Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari was barred from the United States for 15 years due to his religious views.
Atiku was quoted as saying this during an interview with Dele Momodu, which was part of his weekly column titled, ‘Pendulum’, published in The Boss Magazine. Buhari had, at a seminar organized by the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria in August 2001, said, “God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country. I will continue to show openly and inside me, the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria.”
Atiku, who was one of the notable voices that opposed Buhari at the time, said Buhari was actually barred from traveling to the US for 15 years as a result of his position on the Sharia issue.
The former vice-president, who is the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was responding to a question on why he avoided traveling to the US.
Atiku stated, “It is the sole prerogative of America to determine who they want in their country or not. I’m not running away from America. I applied but wasn’t issued a visa. However, they did not decline me categorically.
“They’ve only said my application is going through an administrative process. This is not peculiar to me. For about 15 years, Buhari could not enter America on account of religious considerations.
“The current Indian Prime Minister, Modi, suffered the same fate for years. Today, he is being accorded a red carpet treatment in America. I fly to different parts of the world, including Europe. If America wanted me, it would be so easy for them to reach out to their allies…”
Also, Atiku, who recently resigned as a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), boasted that he would defeat Buhari should the latter contest against him in the 2019 presidential election.
He said there currently existed in the country a widespread disenchantment with the Buhari government and that he (Atiku) would defeat him in the election.
He added, “I will definitely beat him this time. He has wasted a lot of his massive goodwill. A lot of people are disgruntled but they are keeping quiet and lying low. Our youths are suffering terribly. They are even now being sold into slavery.
“Everyone knows my track record of inviting and attracting a good team and giving them the opportunity to work professionally. Nigerians are tired of leaders who cannot think big and work big.”
While insisting that he hadn’t yet joined any political party, Atiku stated that the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party were mounting pressure on him to join the party.
He said the only way the PDP would be able to restore its faded glory was to pick a formidable candidate.
“Nothing is absolutely certain in this life, but the PDP needs a candidate with the brightest chance and that can only come from someone who has major experience, exposure, and knowledge about running an economy; who is a nationalist and not a sectional and whose brand cannot be intimidated in any way by that of the current President.
“If the PDP picks a weak candidate, then the party is doomed. Some of those, whose names are being touted and bandied about, have not grown beyond their immediate domains,” he added.
The former vice-president said Buhari had become a dictator of sorts in the APC such that nothing could be done without his permission, arguing that that was why the party had failed to progress in the last two years.
He said he had advised the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, to make some changes, claiming that the APC chairman continually refused to take action.
Atiku added, “After Buhari won the election, he was no longer interested in the party that made him President. Every activity stopped and not even the party chairman, Chief John Oyegun, could take any decision.
“I called Chief Oyegun a few times to tell him that our party was dying slowly but he told me that he would not do anything unless he got a clearance from the President.
“At a stage, I gathered about 18 prominent members and began to meet in the hope that we can re-energize party activities, but some people lied to the President that I wanted to use the forum to launch my presidential campaign.
“That forum became simply dead on arrival. No BoT (Board of Trustees), no NEC (National Executive Committee) meetings, as stipulated in our constitution.
“The party became a one-man property. Everyone grumbles behind the President but they are too timid to raise a voice against the illegalities being perpetuated. I should be bold enough to know what I want and can do so at my age. So, I decided to leave.”
But the Presidency, in its reaction on Saturday, described the claim by Atiku that Buhari could not enter the US for 15 years as a “fictive concoction.”
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said this in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja.
Adesina said it was mind-boggling that a person of Atiku’s caliber, who should know the truth, was spreading the lies.
The statement read, “This fictive concoction, being spread as truth, is mind-boggling, coming from a former number two man of Nigeria, who should know the truth.
“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.
“It is curious that former VP Abubakar had been asked why he had not visited America for over a decade, something that had been a stubborn fact dogging his footsteps. Instead of answering directly, he 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 the American authorities, he should do so, rather than clutch at a straw.”