Former Vice President of Nigeria and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday arrived Washington D.C on a visit to the United States.
In a post on Twitter, Atiku said: “Just arrived Washington D.C for meeting with U.S. government officials, Nigerians living in D.C metropolis and the business community. -AA”, with a photograph, showing him clutching a bouquet of flowers, along with Senate President Bukola Saraki, former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka and a lady. The trip laid to rest the long drawn controversy over whether he can travel to that country.
The ruling party in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress (APC), had consistently claimed that Atiku dared not travel to the United States because he had allegedly been indicted for corruption by a Committee in the U.S. Congress. However, it was confirmed last night that the PDP presidential candidate arrived at 20:20 hours (14.20 hours, Washington DC time).
He was scheduled to be in Ogun State yesterday morning in continuation of his campaigns but the event was cancelled, triggering speculations that he may have made an emergency trip outside Nigeria. According to a statement issued by Mr. Paul Ibe, his Media Adviser, Atiku had on Wednesday met with the business community in Lagos at an interactive session to unveil his plans to get Nigeria working again.
He left Abuja on Thursday morning accompanied by the Director General of PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation and Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki for the United States. New Telegraph learnt that while in the U.S., the former vice-president is scheduled to speak at a business roundtable to be hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce and the US Africa Business Centre.
Atiku will in the course of his trip also hold meetings with U.S. government officials, the business community and the Nigerian community in that country. He is expected to return to Nigeria on Saturday. The cold war between him and the U.S. authorities began in 2004 after the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) investigated a bribery scandal involving William Jefferson, a former US congressman, who allegedly had links with him Atiku was accused of demanding a bribe of $500,000 to facilitate the award of contracts to two American telecommunication firms in Nigeria. The FBI had searched his residence in the highbrow neighbourhood of Potomac, Maryland, but no money was found.
The investigators had videotaped Jefferson, who was the congressman representing Louisiana, receiving $100,000 worth of $100 bills which he claimed was meant for Atiku, but the former vice-president has consistently denied the allegation. In the wake of the crisis, the U.S. government reportedly placed a ban on Atiku and denied him visa to visit the country.
He was said to have been issued with a US visa, last December, for the first time in 13 years. The visa was reportedly facilitated by his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, a former foe turned political friend. Atiku, according to reports, sensed the visa could be a trap by the Americans and thus asked for guarantee from the U.S. government that he would not be arrested over a case of money laundering, for which there were reports of a sealed indictment by the US Justice Department. In the build up to the February 16 presidential election, the leadership of the APC had repeatedly taunted Atiku as a fugitive, who was running away from the long arm of the law after what they called restricted indictment in the United States.
Atiku’s running mate, Mr. Peter Obi was billed to be in the U.S. last week and was scheduled to have a New Jersey/New York town hall meeting, but the event was postponed. The PDP vice-presidential candidate is now rescheduled for the New/ Jersey/New York USA Town Hall Meeting at Robert Treat Best Western Hotel, New Jersey on Monday, January 21.