Members of the ruling party and President Muhammadu Buhari’s die-hard supporters may be in for a disappointment as one of their greatest rivals— Atiku Abubakar— has been invited to speak at the forthcoming African Trade and Investment Global Summit (ATIGS) scheduled to take place in Washington DC, the United States capital.
The event starts on June 24 and ends on June 26.
Abubakar will speak alongside African Union Ambassador to the US, Arikana Chihombori-Quao, and former Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago to the US, Mexico and the Organisation of American States, Neil Parsan.
Deputy Senate President of Nigeria, Ike Ekweremadu, will also speak at the event, alongside Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah.
ATIGS is a biennial event that hosts African and international investors in Washington DC. Discussions at ATIGS shape the policies of African countries and their partners.
This year’s event will welcome the participation of prominent officials and distinguished personalities, accredited investment firms, high-level speakers, quality exhibitors, and delegation groups from over 70 countries.
There have been calls in recent times for Abubakar, the presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to visit the US if he is free of corruption.
But Abubakar has often responded that he has applied for US visa before but was refused by the US Embassy.
Abubakar is accused of being indicted by the United States of America’s Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in a report entitled, ‘Keeping Foreign Corruption Out of the US: Four Case Histories’.
Abubakar, who is expected to run for president in 2019, said in an interview with The Boss newspaper that he had made an attempt to visit the U.S. but was refused visa on administrative grounds.
“I applied, but wasn’t issued a visa. However, they did not decline me categorically either. They’ve only said my application is going through administrative process,” Abubakar had said.
He had pointed out that it was the sole prerogative of America to determine who they wanted in their country, adding that such administrative denials were not unique to him.
He stirred the hornet’s nest when he said Muhammadu Buhari could not also visit the US for 15 years because of his religious views.
This elicited reactions from Buhari’s supporters who saw Abubakar as a drowning man clinging to straw.
The US embassy could not be reached before the publication of this story.
However, this invitation may change the country’s political climate and may curry support for Abubakar, who, like Buhari, has contested the presidential seat many times.
“If he attends, that will be a big plus for him,” said a top PDP member, who did not want his name in print because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“He is a candidate to beat, and will gain more support once he steps his feet on US soil. But how are we sure it is not a bait to arrest him over there?” the source asked.
An APC stalwart in Abuja said he would remain calm now until Abubakar is found in the US.
“Who told you he will go?” he asked.
“He will send a representative as I am not sure the US will give him visa.”