Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is scheduled to travel to the United States “any moment from now”, possibly before Saturday’s presidential debate organized by the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) and the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG), SaharaReporters has been told.
Atiku hasn’t stepped on American soil for well over decade dating back to his vice presidency, allegedly due to the belief he would be arrested for allegations of corruption, including one by US congressman Williams Jefferson that part of the $100,000 cash found in his refrigerator was intended as bribe for Atiku for his role in helping American firm iGate secure a contract to expand broadband in Nigeria.
However, in October, Atiku Abubakar, Gbenga Daniel, Director-General of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Orgsanisation (APCO) said his principal had received “signals from American officials” to apply for visa and it would be granted.
Despite the protestations of Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, that the United States should exercise caution in granting visa to Atiku, it was reported in December that the visa had indeed been granted.
A source very close to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who played a big role in the securing of the visa, then told SaharaReporters that the Vice President would be busy back home for a while rather than travelling to the United States.
“The ban has been lifted but it doesn’t mean he is travelling like today or anytime soon,” the source had said. “The restriction has been lifted, which means he can travel anytime he wants. But he’s not planning a US trip soon.”
That was six weeks ago. SaharaReporters understands that Atiku is now planning the much-talked-about trip to the US, with Friday being a tentative date. But a source very familiar with the development said this still doesn’t obliterate the fear of arrest in the Atiku camp.
“Atiku will travel to the US any moment from now, and it could even be on Friday,” the source said.
“He is still afraid the coast is not completely clear, and he could be harassed or arrested once he steps in. But I can authoritatively confirm that he will indeed be going to the US very, very, very soon.”