By Gift Osaze
President Muhammadu Buhari who is seeking re-election on the platform of the All Progressive Congress, APC, in the February 16, 2019, appears worried over Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President and Presidential Candidate of the People Democratic Party, PDP visit to the United States.
Buhari, according to a source, was worried that the visit has exposed the PDP Candidate to American government officials and Congressmen to rub mind with them on how to go about the forth coming Presidential election in the country and win with ease.
The President, the source said believes that Donald Trump, the US president may have been behind the visit going by the way the government officials and Congressmen discussed freely with him. This may have given him the impression that Trump has endorsed Atiku, as the next President of Nigeria.
Recall, that for much of last year, Atiku , the PDP, Presidential Candidate, was rumoured of travelling to the US but could not do so because of the belief that he would be arrested over allegations of Corruption linked to the Halliburton scandal and accusation by Williams Jefferson, a US Congress man that part of the $100,000 cash allegedly found in his refrigerator was intended as bribe for him over his role in helping an America firm-Gate, secure a contract to expand its broadband in Nigeria. The deal was said to have been struck when he was a former Vice President under former President Olusegun Obaanjo Administration. Lai Mohammed, a political ally of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state and Chairman for Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation may have celebrated the non -issuance of VISA by the American Embassy to Atiku, the PDP Presidential Candidate. Mohammed recalled that the government had advised the US government not to issue VISA to him.
Unknown to Buhari and his Security Agencies operatives, Obasanjo , who had stood between Atiku and the Presidency over the years has opened the door for the American Embassy to issue VISA to him to travel to their country on business transaction. He was said to have been granted VISA last December paving the way to travel to US. An aggrieved Mohammed said there is nothing the government could do about it as ”it remains the prerogative of the US government to issue VISA to any one”. He further showed his anger and the worry of the Buhari government when he said ”he can go ahead and get the US green card , that will not save him from imminent defeat in the forth coming election” as the election will be held in Nigeria and not in the US.
Last Thursday, January 17, 2019, Atiku, the PDP Candidate jetted out to the US and was warmly received by both government and Congressmen including the American business Community and Nigerians in Diaspora. Mohammed, the minister of Information and Communication, may have spoken the mind of Buhari when he said the Turaki of Adamawa would have questions to answer when he returns to the country from the US visits over the collapse of Bank PHB.
The thinking in government circles was that he benefited from slush funds that led to the collapse of the Bank. The minister had said on Friday, January 18, 2019,that the government already has in its possession ”paper trail showing that the PDP , Presidential Candidate benefited from a N156 million slush fund from the Bank. He disclosed that” it started as an internal memo dated January 2009 asking that a draft in favour of Atiku Abubakar of N156 million should be raised” .
Giving a further insight to the deal, he said ”another memo was raised on the same date to confirm that the” amount was raised from the claimant management account”. He insists that the PDP Presidential Candidate has a question to answer as the government has a proof of the account mandate cheque and account statement which reveals the Adamawa state born PDP Candidate as a signatory to the account that received the money.
But the question on the lips of most people is: Is Bank PHP a government owned financial Institution that buhari should be worried about it? This is because the matter has be laid to rest by the former President Goodluck Jonathan government.
Note that the issue of the collapse of the Bank PHB has remained a recurring decimal under the erstwhile President that it was taken over by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, in 2011, and renamed Key Stone Bank. Given the then government approval, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had investigated the Bank in 2012.
It was learnt that there was nowhere in the report of the EFCC officials who investigated the troubled Bank that Atiku’s name was mentioned as one of the people that killed the Bank. The Commission was said to have accused Francis Aduche, a former managing Director of the Bank of fraudulently purchasing the Bank shares for 18 of his Companies which left the Bank financially insolvent. The anti-graft agency official, one Mr.David Okpe, who was said to have handled the investigation was said to have reported that the shares which were worth millions of naira, were ”purchased with funds belonging to the Bank.
The Bank PHB case was said to have been so serious that the anti-graft agency dragged Aduche and Elizabeth, a former Chief Financial officer of the Bank, who was the wife before an Ikeja High Court presided over over by Justice Lateefat Okunnu in 2017 under the Buhari Administration. The Commission had alleged that Aduche and Elizabeth alone, stole more than N25.7 billion belonging to the Bank.
The Bank financial crisis, which led to Bank eventual collapse , may have forced the Nigeria Stock Exchange-NSE, to place its shares on technical suspension in 2011. With the technical suspension, the Bank’s shares which were traded on the floor of the NSE market, could not move upward or downward in its shares price which was a big blow to the bank.
It was therefore not very surprising why Atiku, the PDP, flag bearer could describe the government allegation against him over the collapse of Bank PHB, as a ” cock and bull story” insisting that he has no case to answer.
Mohammed, the Buhari minister of Information and Communication, may have realised that the allegation of Corruption against Atiku, the PDP , Presidential Candidate , would not appeal to the general public or the US government and Congress men as the American Embassy turned down the government advise not to issue VISA to him which facilitated his trip to the country last Thursday.