BY SAHARAREPORTERS, NEW YORK
A new firefight has broken out in the All Progressives Congress (APC), as Kaduna State Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai late on Tuesday challenged former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, to clean up his corruption credentials. The governor was responding in a statement to claims made by Alhaji Atiku in an interview with Zero Tolerance, reproduced today by Premium Times.
The governor asserted that, contrary to the assertions of Atiku who said he attempted to offer him Transcorp shares during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, he had nothing to do with the incorporation of Transcorp.
“Those that established that company and fronted it like Festus Odimegwu, Tony Elumelu, Otunba Lawal Solarin and Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke are still around and alive,” the former Minister said. “As such I could not have and did not offer Alhaji Atiku any shares in Transcorp. I declined the shares that were offered to me. Having done that, how could I have offered anyone shares?”
On the subject, the governor said he actually advised President Obasanjo, Alhaji Atiku and then Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at that time not to accept the shares that were then being offered by the promoters of Transcorp.
It is the first time it is becoming public knowledge that Okonjo-Iweala, who has always distanced herself from the corruption and political incest of the Obasanjo days, also owns shares in Transcorp.
“My counsel to them was based on the grounds that they would face conflicts of interest when Transcorp bids for privatization assets,” El-Rufai said. “At the time Alhaji Atiku and Ngozi were chair and vice-chair of the National Council on Privatization, and were particularly directly involved in approving the sales of state-owned enterprises and assets.”
With reference to the matter of the demand by then Senators Ibrahim Mantu and Jonathan Zwingina to extort N50 million from him in exchange for Ministerial clearance by the Senate, the governor said it was too late to pretend that it never happened.
Asked in the interview about having been the arrow-head of that bribe scandal, Atiku had stated that El-Rufai must have misconstrued the events. “He actually ran to me to say that he was denied confirmation by the Senate,” he told Premium Times. “Of course, I called Mantu and others and confronted them, and they admitted that yes they denied him because they do not see him as a Minister. It is also on record, because I controlled the campaign funds, every Senator benefitted from those funds; and El-Rufai now went and said those campaign funds were meant to be a bribe…”
Responding, Governor El-Rufai said all Atiku has just done is confirm that he did pay the Senators, as he revealed in Page 139 of his 2013 book, The Accidental Public Servant.
He recalled that when the book was published, Atiku unleashed his media team in a campaign of vilification.
“Despite the viciousness of the attacks, they did not contest or explain away his shenanigans that were detailed in the book, from the Ericsson maneuver to the Abuja water treatment plant contract and his obsession with marabouts and their assurances of the political big prize. He might also consider a full reckoning for what he and his acolytes did with public funds in the PTDF imbroglio, rather than indulging the usual boldface of the Nigerian big man.”
Affirming that he is constrained to provide a response to the fake news and irresponsible revision of recent history by Alhaji Atiku, the governor characterized the former Vice-President as having a record of spewing outright lies and innuendo against him.
“As we struggle to build a law-abiding society and secure progressive outcomes for our people, we cannot allow the triumph on these shores of those who will have us move to a post-factual world,” he declared. “Not even from a man as practiced as Alhaji Atiku is in the dark arts of damaging other people through a campaign of lies from him and his media machine.”
Of their time in the Obasanjo administration, he said his role and oath of office as a federal public servant appropriately stood with the Federal Republic of Nigeria, not the big men whose conduct he was privileged to witness at close quarters.
“People like Alhaji Atiku think that loyalty to them should be the goal of a public officer and that it should trump the oath of allegiance to the country.”
He said Atiku was already running for 2019 and thinks that he can make people such as El-Rufai collateral damage in his attempt to rejuvenate his image.
“This obsession for power inclined him to support the rebellion against the party that manifested in the National Assembly, and is continuing with obvious disrespect for the incumbent president,” the governor stated. “Everyone knows that I support and will continue to work for the success of President Muhammadu Buhari as he leads our country through tough times.”
El-Rufai further stated that like everyone else, Atiku is entitled to rehabilitation, a process that often requires coming clean with the people.
“Can Alhaji Atiku explain the findings in the report of the United States Senate Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations which detailed a pattern of wire transfers of more than USD 40m from offshore companies like Siemens into bank accounts controlled by him and one of his wives?” he asked. “The report detailing the US Senate findings is online, as one of four case histories of foreign corruption in the USA.”
On the subject of Atiku’s relationship with the United States, Zero Tolerance had recalled that during its last interview with Obasanjo, the former president stated that Atiku was corrupt and that there is a subsisting travel restriction on him by the United States.
Atiku told Premium Times that he had indeed visited the United States since leaving office, to visit his family, but that they have relocated.
Asked the last time he made such a visit, he said: “The reason why I always visited the US was because of my wife. She is no more in the US. So I don’t have a compelling reason to visit the US now.”
“Alhaji Atiku should tell a better tale of why he is avoiding the United States of America,” El-Rufai said, refusing to buy that account. “Someone as obsessed with Nigeria’s presidency as he is, should clear up such matters conclusively. We wait to see how well he does with that.”