President says he was never banned from any country
Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
There was a strong pushback from the Presidency Saturday on former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s allegation that President Muhammadu Buhari was banned from entering the United States, with the president pointedly mocking the former vice president for being unable to visit America for over a decade.
In a press statement issued last night in Abuja, the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Atiku’s claim was outlandish and came as a surprise from a former Number Two citizen, who should know the truth.
Atiku had alleged in an interview with a newspaper that Buhari was banned from the U.S. because of reservations about his religious views. “For about 15 years, Buhari could not enter America on account of religious considerations,” Atiku said in an interview. The former vice president was responding to a question on why he had not visited the U.S. for many years, amid speculations that he might be wanted in that country in connection with fraud-related deals.
Though, Atiku had explained that he made attempts to go to the U.S. but was not issued visa on administrative grounds, Adesina insinuated he was merely prevaricating to conceal the truth.
The president’s spokesman said in the statement, “At no time was President Buhari, as a private person, ever forbidden from entering any country in the world. Rather, the rest of the world has always held Muhammadu Buhari as a man of sterling qualities, strong on integrity, transparency and accountability. The same testimony is still borne of the Nigerian President by many world leaders today.”
Adesina said, “It is curious that former Vice President Abubakar had been asked why he had not visited America for over a decade, something that had been a stubborn fact dogging his footsteps.”
He said instead of answering directly, Atiku begged the question, saying Buhari also had been disallowed from entering the same country for 15 years, before becoming president.
“We hereby make it resoundingly clear that what the former vice president said only exists in the realm of his imagination. If he has issues to settle with American authorities, he should do so, rather than clutch at a straw,” the statement added.
The former vice president, who has pronounced his intention to vie for the post of president in 2019, resigned from the ruling All Progressives Congress recently and is readying to return to his former party, Peoples Democratic Party. His exit is believed to have triggered a faceoff with Buhari, who has also hinted at seeking a second term, with spats like the latest one as part of the manifestations of the simmering chaos.
Atiku’s problem with the US began when a US Congressman Williams Jefferson was indicted and jailed in 2009 on a 16-count charge relating to his business dealings with Africa including a discovery of $90,000 in cash stashed in his freezer allegedly for the former vice president.
Though Atiku has denied any connection with the alleged fraudulent transaction, the US has not filed any charge against him. The former vice president has, however, not stepped his foot on US soil since the issue broke out.
On the other hand, Buhari has long been accused of holding extreme religious views, and the allegations seemed to get to a head in 2001, when he declared his commitment to the Islamic doctrine of Shari’a and, reportedly, called on Muslims to only vote for their fellow Muslims during elections.