Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar will travel to the United States after the launch of the presidential campaign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), TheCable reports.
Atiku, who is the party’s presidential candidate, received his US visa last Thursday, after which he travelled to the UK before making a surprise return to Nigeria on Saturday.
A source had earlier told TheCable that Atiku aborted his US trip “because he needs assurances” that he would not be embarrassed over allegations of corruption for which Congressman William Jefferson and Siemens have been convicted. He has always denied the allegations.
No definite date for the trip
However, one of his aides told TheCable that Atiku could not have travelled to the US when the PDP presidential campaign would be kicking off on Monday in Sokoto.
“He will certainly travel to the US but the campaign cannot kick off in his absence. That would be ridiculous,” the aide said.
He refused to give a definite date for the trip, saying “arrangements are still being made”.
He also refused to comment on why Atiku spent only one day in the UK, insisting that “too much fuss” was being made about the US trip.
Atiku, who is widely travelled, has not been to the US in 13 years, fueling speculations that he might be avoiding possible arrest or prosecution.
Diplomatic sources told TheCable that if the US was interested in arresting Atiku, he would have been picked up in the UK with which it has a longstanding treaty on mutual legal assistance.
Lai Mohammed, minister of information, had last week warned the US to be cautious in granting a visa to the main opponent of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.
TheCable indicates that former president Olusegun Obasanjo played a “critical” role in getting the American government to issue the visa to his former deputy with whom he was estranged for almost 15 years.
Atiku, who is widely travelled, has not been to the US in 13 years, initially fueling speculations that he might be avoiding possible arrest or prosecution over allegations of corruption.
His political opponents had used his absence from the US not just to taunt but also to discredit him.
Atiku was accused of demanding a bribe of $500,000 to facilitate the award of contracts to two American telecommunication firms in Nigeria.
But he has consistently refuted all allegations of corruption.