Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) delegates knew exactly what they were getting when almost 50 percent of them filed out at the Adokiye Amiesimaka stadium in Port Harcourt and elected former vice president Atiku Abubakar as the party’s presidential flag-bearer for next year’s elections.
They must have understood that every single day for the next four months, questions will be asked about Atiku’s alleged corruption, as well as the cloud over his inability to visit the United States. But they chose him anyway. So here goes…
On Tuesday, the Punch newspaper released a report in which an official of the United States Department of Justice (US DOJ) reportedly denied the existence of any pending lawsuits against Atiku.
Peter Carr, a spokesman of the US DOJ, was speaking in response to an inquiry by the newspaper in what is expected to be only the first of many such inquiries and investigations before the elections.
“Thank you for reaching out to us. I have checked the public court records, and they do not showcases filed against a defendant named Atiku Abubakar,” Carr said in an email to the newspaper.
The email had also requested information about the ban on entry into the US which has allegedly been placed on Atiku. Carr responded saying, “Visa issues are confidential under section 222(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. If your question is specifically about entry – not about visas per se – I would refer you to the US Customs and Border Protection.”
The smoothest recourse for the PDP is for Atiku to make a visit to the US. That would put an end to the speculations. However that cannot happen if the US keeps denying his applications for visas – at least that is what the former vice president claims.
So it promises to be an excruciating vicious circle for supporters of the PDP candidate as the country builds up to 2019. The claims and allegations will mount, the candidate will know that the only way to silence the critics is to visit the US and yet he will know that he cannot do it.
So in the meantime, Atiku will try to ensure that the conversation remains firmly on the issue of the economy and the alleged incompetence of President Buhari, while the APC will continue to ensure that corruption remains front and centre in this campaign. It will then be up to the Nigerian people to decide which of these positions they align with. Or perhaps give a chance to the candidate of a lesser known party like the ACPN, SDP and YPP, which are fielding Oby Ezekwesili, Donald Duke and Kingsley Moghalu respectively.