Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former vice-president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday returned to the country after a short trip to London, the United Kingdom, to continue with his campaign schedule.
It is however not true that the United States government has issued him a visa, contrary to a report by an online newspaper, which went viral last night.
Atiku, who touched ground at exactly 5.45pm yesterday, is billed to visit Sokoto tomorrow in continuation of his campaign and is also expected to fulfill other campaign obligations as already planned for him by the presidential campaign council.
It was gathered that the story about Atiku being issued US visa is not true, although the process of issuance of the visa was still in the works as at last weekend.
An online newspaper had cited family sources as confirming that the former vice-president had left Nigeria for the UK, where he would spend some time before flying to the US.
The online newspaper also reported that former President Olusegun Obasanjo played a “critical” role in getting the American government to issue the visa to his former deputy with whom he was estranged for almost 15 years.
But sources – family and political – confirmed that the report was false and that contrary to the assertion that Atiku had just left for the UK from where he allegedly planned to go to the US, he only left the UK yesterday and flew straight into Abuja at 5.45pm.
Atiku, who is widely travelled, has not been to the US in 13 years, initially fueling speculations that he might be avoiding possible arrest or prosecution.
His political opponents had used his absence from the US not just to taunt but to discredit him.
His alleged row with the US authority began after the FBI investigated a bribery scandal involving William Jefferson, former US congressman, in 2004.
Atiku was accused of demanding a bribe of $500,000 to facilitate the award of contracts to two American telecommunication firms in Nigeria.
The FBI had searched his residence in the posh neighbourhood of Potomac, Maryland, but no money was found.
The investigators had videotaped Jefferson, who was the congressman representing Louisiana, receiving $100,000 in the $100 bill denomination, which he claimed was meant for Atiku, but the former vice-president has consistently denied the allegation.
Despite Atiku’s claim to innocence, the controversy raged.
Two months before he declared interest in the 2019 presidential race, Atiku granted an interview to Dele Mommodu, celebrity journalist, where he clarified his absence from the US.
On Thursday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had warned the US to be cautious in granting visa to the main opponent of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, a request the US Consulate replied to and said Atiku’s visa matter was purely confidential.