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1 Apr 2018

Martins Luther King relations shocked that Nigerians alleged they collected money - Dabiri-Erewa reveals

An online news outlet alleged that $3 million was paid to secure the award for the President and that you allegedly facilitated the process.
To say the least, nothing would surprise me in politics. When I first heard the rumour that the Presidency paid $3m to get the award, I laughed. That accusation shows crass ignorance. Is it possible that President Muhammadu Buhari would give out $3.5m to obtain an award?

It is also a lie that the award was facilitated by me through a Ghanaian diplomat called Dr. Erieka Bennett. Linking Bennett to the matriarch of MLK, Naomi Barbara King, is also crass ignorance. Bennett is a respectable woman who just met Barbara King in Abuja this month; they had never met before. They all came for black history month festival. Bennett heads the first Diaspora mission recognised by the African Union. They want to find out why the tweet will come out of that centre anyway. They said they would sort that out. So, for somebody to sit in his room and concoct a lie is disgraceful.

You described Barbara King as the matriarch of MLK but Barbara King is the sister-in-law and nephew of the late Martin Luther King Jr. How is she the matriarch when she is a sister-in-law to the late King?

She just confirmed it that she is a matriarch of MLK. She never claimed she was the wife of King. She is a sister-in-law. She is the matriarch because she is the oldest in the family as of now. They are a family; they know how to decide and we can’t decide for them.

She is 86 years old and she came here with some members of the family. The family is different from the centre. The fact that we Nigerians want to bring ourselves down is painful. These are people who want to celebrate us and honour us because they respect us. They had a wonderful experience in Nigeria.

The King Centre tweeted on Wednesday, dissociating itself from the award. Why the disagreement if the family is not divided on the award?

A former C.E.O/President of the MLK Centre, Farris Isaac Newton, who came to Nigeria with Barbara King, said it here that he had served in that centre for many years. Newton is still a senior fellow of the centre. The fact is that when he (Newton) went political and said something about President Buhari and that Nigerians should support him, the King Centre told him they don’t go political. Newton then said that he said what he said in his own personal capacity, not on behalf of the centre. He said he would not retract that statement because that is what he believes in. So they would resolve it as a family.

Don’t you think that this means there is a disagreement in the King’s family on the award?

No. I think it’s Nigerians who want to cause disagreement in the King’s family. When PDP loyalists wrote to the centre that money was used to get the award, they were shocked. They were shocked over there because Newton specifically said that anyone who claimed that they were paid to give the award was insulting the King family. Newton is a nephew of MLK. He insisted that MLK family was not buyable and that they don’t do things for money. He explained that they were here in Nigeria to establish new bond between Americans and Africans. They were shocked and want to get back home to find out who issued the so-called tweet.

Do they believe that the tweet really emanated from the King Centre?

They don’t believe it emanated from the King Centre. They are saying when they get back (home), they would sit down with them and find out what happened.

The Black History Month is usually in February. How come this award is coming in March if it’s meant to commemorate the black history month?

Black history month can be anytime. It’s going to be marked in Nigeria every year which is why they came. Black History Month is not a national day; it can be done anywhere and anyhow. Like I said, these lies and controversies were concocted by opposition apologists and they are doing this because 2019 is around the corner. I am sure we have heard worse things. President Buhari does not need anything to validate himself. President Buhari has said he would tackle corruption. That is the fear of all of them. They just don’t want him to succeed in tackling corruption and he will.

What is the impression of the King’s family on the controversy?

They are very ashamed and shocked that Nigerians would do this to themselves and concoct lies that they were paid to give the award. They were shocked beyond belief that Nigerians will do it to a fellow Nigerian. You don’t bring down your country because you hate one person. Nevertheless, they have said they would come again, bigger and better. They enjoyed being in the country.

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