By Jide Afolabi, Lagos
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate in the February 2019 Presidential election in Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has hired American lobbyists to help him in his legal challenge and convince the government and people of the United States to recognise him as the ‘authentic President of Nigeria’, CityMirrorNews has unraveled.
The former vice president has enlisting the assistance of two high-powered Washington, D.C. lawyers to carry out this task.
After the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was declared winner, Atiku filed petitions challenging the election results due to allegations of ‘voting irregularities and violence.’
According to the Centre for Responsive Politics, “Abubakar has ties to those in Trump’s orbit, having hired political consultants like Riva Levinson, who worked with Paul Manafort, and Brian Ballard, a major Trump fundraiser.”
Atiku like many other foreign leaders looking to bolster their standing with Trump, stayed at the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C.
CityMirrorNews discovered an earlier contract between Atiku and John Barnett registered in February where the presidential candidate offered to pay the lobbyist $150,000 to facilitate a trip to Washington DC, the US capital.
Atiku joins opposition politicians like Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó in turning to lobbyists to garner American support. According to a FARA filings accessed using the Center for Responsive Politics’ Foreign Lobby Watch, on March 24, former Justice Department official Bruce Fein and his firm Fein & DelValle PLLC registered as foreign agents on Atiku’s behalf with registration number 6654.
According to the Centre, “The agreement notes that Lloyd Ukwu, who is described as “a Nigerian barrister and trusted confidant [of Abubakar],” is assisting “in the operations of the U.S. Situation Room.” Ukwu is a critic of Buhari and is the founder of a group called We the People of Nigeria which claims to be an advocate for “free and fair elections.” Ukwu recently led a delegation to meet with a variety of government officials in the State Department, Congress and “delivered a letter to the [acting] United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Jonathan Cohen, in New York to ensure the success of the Nigerian elections.”
“According to the filing, Fein will be paid $30,000 over a 90-day contract to provide “legal, consultancy and public advocacy services to encourage Congress and the Executive” to wait on recognizing a winner of the Nigerian election until after the legal challenge is “impartially and independently resolved.”
In another filing which lays out how the influence campaign will be conducted, the lobbyists will meet with members of Congress and their staff to persuade them to pass resolutions in the House and Senate “to forebear from a final declaration and recognition of a winner” until after Atiku’s appeals are decided fairly and independently. Also, the firm will “draft articles and op-ed pieces” about the issues surrounding the Nigerian election and appear on television and other media programs.
It added that, “In the contract, Fein’s firm is explicit in promising to “obtain official recognition that you are the authentic President of Nigeria based on an accurate counting of legal ballots.” The goal of the effort is straightforwardly described as “to convince the United States that your presidency would open a fresh and new chapter in Nigerian politics.
“The filing also asserts that the lobbying effort will demonstrate that an Abubakar presidency is “the will of the People.” It warns that if Abubakar is denied a victory, problems like genocide, poverty, corruption and strife will “undoubtedly continue.” Abubakar himself has a rocky legal history.
A Senate subcommittee report on foreign corruption cited Atiku Abubakar as a case study regarding his transfer of millions of dollars into the U.S. through shell companies.
In 2009, the FBI alleged that Abubakar demanded bribes from former Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who was convicted of corruption charges. At one point, Jefferson stored $90,000 in cash for Atiku Abubakar in his freezer.
Meanwhile, Atiku has dismissed the allegations. Reacting through his spokesman, Paul Ibe, denied the reports and described them as “total fabrication” and “fake news” by the All Progressives Congress, which it alleged to have lying as its “only bragging rights of competence.”
“Since Atiku resisted pressure not to go to court, the APC has been behaving like a cat on hot bricks because the outcome of the 2019 elections has exposed and shattered the facade of their dubious integrity,” Ibe said in the statement. “The APC are behaving nervously like a thief living under the fear of being exposed and shamed; they are now using fake news against Atiku instead of focusing on defending themselves in the court.”
He added that, “For a party that has broken the worst record in election rigging, the APC doesn’t have any iota of integrity to be taken seriously by anybody. Atiku’s court case has become their biggest burden because it exposes their integrity as a sham, and instead of defending their stolen mandate in court, they are now using fake news to divert public attention from the historic electoral heist they have committed against Nigerians.
“No amount of diversionary propaganda and fake news campaign by APC will stop Atiku Abubakar from continuing the court action he started to reclaim the stolen mandate.”
It is not yet clear how the Federal government led APC would handle the situation.
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