THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar has arrived in Washington D.C on Thursday, putting an end to a visa restriction placed on him by the United States for the first time in 13 years.
The former vice president is billed to speak at the US Chamber of Commerce and US – Africa Business private roundtable and meet with US government officials.
He is also expected to hold a consultative forum with Nigerians in Diaspora and the business community.
He was accompanied by Senate President Bukola Saraki who is the director-general of his campaign, Uche Secondus, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and some key members of the opposition party.
Abubakar’s arrival in the U.S is set to boost his presidential election hopes, after the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) had taunted him for his inability to enter the U.S. for over a decade.
Abubakar has not visited the U.S. since 2007 when he left office as Nigeria’s vice-president. He served under former President Olusegun Obasanjo who had serially accused Abubakar of fraud while in office and claims that he was linked to corruption charges filed in the U.S.
However, he has always denied all allegations of wrongdoing.
For the over 12 years, Abubakar was unable to visit the U.S, as American authorities had declined to issue him entry visa and there was speculation that a secret indictment had been entered against him by the country’s authorities.
Abubakar’s visa appears to have come through the intervention of Obasanjo, with whom he recently settled a decade-old dispute ahead of the 2019 elections, according to sources yet unconfirmed.
In a tweet, Atiku confirmed he will be meeting with US government officials during his stay in America.
“Just arrived Washington D.C for meeting with US government officials, Nigerians living in D.C metropolis and the business community,” he tweeted.
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo is believed to have been very instrumental in the process which made the US grant Atiku the visa.
Obasanjo wants President Muhammadu Buhari out of office, after accusing him of displaying incompetence on issues confronting the country.
Atiku was accused of demanding a bribe of $500,000 to facilitate the award of contracts to two American telecommunication firms in Nigeria.
Investigators had videotaped William Jefferson, a former congressman representing Louisiana, who was jailed for 13 years for receiving a bribe of $100,000 worth of $100 bills which he claimed was meant for Atiku from an investor, Lori Mody, who was wearing a wire.
The FBI had searched Atiku’s residence in Potomac, Maryland, but no money was found.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.