Atiku’s visit to the US and the debate

Former Vice President, of Nigeria ,Alhaji Atiku Abubakar
Former Vice President, of Nigeria ,Alhaji Atiku Abubakar

The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has proven to Nigerians that he can enter the United States of America (USA) as any other free citizen of Nigeria. Bravo to him! This is a great campaign feat. He has explained why he embarked on the controversial long awaited journey. His mission was to create the right and vibrant economic atmosphere for American investments and get high rate and quantum benefits in return. That was the primary drive for his trip. It is a very welcome mission because America is a strategic business mover anywhere. “I was in America because Atiku means jobs”, he boasted recently, apparently in corroboration with his media adviser, Mazi Paul Ibe, in his article: “My takeaways from Atiku’s trip to US”.

Nigerians had thought that he would never ever travel to America. They had thought or were made to believe that he would be arrested any time he steps into the soil of the US. They had doubted his integrity. Some may have even thought that he was so corrupt that America had declared him personae non-grata to that country. They had thought that Atiku has (till today) money laundering case in the USA. They are supposed to have a rethink after the “salvation” trip. But have they? Will they ever have? While we commend Atiku for the bold step to redeem his image, it is hoped that he will go about his campaigns in peace and boldly accept the outcome of the forthcoming presidential polls in good faith, especially if he loses.

More so, it had alleged that millions of US dollars were laundered by Atiku into that country in the name of his American Igbo and lawyer-wife, Jennifer. Atiku had tried hard to erase this feeling from the minds of his expected electorates. Until just recently, his current political Godfather and Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, actualized that dream for him. The Cable news reported that Atiku secretly flew out from Lagos with most of his aides and associates taken unawares. And surprisingly for a highly placed Nigerian citizen, it took the Nigerian embassy in the US time to ascertain Atiku’s takeoff from Nigeria and landing in the US.

Atiku was said to have been issued the US visa in December last year for the first time in 13 years. The visa was reportedly facilitated by his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo. But reports said, not trusting Obasanjo as always, Atiku sensed the visa could be a trap by the Americans and thus asked for guarantee from the US government that he would not be arrested over the money laundering case, for which there were reports of a sealed indictment by the US Justice Department.

However, Atiku has proven his humility. Some diehard politicians can do anything to attain their target. That can be described as a political manoeuvre. They accept to be servants during electioneering campaigns and assume heart-hardened masters after swearing-in. A former vice president and the candidate for the main opposition in the February 16 presidential polls, Atiku, fighting integrity challenge, stooped low to travel to America as an aide to Nigeria’s Senate President to prove innocence. That action alone has made him a “girgir” dramatis personae. He may have proven his despondency, his frilliness and his fidgetiness. That is unbecoming of a man who wants to lead Nigeria. It would have been better he ignored that trip, even if the APC made it an issue. Buhari ignored the Presidential debate despite PDP made it an issue. That is political maturity. One should be driven by his belief, not merely what one is pushed to do which may be misleading. What he met in the hands of the Nigerian community in America was another sordid experience. Simply, it was reported that they told him point-blank: “You can’t spoil Nigeria for the second time.”

This America’s visit has opened up many questions that yearn for answers. When has America or any other country become a determinant force in Nigerian elections? When has Nigeria subjected itself to full dependence on other foreign nationalities to conduct her elections? Is America Nigeria’s colonial master or the best business mover for Nigeria? And when have Nigerian electorates gauged their choice of Presidential candidates on America’s or any other country’s choice or suggestion? The journey to America by Atiku is, therefore, a futile, belittling and frivolous exercise.

The APC has described Atiku’s secret visit to America under ‘special diplomatic waiver’ as a confirmation of corruption indictments and visa ban against him. Spokesman of the APC’s Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, in a statement said it was shameful that Atiku would visit America and the International Press would be kept in the dark. He said the visit was not of any surprise to his council for reasons including the fact that it was not only a non-event but it had all the trappings of “a fugitive sneaking into America under a special diplomatic waiver”. He portrayed the visit as a downright catastrophe because, rather than dispel the fact of indictments hanging over his head, Atiku further confirms and reinforces those facts.

On the Presidential debate, Atiku worsened his case by refusing to appear on the grounds that Buhari did not appear. But he forgot that the debate was organized as a campaign opportunity for candidates to buy the minds of Nigerians and present their manifestoes to the world. For the PDP, the ground is very rough; they need one thousand and one fora to convince Nigerians of their acclaimed reformed minds and intentions for Nigeria after they had owned up their atrocities on the nation and openly apologized. For Buhari, he is like Jesus appearing to tell Christians that he is their Lord and Saviour which they all know very well and have internalized. They will follow him without doubt, but with affinity and passion. Buhari has already convinced Nigerians that he is the solution to Nigeria’s problem. He does not need a debate to showcase what he will do in the next four years, having practically acted and performed faithfully for the nation and her citizens.

National President of a pro-democracy group, the National Democratic Front (NDF), Comrade Audu Awulu, maintains that Buhari and the APC have had less than four years of one tenure of the PDP’s 16 years to debate through actions and projects on why Nigerians must never return to the “Egypt of the PDP”. Within the short period of time, he observed: “We have seen the economy being diversified.” He believes that even though Atiku’s economists seek to confuse the issue by misinterpreting the lifestyle changes of Nigerians to imply economic hardship, the PDP has refused to accept that the hardship it refers to is the hand-out from slush money it had artificially imposed on the citizens, hence the anger because of lack of access to free money. For him, those who cherish the joy of honest work are full of praises for the opportunities being created under the present government.

Tonnie Iredia reflected on this in his article in the Vanguard of February 8, 2015 under: Presidential debate on what”. He sounded very intriguing. According to him, the nation waited in vain for the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011. The last of the debate that was in 2011 took the format of a drama as three of the candidates appeared in one debate at one platform while President Jonathan undertook a one-man debate in his preferred platform. He said that reasons for Buhari to decline to appear for such debate included lack of faith in some of the organizers. Buhari’s achievements in the last three and half years were enough challenges for the PDP and enough pointers to convince Nigerians that the second term is inevitable.

Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]

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