By Idoreyin Sampson
This is not the best of times for the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the party has been moving from one public relations nightmare to another over the uncertainty surrounding the health of its presidential candidate, General Muhammed Buhari.
The latest scandal began when Buhari’s campaign team issued a short statement on Friday announcing that the general was leaving Nigeria for the United Kingdom on a “short visit” during which he would meet with “key members of the British political establishment and interact with some global institutions with stakeholder interest in the affairs of Nigeria… and give a talk at the prestigious foreign policy hub, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatam House in London.”
Immediately, news began to circulate that the general, who is running for president for the 4th time, is actually on a medical trip to the UK and not a political working visit as presented by his media team. The Trent uncovered the story speaking with insiders in the Buhari campaign who confirmed that he was on a medical trip to the United Kingdom.
The APC went into panic with this revelation and went on a propaganda media blitz with the aim of changing the story line. The APC first released photos of Buhari’s 2013 trip to London and attempted to pass them off photos taken in February. But the APC was not counting on the tenacity of political strategist, Mukhtar Alex Dan’Iyan who goes by the Twitter handle, @MrAyeDee.
The photos, one curiously, of Buhari passing by the Health Control office of a London Airport were quickly exposed as 2013 photos.
The next APC move was to present photos of General Buhari in a meeting with former UK prime minister, Tony Blair. It was reported that the meeting happened Saturday, February 21, 2015. Dan’Iyan contacted Blair’s office which confirmed that the former PM was in Serbia since last week, having just been hired as a consultant for the Serbian government. Blair’s office, had inadvertently, admitted that there was no meeting between its principal and General Buhari because he was in Serbia at the time of the said meeting. Dan’Iyan made this disclosure on his Twitter handle and it was widely published in Nigerian’s media.
48 hours after the supposed meeting between Blair and Buhari in London, Blair’s office responds to media inquiries saying that Blair met with Buhari in London and deftly mentiones that the former PM would also visit Nigeria soon to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan. Observers see this move as an attempt by Blair to seek political relevance in Nigeria’s upcoming general elections.
Curiously, the statement from Blair’s office did not say when the meeting with Buhari held. Dan’Iyan has taken to Twitter to ask Blair to confirm details of this said meeting. Specifically, what was discussed at the meeting, where did the meeting hold (in an office, hotel, hospital), what time of day did the meeting hold, how long did it hold, and who else was present at the supposed private interaction. He also requested a documentary evidence (photo or video) from Blair’s office of this meeting.
Until these details are provided by Blair’s office – which has also be contacted by email with these questions – it would be difficult to believe that this statement from Tony Blair is not a result of pressure from the APC to save face after being caught in a lie.
Buhari’s team also attempted to pass of an old interview conducted at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja as a recent interview conducted in London during the weekend. The true location of the interview was also revealed by Dan’Iyan followed up by Ekiti Governor Ayo Fayose holding an interview with NTA in the exact same spot where the misrepresented Buhari interview held.
Wife of the 73-year-old general, Aisha Buhari has told the media that her husband is ‘resting in London’, a position which contradicts the APC’s ‘political visit’ angle to the story. Buhari also failed to appear in a APC supporters’ event in London held on Sunday. After frantic efforts to put this scandal to rest, Buhari’s team, Monday, were able to secure a spot for him to speak at Chatam House on Thursday, February 26, 2015.
Effectively, General Buhari has not been seen in public since he was hurriedly whisked away by his security detail from his campaign rally in Borno last week.
The former UK prime minister has moved from one controversy to another, and another, since he left office. His most recent being an allegation of access for cash leveled against his former foreign secretary, Jack Straw. Blair’s latest business engagement, the advisory role he is to play for the Serbian government is also embroiled in controversy over his ‘enemy’ status with Serbia over his role in bombing bombing Belgrade during the Yugoslavian crisis 16 years ago.
Since leaving office, Tony Blair set up a consulting firm, Tony Blair Associates, through which he channels his speaking engagements, political appearances, and work with governments like his work for Kenya’s controversial President Uhuru Kenyatta, and that helping the controversial government of Kazakhastan improve his standing in the West. Tony Blair Associates has a list of murky clients which have affected the former PM’s standing in the political establishment of the UK.The firm is part of a shadowy web of companies and foundations that constitutes Blair’s business interests.
In November 2014, a dossier on Blair’s deals was published by Sunday Times, showing details of a 2010 21-page consulting contract with PetroSaudi, an oil company founded by the Saudi royal family which included cash for contract deals considered unethical given his roles working for governments, some of which have questionable human rights records.
A report by Sarah Ellison and titled, “The Which Blair Project” revealed that Blair was brokering his access on behalf of the Saudi Royal family as he continued to play an active role in the Middle East as the chief representative of a group of four government institutions – the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia – called the Quartet, working towards peace in the troubled region.
The reports not only exposed a troubling conflict of interest on the part of the former PM, it also painted Blair as a man of low integrity who would sell his position and standing as a former PM for cash.
‘With General Buhari’s awful human rights record, no serious politician in the United Kingdom would meet with him,” says Yunana Shibkau, a human rights activist in the forefront of the campaign to have Buhari tried at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity following the death of 800 people including 9 youth corpers in post election violence in 2011. “Only a cash-for-appearance politician would meet Buhari at this time.”
Source: The Trent