•Declares: ‘I have never been barred from entering America’
•Ex-VP on why he can’t enter USA
•Vows to beat President in 2019
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday told ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar to go and deal with whatever issues he has with the United States of America (USA) instead of looking for a straw to clutch at.
He dismissed as a fiction, claim by Atiku that he (Buhari) was barred from entering the USA for 15 years on account of his religious views.
Atiku had admitted in an interview with The Boss newspaper published yesterday that he has been unable to visit the United States of America (USA) in the last few years owing to what he termed administrative denials.
He said it was wrong therefore to suggest that he was avoiding a trip to America or afraid of an arrest warrant against him in the US.
He then cited President Buhari, who according to him, was also denied entry into the US for 15 years on account of strong reservations by the White House about his religious views.
The President did not take kindly to the statement.
His Special Adviser of Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina branded the Atiku allegation as “a fictive concoction being passed off as truth.”
He said: “”This fictive concoction being passed off 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 American authorities, he should do so, rather than clutch at a straw.”
Atiku, explaining his own situation said: “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. It is the sole prerogative of America to determine who they want in their country or not. I’m not running away from America.”
Speculations about Atiku’s run in with the U.S. authorities stemmed from a broadband contract awarded to iGate, an America company which Williams Jefferson, then U.S. federal lawmaker from Louisiana, had interest in.
Jefferson was jailed in the US for his involvement in the deal in which cash was said to have changed hands.
The former Congressman revealed in a secretly recorded conversation with the FBI that Atiku stood to benefit up to $500,000 for helping influence the broadband deal in Nigeria at the time.
Jefferson subsequently lost his seat in the Congress but Atiku was never prosecuted in Nigeria and there is no record that he was indicted in the U.S over the case.
Responding to the perception he is a corrupt politician, Atiku said: “I have challenged anyone, anywhere, who has any evidence of corruption against me to come forward.
“I’m sure they would have combed everywhere trying to find anything incriminating against me but they have not found it.”
On his presidential ambition in 2019, Atiku who recently resigned from the All Progressives Congress (APC) boasted that he would easily defeat President Muhammadu Buhari should he contest against him in 2019.
“I will beat him this time. He has wasted a lot of his massive goodwill.
“A lot of people are disgruntled but keeping quiet and lying low. Our youths are suffering terribly and now they are being sold into slavery.”