A report by Reuters has claimed that Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was able to visit Washington D.C., the United States in January 2019 due to a temporary suspension of his travel ban to the U.S.
Backstory: In a report released on Monday, Feb. 4, the news agency said the visa ban, which is still in place, was linked to decade-old bribery scandals.
Here is all you need to know about the PDPs candidate’s recent visits to the U.S.:
- Several U.S. diplomats and others familiar with the visit told Reuters that the former vice president has been banned from entering the United States for the past several years after he figured prominently in two corruption cases. These cases date back to Atiku’s time as vice president, from 1999 to 2007. Even though he has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, Atiku was still banned from entry into the U.S.
- Reuters reported that Atiku’s travel ban was waived temporarily by the U.S. State Department after lobbyists mounted a campaign among congressional lawmakers arguing that the administration should not snub the leading challenger to President Muhammadu Buhari in the upcoming elections. The hired lobbyists overcame resistance at the State Department by securing support from members of Congress for Atiku’s visit.
- The lobbyist also managed to get the top U.S. official for African Affairs, Assistant Secretary Tibor Nagy, onboard by arguing that he had an obligation to encourage democracy in the seventh most populous country in the world. “Assistant Secretary Nagy was pleased to meet with him and share the U.S. government’s expectations that Nigeria’s elections be free, fair, transparent, and peaceful, and reflect the will of the Nigerian people,” a State Department official said.
- A lobbyist for one of the firms, known as Holland Knight, reported that they had been hired to help the PDP candidate secure a visa to the U.S. and the firm has been paid $80,000 so far. Additionally, Ballard Partners, a firm with links to U.S. President, Donald Trump, was hired by Atiku’s political party at a rate of $90,000 per month in September, before Atiku emerged as the party’s candidate.
- A Ballard lobbyist, Jamie Rubin, told Reuters that “We are not asking the administration or anyone to take sides, but to merely demand the same level of freeness and fairness.”
- Aside from Nagy, Atiku met with business leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and at least two Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives who specialise in foreign affairs, Representative Michael McCaul of Texas and Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey.
Bottom Line: Atiku’s visit to the U.S. cost an arm and leg to secure. On the one hand, it shows that he would likely not have issues visiting if he needs to in the event he becomes president. On the other hand it emphasises the baggage being carried by the man who stands the best chance of unseating the incumbent.