There is growing concern in the Presidency as to how and why Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential Candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was able to get a temporary waiver to visit the United States of America, USA, after a ban that lasted for over a decade.
According to new reports, the Lobbyists hired by Atiku, allegedly played a huge role in making the trip successfully.
In a report, Reuters quoted unnamed US government officials, as saying that the travel ban was waived temporarily by the US State Department, after Lobbyists mounted a campaign among Congressional Lawmakers, arguing that, the administration should not snub the leading challenger to President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the February 16, 2019 election.
“One person familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Atiku was allowed to enter, because the United States saw little benefit to creating bad blood with the man who might be the next Leader of Africa’s most populous nation, and the continent’s biggest oil producer”, Reuters said in the report.
The Agency stated that during his visit, Atiku met with top US Diplomats and Lawmakers, to thank them for the temporary suspension of his travel ban linked to bribery scandals.
Atiku’s critics had said that he went to the US as an Aide of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who was among those with the Presidential Candidate during the trip, but the Reuters report has laid that aside.
The visit was seen by his supporters as a major landmark, especially as the All Progressives Congress, APC, had argued that he would be arrested, if he tried to enter the country.
Recall, that Atiku’s party signed a deal with Brian Ballard, a top US Lobbyist, to enhance a US-Nigeria relations, with a focus to “maintaining political and security conditions, free of intimidation and interference”.
According to Reuters, Atiku engaged Holland and Knight, a Lobbyist for the firm, “to help him secure a visa in part, by enlisting members of Congress to request one on his behalf.”
“Lobbyists hired by Atiku, said they sought to overcome resistance at the State Department, by securing support from members of Congress for the visit, as well as arguing that the top US Official for African affairs, Assistant Secretary, Tibor Nagy, had an obligation to encourage democracy in the seventh most populous country in the world”, it reported.
A source at the US State Department, was also quoted as saying: “Assistant Secretary Nagy, was pleased to meet with him and share the US government’s expectations that Nigeria’s elections be free, fair, transparent, and peaceful, and reflect the will of the Nigerian people.”
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