Welby‘s Visit to Atiku Generates Debate

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Justin Welby and Atiku

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The age-long friend and admirer of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, saturday paid an incredible visit to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in his Abuja home.

The visit which took many by surprise was interpreted by many to imply that the former vice-president who emerged as the PDP presidential flag bearer in Port Harcourt last Saturday might be securing international support for his ambition.

Welby who was in Nigeria saturday for an inter-faith dialogue, was accompanied to the house of Atiku by the outgoing British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright.

Both Welby and Arkwright, were received by Atiku and the National Chairman of PDP, Uche Secondus as well as the Director-General of Atiku Campaign Organisation, Gbenga Daniel.

Later in the night, Welby along with the Sultan of Sokoto and other religious leaders were hosted to a dinner by Buhari in the Presidential Villa.

Welby’s visit to Atiku, Buhari’s main challenger at the forthcoming presidential poll, however, generated interest in view of his relationship with latter which spanned decades, beginning from the time the archbishop lived and served in Nigeria as an Executive Director of the French oil corporation, Elf Aquitaine, in the 1970s when the Buhari was Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum.

In continuation of the age-long relationship, Welby has always visited Buhari in the Nigeria House anytime the Nigerian president is in London.

In May 2016, for instance, when the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, was caught on camera, describing Nigeria as one of the “fantastically corrupt” countries in the presence of the Queen Elizabeth II of England, Welby rose in Buhari’s defence, saying, “but this particular president is not corrupt. He’s trying very hard.”

It was against this background of his expected continuous support for Buhari, that his visit to the president’s major opponent at the February 16, 2019 presidential poll was not expected yesterday.