’t want us to keep looking stupid. Everything about the agreement was transparent.”
When contacted, a former Minister of Aviation, Dr. Osita Chidoka, said: “The agreement was signed before the PDP primaries and it was for the purpose of promoting free and fair elections.”
Reacting to the hiring of the consultant, APC National Publicity Secretary Lanre Issa-Onilu said: “The PDP leaders have sinister motives but they cannot succeed. They are paying huge sums of money to engage consultants with the sole intention to deceive those abroad and Nigerians again into submitting our resources by coming back to power.
“We thank God that all their efforts from the UAE to the UK, the USA and elsewhere in Europe have all ended in disastrous outcome.
“The free and fair poll is here in Nigeria, not in the US. So, they can deceive themselves but they cannot deceive Nigerians.
“Spending N388million on public relations and lobbying is very reckless and a sign of recklessness which PDP is noted for. Everything about PDP and its leaders has been driven by recklessness. Their 16-year reign in government was a reckless enterprise. Nigerians should watch out, they are spendthrift.
“We know the cash is part of the money stolen which this APC government is making efforts to retrieve from them. This is why they think President Buhari should not be re-elected.
“The February 16 presidential poll is not about who will win; it is about which state will vote more for President Muhammadu Buhari because PDP has technically pulled out of the race.”