Atiku: Much ado about US visa

Atiku Abubakar 2011 President campaign Photo by ©mortenfauerby 2010 - all rights reserved


With Uche Nnadozie

The back and forth arguments trailing the issuance of travel visa to the former vice President Atiku Abubakar to the United States to me is much ado about nothing. Whoever brought up the idea of him trying to get a visa in the first place should be fired. But if it is his idea, then he should perish it, instead focus on his campaign schedule. Visa or no visa is a very big distraction and I am surprised that an experienced politician of Atiku’s stature will fall for the bait of a ding dong over visa. Much as I am not a fan of the PDP presidential candidate, but there are certain things people do that I can’t fathom.
In the first place, according to my own analysis, the PDP candidate has a herculean task to unseat President Muhammadu Buhari. After inaugurating his campaign council last week and with less than ten weeks to the presidential election, it is my considered opinion that the council prevail on their candidate to trash the visa bogey. It is one huge distraction that makes me wonder what is important about it. Like you have ten weeks or less to tour Nigeria, yet think that taking at least a week off an engaging and tortuous campaign should be spent advertising yourself to Americans who won’t vote is close to what I call political insanity.
Listen, yes, the issue about indictment in America is more important than a trip to that country. From records, including the ones contained in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s book, My Watch, it is evident that the former vice president has a thing or two to clear in the US. For me, the matter of inability to get a visa and travel down there without being arrested is part of the symptoms of the main crime. The main crime being the indictment by a congregational committee who thinks that there are grounds to charge the PDP candidate for something; something around money laundry, etc.
However, that is the problem of the United States not Nigeria. If the matter was that important, why hasn’t that country called for the extradition of Atiku. The laws must be made to do something I guess. The former Vice President is a regular traveller. From the United Kingdom to United Arab Emirates, he travels quite often and if so, why hasn’t the American authorities tried to arrest him in these countries with which they have some bilateral arrangement with. This is why I do not understand why this visa matter is made to look important in the campaign council. More disgracefully, I do not understand what he may have gone to the US Embassy in Abuja to do, if he did.
Now with his hands, he brought the matter back to reckoning. Yes, it is a perception issue but in our clime, perception works for the elite, only. Majority of the people who will vote have already made up their minds. I understand that every vote counts, but America or not will not sway votes. It will only be a talking point. This talking point had been swept under the carpet until Atiku went to exhume it. This is a clear own goal. Perception says if you travel to America you may be arrested. But in spite of that you won the ticket of your party and got a huge momentum immediately after. One had hoped you continue in that trajectory but highlighting your strengths instead of unsettling it.
Also the story over the weekend about visa or no visa was poorly handled. The news was that Atiku got a visa and was in the UK from where he will travel to the United States. I don’t know if that news was planted to overshadow that one which said that Governor Nyesom Wike may have resigned as the South South Coordinator of the campaign. But that was a poorly scripted alternative. In fact PDP surrogates were quick to pounce on the story by insisting that their man was in fact on a flight to the US not UK. Few hours later the report changed that though he was granted a visa, however, he was indeed in Abuja having returned from the United Kingdom on Saturday evening. By Sunday the story changed the third time. Now it appears he didn’t even get the visa and even if he did may not have lobbied enough to get some reprieve from arrest.
The whole story is messy. This kind of back and forth confirms that there is something wrong between him and the American authorities. That suspicion is more powerful than getting the visa itself; as such should have been allowed not to become a talking point during this campaign season. Making it a talking point pays the APC campaign team more than getting a visa for Atiku wll pay Atiku’s team. So in the scale of preference, I urge the campaign to trash this American visa matter forever. This is a matter that he should have solved long before he picked the PDP ticket. Having not done it then, he should avoid it now because it is a public relations nightmare for him. If I were in his shoes, I will work hard to earn Wike’s trust and keep him in the campaign than worrying about going to America.
There are other trust issues. The South East governors are not on the same page with the campaign. The candidate should spend more time engaging with these stakeholders, rather than waste time on irrelevant America photo opportunities. Atiku has a strong campaign director in Dr. Saraki, who I wish he should listen to more. I do not think the Senate President will support this American wild goose chase.


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