Ex-President, U.S firm named in Atiku’s visa row
Posted By Yusuf ALLI, Managing Editor, Northern Operation and Yinka Adeniran
A former President and a Washington based firm have been named in the lobbying for the issuance of visa to the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.
According to findings made by our correspondent, the ex-President, who demonised Atiku in the past and called him unprintable names, has been coordinating lobbying for him as “part of a rebranding project” to enable relevant authorities and institutions to buy into 2019 poll in Nigeria.
A top source said yesterday that the ex-President has been involved in creating international image crisis for President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The source said: “I think it is a Cold War thing between pro-visa elements and those against it. Whatever alarm the Federal Government is raising stemmed from intelligence reports on the dimension the politics of visa for Atiku is assuming.
“From preliminary findings, a former President is actually the one coordinating lobbying for the issuance of the US Visa to Atiku alongside a Washington-based firm. The vicious colour of the lobbying is what has made it an issue.
“The ex-President and other lobbyists have been turning the facts upside down in order to have their way within the US government and at congressional level.
“The ex-President and the PR firm said to be on $90,000 per month have already drawn up some interactive engagements for PDP candidate in the US to mobilise international support for the PDP candidate.”
In the US, those against Atiku have equally stepped up attack on him and are reminding the White House and the Congress about the “unresolved issues concerning him, and what the former President now chief lobbyist had said about the PDP presidential candidate.”
“One or two ministers have also been to the US to hold talks with some institutions and officials on why the American government has to be cautious in handling the visa matter.
“It is left to the US Government to weigh options on whether or not to complete the visa process for Atiku, “a highly placed source said yesterday.
As at press time, it was gathered that Atiku had left Nigeria for the United Kingdom on Thursday night after the inauguration of PDP Presidential Campaign Council.
“I think it is when he returns that he will complete his visa process. But the fingerprints have been done,” another source added.
Speaking with our correspondent last night, one of the strategists of the PDP candidate, Mr. Phrank Shaibu, said: “What has granting of visa by another country got to do with the capacity, acceptability and effective strategies to get Nigeria working again in the election of a sovereign nation like us?
“What is even the big deal going to America when Donald Trump has sounded it loud and clear that he does not even want foreigners to come to America again?
“Why should a man who wants to become President of a big country like Nigeria make travelling to America one of his campaign points, when we all know that once he becomes President, the same America will urge him to come and visit?
Speaking yesterday on the visa controversy, the United States Consulate, Lagos, said the issue remained a strictly confidential matter, which the American government will not discuss publicly.
The Public Affairs Officer (PAO), US Consulate, Lagos, Brussel Brooks, said irrespective of the social standing or interest of the society in the matter, the US government will give the matter the strict confidentiality it requires.
The PAO made the disclosure in an interview with journalists at the end of an education forum organised for 150 teachers and students drawn from various public schools in Oyo State.
Dignitaries at the event include representatives of Oyo State Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, students and teachers, among other stakeholders in the sector.
The programme, entitled: “Teaching Resources: Availability, Applicability and Appropriateness”, held at the Distance Learning Centre, University of Ibadan.
It was organised by Fulbright Language Scholars’ Association under the leadership of Miss Tolu Akinwole and funded by the US Consulate.
The organisers said the programme had trained a total of 350 teachers in Oyo and Ondo states in 2018 with the focus of “igniting vibrant teachers and provide solutions to observed inability of students to apply lessons they learn in classrooms to everyday life.”
Speaking on the Atiku US visa status, Brooks said although the case has been a topical issue in the media for a while, the US would still maintain its stand of taking visa matters as highly confidential, irrespective of the individual concerned.
He said: “The position of the US mission has remained the same throughout any discussion of this issue, that visas are a confidential matter.
“We don’t discuss individual visa’s status of any person, whether it be a highly rated official, a presidential candidate or an average citizen.
“Anyone who applies for a visa should know that there will be some records that are confidential. It is classified as private document by the United States Government and we never discuss them in public.
“We would only enjoin candidates at all levels, especially presidential, governorship and National Assembly, to focus on issue-based campaigns and avoid distractions.
“We advise Nigerians to ask candidates at all levels the plan they have to improve education and other aspects.
“Often times, unfortunately, campaigns are full of distractions, things that are not that important to the lives and welfare of average Nigerians, especially the children that are with us today.
“What is important for them is to give them the opportunities to serve in order to thrive in today’s world.
“This means they need good education. The school should be improved.
“When I heard the letter from the students describing their lack of books and dearth of desks in their school. This is very disheartening. There are things that should be corrected.
“I will also encourage parents and voters to ask the candidates what they plan to do to improve education. I think issue-based campaigns will be beneficial to all Nigerians.”
Credit: The Nation