Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, a witness for President Bola Tinubu in the ongoing presidential election dispute, has admitted that the $460,000 that the Nigerian leader forfeited to the United States came from a narcotics business and money laundering.
Mr Bamidele, a politician from Ekiti and long-time protege of Mr Tinubu’s, was at the election petitions tribunal on Wednesday in Abuja to give testimony against Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the opposition Labour Party.
Mr Bamidele, while being led in his testimony by senior lawyer Lateef Fagbemi, said Mr Obi joined the opposition Labour Party while he was still holding his membership of the Peoples Democratic Party, another opposition party.
Among other documents, Mr Bamidele tendered the membership registration file of the Labour Party as of April 25, 2022, which showed that Mr Obi was not a member because his name could not be found on the list. The party’s registration document for Anambra also did not include Mr Obi’s name as of that period.
Peoples Gazette first reported Mr Obi’s exit from the PDP on May 25. Prior to that day, he had been a frontrunner in the bid for PDP’s presidential ticket. He formally announced his Labour membership two days later on May 27.
However, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal said Mr Obi did not violate electoral law, even though he became the Labour’s presidential candidate on May 30, less than a month after he joined the party. The electoral law specified that an aspirant must have been a member of a political party for at least 30 days to be eligible to be a candidate.
The highlight of Mr Bamidele’s testimony came when he admitted under cross-examination by Mr Obi’s lawyers that Mr Tinubu indeed forfeited over $460,000 in illicit drug proceeds. The case occurred in the United States in the 1990s when Mr Tinubu was living in Chicago. The politician had declined to address the forfeiture for several years, despite its domination of headlines in the run-up to the presidential election on February 25.
Livy Uzoukwu, a senior lawyer handling Mr Obi’s case, asked whether or not Mr Bamidele know that the forfeiture was connected to narcotics dealing, to which he responded yes. He also responded that he understood there was money laundering involved in Mr Tinubu’s matter prior to the final forfeiture.
Mr Bamidele, who recently became the majority leader of the Nigerian Senate, appeared to be the most high-profile associate of Mr Tinubu to confirm the forfeiture and narcotics background of the former Lagos governor, who was sworn in as Nigeria’s president on May 29, following his controversial declaration as winner of the February presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.