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MAGNUS ONYIBE

Magnus Onyibe is an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Massachusetts, USA and a former cabinet member of Delta state government. Since the return to multi-party democracy in Nigeria over 21 years ago, Onyibe has written and published over 200 opinion pieces on the Nigerian economy, business, politics, leadership, governance and foreign relations issues.

The title of this essay is elicited by the fact that the predilection of the All Progressive Congress, APC about the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar seems to be whether he has a valid visiting visa to the USA.

Ideally, since the continued occupancy of Aso Rock villa seat of power by president Muhammadu Buhari and the APC after May 29th 2019 is being challenged by Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, what should have been agitating the minds of members of APC leadership is whether the PDP’s flag bearer has the capacity to upturn the proverbial Applecart. Well Atiku Abubakar has been known to have literarily picked up chestnuts from hot fire without getting burnt.So planning to snatch the leadership of Nigeria from the ruling party with a view to pulling back our country from the brinks is not an anathema. Indeed, Atiku Abubakar has a proven track record of literarily turning straw to gold. And thats evidenced by the fact that he rose from being a little orphan boy by sheer dint of hard work and enterprise to become one of the richest men in Nigeria as well as attain the position of Vice President of our country-1999/2007.

As Vice President in charge of the economy during ex president Olusegun Obasanjo, OBJ’s era , he deployed his business acumen effectively and achieved unprecedented socioeconomic reforms particularly with respect to abolishing bureaucratic red tap and unbundling govt agencies for private sector involvement.

The ruling party seems also not to be raising eyebrows about whether Atiku is grounded politically.

That’s perhaps because party members are aware that he is in control of the PDM -a formidable grassroots political machinery birthed by Shehu Musa Yar’Adua of blessed memory which has unsurpassed footprints all over Nigeria. The platform facilitated his emergence as the running mate to Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 and enabled him become northern consensus candidate in 2011-ahead of the late northern leadership icon, Adamu Ciroma and former military president lbrahim Babangida and security intelligence guru, Aliyu Gasau.

Similarly, the APC leadership don’t appear to be worried about whether Atiku Abubakar has the ability to unify Nigeria which is currently polarized along ethic and religious lines. Undoubtedly, the PDP flag bearer has proven capacity to be the glue that would hold Nigeria together in the spirit of One nation, one Destiny, owing to the fact that he has filial relationships with the three major ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. The assertion above is justified by the fact that Atiku Abubakar is an Hausa/Fulani man married to a Yoruba woman, Titi and an lgbo lady, Jenifer.

As a man with roots in Hausa, Yoruba and lgbo tribes, the three main ethnic groups which form the tripod on which Nigeria stands, no tribe or clan would be unduly favored or left behind under his watch.

It also means that the likelihood of treating the ethnic groups that make up our country unequally, which is the hallmark of the current administration, resulting in the agitation for secession by the marginalized easterners , even as the favored northerners are threatening to expel the aggrieved, would be a thing of the past.

In fact, its President Buhari’s Presidential running mate in 2011, pastor Bakare of Later Rain Assembly,  who put it best when he candidly acknowledged the Nigerian-ness of Atiku Abubakar by referring to him as a WAZOBIA-an acronym formed with the first two letters in the word COME translated from the three major dialects Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo spoken in Nigeria.

The WAZOBIA tag simply affirms  the fact that Atiku is at home with the multifarious Nigerian cultures and traditions which is a huge political asset that he is going to be harnessing in the next few days and months.

Armed with such awesome political goodwill, leadership ability and economic management prowess , which the present leadership of our country seem to be lacking, it’s not surprising that the ruling APC’s main and probably only grouse against the PDP presidential candidate appears to be that he doesn’t posses a valid visiting visa to the USA now.

I may be wrong, but l suspect that having carried out a Strength Weakness, Opportunity and Threat, SWOT analysis of the main opposition party candidate, and recognizing his intimidating records, the ruling party might have made a decision to play dirty.  Hence they appear to be embarking on smear campaign aimed at maligning him with falsehood.

It is note worthy and curious that when the Wazirin Adamawa (Atiku Abubakar’s chieftaincy title by which he is fondly referred to by his supporters ) was a member of the current ruling party, APC and a major source of funding for them prior to 2015, he wasn’t tagged corrupt.

But the moment he parted ways and pitched his tent with the main opposition party, PDP with the strong intention of seeking the presidency of Nigeria by literally throwing his hat into the ring for the contest , tarring him with the brush of corruption became a priority to the ruling party’s hatchet men.

The APC must be prepared to do better than that because Nigerian voters are currently more discerning and could easily decipher such hypocrisy and subterfuge.

In my considered opinion , after the ruling party might have conducted SWOT analysis of the opposition party candidate and found no ready made vulnerability to assail him with, it resorted to daring him to visit the USA which is a veiled way of misleading the electorate into thinking that Atiku Abubakar committed a crime in that country hence he can not do so.

My research into the records for known criminals in the USA does not reveal indictment or conviction of Atiku Abubakar. So, obviously that is not the reason that the PDP presidential candidate may not be visiting the USA now .

In my view, touting the notion that not having a valid USA visa by the former Vice President is evidence  that he has a criminal record in the USA is nothing but a ruse concocted to tarnish his image with the intent to handicap him as a presidential candidate.

Unless Nigerians are willing to unwittingly be hoodwinked by Atiku Abubakar’s traducers and slavishly become susceptible to preconceived intention to deceive them into believing that Atiku Abubakar is corrupt , the least any fair minded patriot could do is conduct a simple enquiry about the PDP candidate for president at any USA consulate or visit their website .

I have personally done so and l can confirm that the lie that it is due to a conviction for the crime of corruption that Atiku Abubakar does not have a current visa to the USA is unsubstantiated and without merit.

The truth is that the criteria for issuing visa to any individual by all the countries in the world is subjective as opposed to being objective. Any one who has been denied visa should read the accompanying letter. It states the conditions for appeal and makes clear that visa issuance is at the discretion of the consular officer.

If a visa is issued and withdrawn or not renewed, response to enquiries in the embassy would be that the visa request is under ‘administrative considerations ’ which is euphemism for bureaucracy.

It would interest Nigerians to know that a former Nigerian President has in the past been denied USA visa for similar ‘administrative’ reasons.

He had to seek a waiver before it was granted after some time.There are also serving Nigerian state governors who can’t travel to the USA because their visas are suspended or withdrawn for  ‘administrative considerations ‘.

However, it is worth emphasizing that suspension or withdrawal of USA visa to some high profile Nigerians does not necessarily mean that they are corrupt or guilty of criminality. Let me also hasten to add that the denial of USA visa also does not apply only to those serving in govt or in positions of public trust.

Nigerian captains of industry both in oil/gas as well as aviation sectors have also had or are currently having their visas suspended and upon enquiry the excuse usually given is that the visa is under ‘administrative considerations ’.

Even the current Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi does not presently carry a USA visa in his passport. The simple reason would be that his policies and actions when he was governor of Gujarat was not in sync with United States of America’s human and interfaith relationship standards.

What should also be clear to all is that Political leanings or persuasions of public officials play vital roles in determining eligibility for USA visa.

In the light of the foregoing , it appears to me that the ruling party members allegation of corruption charges against Atiku Abubakar as the reason for his not visiting the USA gained currency simply because some Nigerians are too lazy to seek the truth which they can have access to by clicking on a button in their computers or smart phones to conduct a simple search that would reveal the truth to them.

That’s why, by and large, there are Nigerians who have failed to find out the truth by themselves and instead they have remained bellicose about an allegation which competent courts of law in Nigeria and the USA have adjudicated upon and found their target/victim Atiku Abubakar to be guiltless of the wicked charges.

Perhaps, to help such people know the truth and put the accusers of the PDP presidential candidate to shame and silence them permanently, the Atiku presidential campaign organization, might have authorized the release of the report of the routine investigation carried out on him in the USA.

The document which contains the findings and conclusions on an investigation carried out by the USA congress using four African countries as case study is now trending in the social media.

It is hoped that since the conclusions reached by the investigators are by far different from the fake news which his antagonists have been peddling , the average Nigerian voter would challenge Atiku’s adversaries to present evidence to support their allegations of corruption against him or apologize to him.

Hopefully, such initiative would result in the demystification and exposition of the wicked antics of Atiku Abubakar’s traducers.

as voters who are now more savvy, can easily sift the seed from the chaff, separate propagandas from the truth and distinguish mere fantasy from reality before making the decision on who to lead them from May 2019.

Truth be told , mudslinging is associated with politicians and the political season is upon us.

As such, the current muckraking is not strange to some of us.

It may be recalled that even president Buhari and First Lady Aisha had in the past been victims of such political chicanery.

In the run up to the 2015 presidential election, and before he was sworn into office in May 2015, it was alleged that then candidate Buhari would not be granted visa to the USA. But he was hosted by assortment of sociopolitical groups in the USA (before he was sworn into office on May 29,2015) where he reportedly made the now infamous comment about favoring the 97% who voted for him compared to the 5% who did not.

The First Lady Aisha was also rumored to have been barred from visiting the USA, but she has done so a couple of times in the company of her husband even as recently as last September when she attended the United Nations, UN general assembly meetings in New York with her husband.

So unsurprisingly , as events leading to 2019 elections unfold , politicians have uncannily made the possession of USA visa a prerequisite for Nigerian presidency. And that should not be the case. More so because the current USA president, Donald Trump’s USA does not have same foreign policy focus or world view as Bill Clinton, George W Bush or Barack Obama. In these days of Trumpism defined by ‘America First’ doctrine, the USA now operates on the principle of what the countries of the world can do for America not what America can do for them. Obviously, Trump is tilting more towards the spirit and letter in the second stanza of one of the most charismatic USA  president, John F Kennedy’s famous speech in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America can do for you, but what we can do together for the freedom of mankind”.

I would even argue further that Trump’s version of the JF Kennedy speech would be: “My fellow citizens of the world ask not what America can do for you but What You Can Do For America”. That would be in consonance with Trump’s ‘America First’ mantra which is in contrast with Barack Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’ slogan,

The accentuated financial value in the current USA foreign policy is underscored by the fact that the country that Trump visited first after he was sworn into office as president was Saudi Arabia-a country that is purchasing a whooping $110 billion worth of arms and aircrafts from the USA. It’s also not a coincidence that Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari is the first leader of an African country to be hosted in the White House by president Trump.

Presumably, the estimated $500m worth of super Tucano aircrafts and other armaments purchased by Nigeria from the USA to combat terrorism(which by the way was done without first getting parliamentary approval) must have motivated the invitation of President Buhari to the White House.

What the scenario above reveals is that the era of racing to the White House, USA seat of power, with cap in hand to seek favors without putting something on the table for the USA is past. That’s basically because president Trump seems to be demonstrating that he is a businessman before a statesman and the ideology is embedded in his ‘America First’ agenda just as the businessman approach/attitude is reflected in his book, ‘The Art of A Deal’.

Another intrinsic value to be unraveled as we race towards the  February 16, 2019 date of Nigeria’s presidential elections, is that voters  are now more wary of the antics of unscrupulous politicians who would stop at nothing to confuse and deceive them in the bid to win their votes . In other words,Nigerians are now taking what is being spewed into the public arena in this season of politicking with a pinch of salt.

Having set the records straight by clarifying that Atiku Abubakar has been a victim of wicked propaganda by his political opponents, Nigerians should be prepared to seek and get answers to what the presidential candidates would do differently to steer the ship of state from the direction of peril that it currently tends to be  facing or how the present state of the economy and politics now on  slippery slope can be arrested or reversed.

Apparently, the PDP presidential candidate has a written agenda (l suspect that the APC one may be in the works) and it is titled Atiku’s Agenda for Nigeria (Policy Document) and it goes thus:

  1. My administration would consider concessioning to private sector segments of the national grid under some form of PPP over a period of time.
  2. We shall increase power generation by ensuring full participation of private sector. We shall issue licences to enable the private sector invest in mini-grid capabilities to service local communities or local govts, states, regions or target industrial clusters.
  3. Our electricity generation plan shall be diversified to include clean energy – hydro, solar and nuclear – in addition to natural gas. As you may be aware, the transmission infrastructure of the power sector is ageing and in dire need of investment.
  4. On security, we must understand the root causes of the security challenges in the North. The full economic potentials of the region remain undeveloped resulting in high rates of youth unemployment, high levels of poverty and deprivation and income inequality.
  5. Access to education is more restricted, resulting in more out of school children in the North than anywhere else in Nigeria. Unless these issues are tackled, youth restiveness, sectarian violence and other acts of insurgency and terrorism shall continue to bedevil the region.
  6. My first critical policy priority therefore is to support the northern states in rebuilding their economies and opening up economic opportunities for their citizens. This will reduce frustration and alienation and minimize grievances.
  1. We shall same time undertake a comprehensive review of our security architecture and enhance its preparedness to meet challenges. As part of the review we shall commence the gradual process of instituting state police & community policing in line with principle of restructuring.
  2. On jobs, as long as growth of the economy is driven by the oil sector, job creation is bound to suffer. To tackle the job and poverty challenges bedeviling the economy, we shall focus on four areas.
  3. First, we shall stimulate the growth of those economic sectors which are considered the domain of the poor – i.e Agriculture and Micro & Small Enterprises.
  4. For the MSE sector, we shall set up a Venture Capital Fund to enhance their access to finance and hence their ability to grow and employ more hands.
  5. Second, we shall set up a National Innovation Fund to support budding entrepreneurs, especially young men and women with brilliant ideas.
  1. Thirdly, we shall promote a Special Apprenticeship Programme that will support the training of up to 1,000,000 youth (including the NYSC) each year in diverse fields, by local master crafts persons. While they undergo the training, we shall match them with potential employers.
  2. Fourth area of focus is the aggressive promotion of Nigeria as Africa’s leading business process outsourcing destination with potential to create two million direct and indirect jobs.
  3. Our goal is to ensure that Nigeria fully explores the vast opportunities that abound in the global market for IT and IT-enabled services to create quality jobs for our youth.
  4. Also, to lift our people out of poverty, we shall improve their access to basic services including education, health, electricity and water – by making these services not only available but affordable.
  5. On currency, the only way the Naira will be more valuable is to apply a diversified structure for our economy. This way, our economy will become more productive. We are committed to revamping the non-oil sector through increased private sector investments.
  6. We shall diversify our export base by providing export expansion incentives to manufacturers.

Increasing our exports means increased foreign exchange earnings and stronger currency,”

The agenda is currently trending online.

From the Atiku Abubakar presentation above, the president-in-waiting (as OBJ famously referred to him when the ex president recently hosted the PDP presidential flag bearer in his country home in Abeokuta) is obviously prepared for the job.

And that should be expected as he has been on the journey to the presidency since becoming Vice President in 1999.

Nevertheless, given what happened before and after the 2015 presidential campaigns when the then main opposition party, APC made wonderful and fantastic electoral promises prior to the election and after winning and taking control of Aso Rock villa, denied making the mouth watering and eyes popping promises, voters  are now more circumspect.

The denial of the lofty campaign promises by APC was a big blow to the electorate and a shocker that threw Nigerians into despondency.  The unfulfilled promises that resonated with the masses are: reducing fuel pump price to N40 per liter (now N145); scrapping of fuel subsidy (now in excess of N1 trillion annually ); bringing down foreign exchange rate to $1 to N1 (from N160-190, now N360); ending religious insurgency driven then by Boko Haram (terrorism is still raging even after another $1b was set aside to tackle it and $500 used to purchase combat helicopters), plus emergence of a new strain of insecurity manifesting as herdsmen killings; as well as putting an end to epileptic electricity power supply. Indeed, most Nigerians believe that power outage is more rampant today than 3 years ago.

As the situation of things in respect of the existential challenges afflicting Nigerians highlighted above and which the APC promised to reverse, appear to be getting worse after three and half years of taking charge of governance at the Centre, the electorate would not be out of order if they distrust the ruling party and exhibit the attitude of a bride who is brokenhearted and quits the marriage after the bridegroom failed to fulfill pre-marriage promises.

Following the disappointments suffered by Nigerian voters and reflected by the angst of the public against the govt in power during the one year anniversary of this administration, as it became clear that the promises made pre-election were being denied post-election , l wrote an article published widely in traditional and social media titled “Buhari Campaigned in Poetry, 12 Months On, He Is Ruling in Prose”

To avoid a repeat of such betrayal of the trust of voters, it is critically imperative that before the campaign for February 16, 2019 presidential election commences officially, Nigerians should demand that the candidates put their imprimatur on their campaign messages. For instance, that can be done by stating ‘l’m Atiku Abubakar and l endorse this message’.

By so doing Nigerian voters would be protecting themselves from being deceived a second time by wily campaigners who would deny their promises after winning and mounting the throne of leadership on the basis of their promises.

For the purpose of introducing fidelity into the political campaign promises, the electorate must demand that a safeguard such as authentic endorsement of campaign messages by the candidate and party is put in place. That would help ensure that the promises made, pre-election are make good,  post-election.

Without further equivocation, the issue in 2019 general elections should not be whether a candidate for public office in Nigeria has a valid USA visa or not. But it should be on whether the aspirant has socioeconomic management and leadership qualities and abilities that would take our country to the next level of progress and prosperity.

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