Arsonists set VP, Atiku's property ablaze
By Jide Ajani, Umar Yusuf, Rotimi Ajayi, Charles Ozoemena & Emma Aziken
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
* As PDP mediates Obasanjo-Atiku feud
YOLA - PEOPLE sus-pected to be arsonists have set on fire the ABTI Academy Complex housing the ABTI/American University and ABTI Ventures, both in Yola and believed to be owned by Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. The police say they have arrested five persons in connection with the attack.
However, despite the cold war between President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku, both men were at their duty posts yesterday just 24 hours after the President said on television that his deputy had failed to prove his loyalty to him (Obasanjo) when challenged to do so.
However, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) is to wade into the face-off between President Obasanjo and the Vice President Atiku. National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr John Odey, told reporters last night that the party could not afford to allow the face-off between the two leaders of the party to degenerate.
Mr Odey said the party was conscious of the dangers the continued altercation between the two leaders could cause to the party.
The PDP, he said, would organise a frank talk between the two leaders to enhance the image of the party. He, however, said there was no division within the party.
The opposition ANPP, reacting to the face-off, said God was at work, sending confusion into their midst.
Foot soldiers on both sides, appeared yesterday to be spoiling for a show down, while outspoken Senator Ibrahim Kuta asked Vice President Atiku and presidential aspirant, General Ibrahim Babangida, to join forces to confront the president.
The police in Adamawa later said not much damage was done by the arsonists before the fire was put off.
The out-going Police Commissioner, Alhaji Abubakar Hafiz Ringing, told reporters in Yola that a report was lodged with the police over the incident and security operatives were drafted to the two business places leading to the arrest of the five suspects.
Security operatives drafted to the two places recovered some quantity of petrol in polythene bags abandoned by the arsonists. He ruled out political motive. The Police Commissioner confirmed that security had been beefed up around all property owned by the Vice President.
Foot soldiers at work
The face-off between President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar is set to enter another level as foot soldiers on both side of the divide are spoiling for a showdown, Vanguard can reveal authoritatively.
In separate interviews last night, aides to both President Obasanjo and Vice President Abubakar maintained that the present face-off between their bosses might enter another level soon as a source in the Presidency said the statement made by President Obasanjo during his monthly media chat on Sunday was as a result of months of studied silence on the issue of disloyalty.
In fact, Vanguard was informed for quite a while: "President Obasanjo had been the one insisting that we should thread softly on issues concerning his deputy. He had been the one restraining most of us not to open up. But when you look at the latest statements credited to the Vice President and for which he had not denied, you can then begin to imagine what his boss, President Obasanjo had been going through all along.
"There was the issue of the presidential primaries of 2003 and which people were already beginning to overlook. But the truth of the matter is that when you look at recent statements credited to the Vice President, it would be very clear that what has been going on is a matter of clear and manifest disloyalty."
However, a former aide to Vice President Abubakar told Vanguard: "What we have decided to do is to ensure that as much as possible we do not get involved in any form of media battle.
Obasanjo, Atiku at work yesterday
In spite of the estranged relationship between President Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku, both of them were at their duty posts yesterday, but with an unusual calm at the State House. Both the president?s side and that of his deputy were very calm.

However, their aides and some staff of the State House were seen discussing in low tunes the unfolding drama and the possible consequences of the quarrel between the most visible personalities in Nigeria?s seat of power.
While the President attended to a delegation from Kwara that came to the State House with the Zimbabwean white farmers as well as received a delegation from the United States-based International Fertilizer Development Corporation, the Vice President who arrived Abuja from Yola, Sunday evening, opened the Stakeholders? Forum on Technological Adaptation for Processing of Sesame Seed Products in Nigeria. He also received the Prime Minister of Sao Tome and Principe.
Attempt by newsmen to get a possible reaction of the Vice President on the raid on his house in Maryland, United States by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) proved difficult. His Chief Press Secretary, Mohammed Yakub, told Vanguard that the case had become a diplomatic affair and so no comment "until the report of the investigation comes out"
ANPP says it is an act of God
The All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) has described the discordant tunes between President Obasanjo and Vice-President Atiku on their relationship as a confusion wrought by God for the People?s Democratic Party?s (PDP) dishonesty on the 2003 elections.
Responding to the conflicting positions of the nation?s top two political office holders on the bond between the two of them, Alhaji Ibrahim Modibo, national publicity secretary of the ANPP said what was happening was bound to happen to those who stole the mandate of the people.
"It is an act of God, one after the other PDP is daily on the verge of total collapse. You know when people steal other people?s victory, so it is an act of God bringing confusion, bringing crisis and also trying to bring an atmosphere of total disharmony and collapse of the party," Alhaji Modibo said.
Noting that the emerging crisis in the administration signalled the death of the ruling party, Alhaji Modibo said: "I want to assure all that PDP is on its death bed. What is happening is nothing surprising because we knew it was bound to happen. I want to suggest to President Obasanjo that he should quickly handover to General Buhari because he did not win the 2003 election."
Senator Kuta wants IBB, Atiku to confront OBJ
Senators yesterday evaded comments on the altercation between President Obasanjo and Vice-President Atiku. But Senator Idris Kuta in an exception, dared General Ibrahim Babangida and Vice-President Atiku to join forces to get an assurance from the President on his exit strategy. Senator Kuta has equally called for an apology from the United States government for the raid.
Senator Kuta, chairman of the Senate Committee on Works spoke in response to President Obasanjo?s claims of disloyalty on the part of the Vice-President and reports of the alleged raid by American security agents on Atiku?s American residence.
However, several other Senators contacted yesterday refused to comment on the issue. One Senator called on phone said he was at the airport going away from Abuja while another Senator contacted in the National Assembly complex told journalists to pretend he was never seen when the issue of the perceived misunderstanding between the President and his deputy was raised.
However, responding to the development, Senator Kuta traced the misunderstanding between the nation?s first two political office holders to the quest for political ascendancy ahead of 2007.
"The Vice-President is in a fix in the sense that he has indicated his interest to vie for the presidency in 2007. Obasanjo on the other hand is trying to scheme his way into extending his tenure. So, there is no way the two of them can get on well, they have to fight. One wanting the other to go and the other one not wanting to go and it is we the followers that are going to suffer," Senator Kuta said yesterday.
Noting that the conspiracy to extend the tenure of present political office holders was a scripted plot also involving the governors, he said: "Today, we don?t know what the president and the governors are up to. Are they prepared to leave in 2007 or not? I keep saying that I feel sorry for those who are too eager to look for what is not vacant. When you talk to people around the president they tell you that there is no vacancy in the villa. You go to Government Houses in the states, those who are following the governors are saying there is no vacancy. So where do we go?"

NITEL denies US telecom firm
NITEL management said yesterday that it had no relationship with US telecom firm, Gates, allegedly linked to a meeting with Vice President Atiku. The firm was said to have presented a proposal to Vice President Atiku to speed up its broadband technology.
Speaking in an interview in Abuja, spokesman of NITEL, Mr Tayo Ekundayo, said the company had no previous deal with the US outfit and had not met any of its representatives. "We do not know the company and have nothing to do with it and the broadband high speed they are talking about, is what we are exploring with new facilities," he said.

Tightening the noose on Atiku

By Felix Ofou, Group Politics Editor, and Habib Aruna, Assistant
Politics Editor, Lagos (Independent)

The question that has been on the lips of many Nigerians since the
news broke about the agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI) invading the US home of Vice President Atiku Abubakar remains
whether it happened only as coincidence in relation to a seeming
plot to cage the number two citizen. This is because until now that
President Olusegun Obasanjo's men decided to move frontally against
his deputy, the two political gladiators seemed to have built a
façade which guaranteed that debates regarding a rift between them
had existed only as a matter of conjecture.

But with lines seemingly drawn and both political heavyweights
undoubtedly impatient to assert their supremacy, all pretences as to
whether Obasanjo and Atiku have a mutual working agreement have been
thrown to the dustbin. In place is a determined effort to prove that
one was in charge, even though facts on ground prove to the

Interestingly, Obasanjo until recently had been content in playing
second fiddle, allowing his deputy the latitude to operate as the
Lord of the Manor, neither bothered that Atiku was getting all the
accolades. Apart from letting the number two citizen run the
economy, the president more or less conceded to the political
sagacity of his deputy in getting complex problems solved.

However, the Vice President's 2007 ambition which is known to
conflict directly with Obasanjo's alleged third term bid seems to
have put paid to whatever pretences existed as to who was in charge.
And the President's refusal to back his deputy for the number one
seat in 2007 has effectively separated both men. It is only a matter
of time before the hawks in both camps would hit town, if they have
not already done so to do havoc to the other's ambition and tall

Yet, it is still a mystery that the Peoples Democratic Movement
(PDM) platform that Atiku used in getting Obasanjo elected in 1999
could be easily dismantled by the President in a clear military
combat style without any resistance, thereby exposing the vice
president for the final kill. Indeed, no one can reconcile the
seeming vulnerability now associated with Atiku, given his earlier
drummed up invincibility among the political class.

Calling the dog a bad name

To achieve their aim of ensuring that Atiku does not eventually get
the ticket of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the
President's men set out to label the Adamawa politician as nursing
inordinate ambition and always seeking to lord it over whoever comes
in contact with him, including Obasanjo.

Given that the President has a predilection of having his ego
precede most of his actions, it was not difficult to achieve. This
was made easier, according to sources, by Atiku's alleged
disposition to amass wealth, ensuring that Federal Government owned
companies slated for privatization were bought over by cronies who
can be called upon at the shortest notice to part with some of the

Moreover, the vee-pee's alleged control of the PDP machinery was
said to have been a source of concern to the President and his
kitchen cabinet. This fear became more pronounced after Obasanjo
reportedly had to beg him, first not to run as presidential
candidate in 2003, and subsequently not to back Second Republic Vice
President, Alex Ekwueme.

Atiku reportedly did not also help his case as far as the President
is concerned by often flaunting the fact that majority of the
governors and National Assembly members were loyal to him. This
aspect was said to have given Obasanjo great worry, such that a war
cabinet had to be summoned to decide on how best to "neutralise"
Atiku's so-called invincibility.

But, the President was said to have told close confidants, that his
grouse against his deputy centred on the fact that the latter cannot
refuse his cronies any favour. As far as Obasanjo is concerned, the
vice president does not believe that any of his friends could do
wrong, a development, which makes Atiku vulnerable and weak as a

The gathering of the storms

Having agreed on the need to cage Atiku, it was gathered that an
appropriate plan had to be drawn up. The plot included a systematic
release of documents allegedly linking the vee-pee to some shady
deals, as well as that of his close friends. The essence was to
provide a basis for a likely impeachment, and when that fails, to
ensure that he is effectively demonised, such that the Wakilin
Adamawa would be confronted by a huge moral burden that would stand
as an obstacle to his ambition.

According to the original plan, the sleazy documents were to be
released next year, moments before the national convention of the
PDP where the flag bearer of the party for the 2007 elections would
be elected. The essence is to demobilise him ahead of the primaries.

However, the plan was changed as a result of two unanticipated moves
allegedly made by the Atiku camp. It was learnt that the letter
written by PDP former National Chairman, Audu Ogbeh querying the
President's stance on the political crisis in Anambra State ruffled
Obasanjo's cabinet to no end. Similarly, the seeming orchestrated
media attacks on the President and his key men reportedly attributed
to the Atiku camp further changed the equation.

So, embittered was the number one citizen of the country with the
spate of media attacks that he ordered that his deputy's aides whom
he blamed for the development to resign en masse. He was said to
have pointedly told one of those asked to resign that he was a mole
in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja.

Consequently, a decision was taken to begin the offensive
immediately. Of course, it is now history that Ogbeh and the two
deputy national chairmen of the PDP believed to be acolytes of the
vee-pee have since been replaced with perceived loyalists of Baba,
as Obasanjo is also known. The recent so-called reforms of the
party, including the fresh registration of members are allegedly
targeted at weeding out Atiku loyalists.

Understanding the waiting game

It was not clear whether the decision not to react when it became
clear that his structures were being dismantled was taken out of
fear. What was not in doubt was that the vice president resolved to
wait or sit it out, preferring not to act until the President came
out with a definite battle plan.

That explained why Atiku shocked everyone by refusing to act when
Ogbeh was forced out of office. Neither is he known to have risen in
support of Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra and Governor Joshua
Dariye of Plateau states, both of whom are said to be under attack
for alleged allegiance to him.

As it were, it may have been reasoned that the waiting game was not
to the best interest of the vice president. Rather than keep quiet,
while his name was being dragged to the mud, it was rightly thought
out that an appropriate response should come from the camp. That
explained the strategic interview and statements credited to Atiku
lately bordering on Obasanjo's reported third term bid and his 2007

Atiku confronts Obasanjo

Undoubtedly, the decision to confront the President was timed to
coincide with the interview granted by Atiku. Apart from refreshing
the minds of Nigerians on recent historical developments, the
interview succeeded in dragging Obasanjo to the public arena and to
defend some of the ambiguous policies of the administration.

On the alleged third term agenda, Atiku stirred the hornet's nest by
alluding that the President had sworn not to extend his tenure: "I
have discussed with Mr. President, he had sworn to me on one on one
that he is not going to stay beyond 2007."

Obasanjo fights back

But the President's reaction predictably showed that he imagined
that there was more to Atiku's statement than meets the eye. What
with Atiku's subsequent revelation and admission that parties,
including the PDP, rig elections, a direct reference to the massive
2003 mass rigging presided over by Obasanjo.

It was therefore understandable that the President did not allow
matters to lie low. He stated thus: "I read the interview by the
Vice President in THISDAY of August 22 and a couple of other
statements he has made. I think they contain a lot of
misrepresentation, misinformation and misrepresentation. He said I
swore to him, I did not swear. I did not swear to him. For what? The
only swearing I made was the public oath I made, the oath to respect
and defend Nigeria's constitution and doing all manner of good to
all manner of men and women. But there is nobody who can say that I
have told him that I am staying. I don't need to swear on that. I
have sworn to defend the constitution. For what reason do I swear
that I am not staying? To do what?

"If I have given my word you either believe it or not but people who
know me know that I don't talk frivolously. When there was a case of
doubtful loyalty on the part of the Vice President, I took the Bible
and the Koran and said between the two of us, I want you to swear to
an oath of loyalty…but he refused to swear because there were proven
cases of disloyalty on his part…it was bad enough.

Obasanjo also denied that Vice President advised him not to return
to the country in 1995 as claimed by the latter: "Even one
ambassador of an important country advised me to take asylum in his
country. But since I knew I did not do anything wrong, I insisted on
coming to my country. He (Atiku) was still with me when the police
officer, who came to arrest me arrived and told me that the
Assistant Inspector General of Police wanted to see me in his office
for some advice. I told him (the police officer) that you are a
fool; if the AIG wanted any advice from me he would come and see me
here. I then told him that I had already packed my toilet bag, my
towel ready to be arrested.

"The VP also said I wept when somebody gave me injection; that can't
be true. They said I had cholesterol when I was at the guest house
in prison. And I know that I don't suffer from any other thing apart
from diabetes, which has since been under control. My doctor, Dr.
Ajuwon, advised that I should insist that he was the one who would
take my blood sample. He gave them my blood sample and they promised
to bring the result in 24 hours. Till date they have not. I think
there is a little of exaggeration here and there, or it is loss of

A peep into the US angle

For some time now, Nigerians in the Diaspora had taken more than a
casual interest in the affairs of the country and have thus made it
a point of duty to monitor the movements and activities of
government officials anytime they venture out of the country.

Indeed, what has further animated this interest among Nigerians is
the globalised and dynamic nature of world affairs, which has made
the world to look like a village. It is therefore easier for
thousands of Nigerians around the world to exchange information on
happenings in Nigeria in the Internet within seconds.

This is exactly what happened in this Atiku's case that is fast
becoming a dominant issue in the polity. It will be preposterous to
think that Nigerians living abroad are less concerned about how
their resources are being managed by those in government given the
high level of transparency put in place in those countries.

They are therefore ready, according to some of them that spoke with
Daily Independent, to expose government officials that live above
their means. In fact, Daily Independent reliably gathered that more
than few Nigerians were aware of the Vice President's home as soon
as the New Orleans Times of Picayune broke the story early August
when the paper was investigating the activities of Congressman
William Jefferson.

The real drama

In its report, the paper wrote that the Potomac, Maryland, United
States home of Vice President Atiku Abubakar was raided on August 3,
2005 by officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI).

Before now, reports have been circulating in the Internet in the
past few days that the Vice President bought a multi-million dollar
home on December 1, 2000, one-and-a-half years after being sworn in
as the Vice President of Nigeria.

The raid on Vice President Atiku's Maryland home was linked to
suspicions of corruption on the part of Jefferson who represents
Louisiana in the US Lower Legislative House. Atiku's home was
searched on the same day that operatives of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation executed search warrants on the New Orleans and D.C.
homes of Rep. William Jefferson.

Quoting a story written by Bruce Alpert and Bill Walsh for the The
Times of Picayune, it was revealed that FBI agents were looking for
documents related to Jefferson's dealings with Atiku and Aliyu
Mahama, the Vice President of Ghana. According to the story, the FBI
subpoenas are focused on "a telecommunications deal Jefferson was
trying to engineer in Nigeria over the past year."

Similarly, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Sunday
confirmed that United States federal agents actually raided the
Maryland home of the Nigerian Vice-President.

The search, according to the BBC, took place on August 3, but
officials refused to confirm reports that it was linked to raids on
homes belonging to a Louisianan congressman, William Jefferson.

Jefferson, a Democrat who has served eight terms in the House of
Representatives, has come under intense scrutiny as the FBI looks
into an international telecommunications deal.

Investigators are interested in Mr. Jefferson's links with Atiku and
Vice-President of Ghana, Aliu Mahama, New Orleans Times-Picayune

According to the newspaper, Mr. Jefferson visited Ghana in mid-July.
Atiku reportedly only uses his home in Potomac, Maryland for a
couple of months each year with his wife, Jennifer, is a doctoral
student in international relations at American University in

But in an interview with a national newspaper, last week, the Vice
President claimed that he and his wife, Jennifer, had maintained a
home in the United States since 1994. He, therefore, dismissed the
report as "no big deal."

The Maryland home was reportedly bought even as Atiku served as Vice-
President, thereby contravening some sections of the Nigerian
Constitution and the Code of Conduct for public servants in Nigeria.

A keen observer of the Obasanjo Presidency based in Abuja, the
capital of Nigeria, said: "With stories like this coming out about
Atiku, Obasanjo cannot continue to keep him as his Vice President if
he is really serious about his so-called anti-corruption war."

More revelations however show that the house was bought for the
fourth wife of the Vice President, who used to sign off the newscast
as Jennifer Iwenjiora at the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA).

She was said to have later married a white man and became Jennifer
Douglas, but now she has converted to Islam and has plenty of names
and now answers, Jennifer Jamila Douglas-Abubakar.

It was further learnt that as soon as the story of the two
investigative journalists broke out on the Internet about her multi-
million dollar mansion in POTOMAC, MD, the foundation she uses as a
front, GEDE Foundation – has remained
permanently shut down.

But an aide to the Vice President has reacted that that "the scandal
does not involve either Atiku as a person or any member of his
family. It is common knowledge that when dignitaries like the
President, Vice President or even the Senate President visits
countries, they have visitors who come around to discuss various
issues or just to pay courtesy.

The aide continues: "When the Vice President was on vacation, he was
visited by Jefferson. Jefferson is one of the most influential black
personalities in the US and he is serving his eighth term in the

"Jefferson visited Atiku's residence on August 1, 2005 and as that
time, the Vice President did not know that FBI was investigating
Jefferson. So when they learnt that Jefferson had visited the
Maryland home of Atiku, they went there to investigate the purpose
of the visit. That was on August 3, by this time neither the Vice
President nor members of the family were around, they had returned
to Nigeria."

Atiku's aide tried frantically to defend his boss, saying that the
matter had been on for about four weeks now and that there is no
scandal about it. He wondered why people were making fuss about
what, according to him, is no big deal. "The FBI was investigating
Jefferson and not Atiku", said the aide.

Of course it is easier for the aide to debunk insinuations making
the rounds of the involvement of the Vice President with regards to
the investigation of Jefferson, but it is an easy guess that
Nigerians would be interested on how a serving government official
could cough out about $2 million to buy a house for his mistress in
the US.

Listen to the aide: "Even if the VP had added money to enable her
buy a bigger home, it could be justified from his income and there
is no big deal about that. Those who know the VP well and the
business he engaged in before now can easily agree that it could be
justified from his income."

But the question Nigerians based in the US are asking are that, was
the Maryland house included in the form the VP submitted to the Code
of Conduct Bureau? Investigations also revealed that the house was
actually bought after he became the VP and not in 1994 as he claimed
in the interview.

According to a document from the Maryland Department of Assessments
and Taxation in MONTGOMERY COUNTY, made available to the Daily
Independent, the house in question was allegedly purchased on
January 12, 2000 at the whopping sum of $1,750,000, but is now said
to be worth $2 million.

How then will it play out?

For sure, the latest revelation is bound to elicit a lot of interest
among Nigerians, particularly watchers of the nation's politics who
have been following the not too rosy relationship between the first
two citizens of the land. Some have indeed gone as far as saying
that the scandal may have been masterminded by the Aso Rock to
further decimate the influence of Atiku and finally nail his
presidential ambition in 2007.

Yet, others argued that in the murky waters of politics, anything is
possible and that politicians should always watch their back to
avoid a messy situation. "There is no need to build sentiment into
these things", says Babajide Abatan, a resident of Maryland in the

"I think it was unreasonable for the Vice President to have thought
that Nigerians who live in thousands in this neighbourhood would not
know that he bought a house for his wife in this place". Abatan
disagreed with those who are linking the presidency with the
scandal, saying that most of the people who are spreading the news
are not supporters of the President.

Observers however are of the view that the 2007 presidential
election is not unconnected with these allegations, going by
statements credited to even the President that he doubts the loyalty
of his deputy. Will Atiku fight back?

"We are still going to see more of this from all manner of places
because it's a dog eat dog situation", says Bola Ilori, a political
analyst. "Don't be surprised that Atiku too will want to fire back,
by revealing one or two secrets. All these things are good for the

Ilori spoke further: "We are watching, we are not in PDP. One would
expect that in a situation like this dialectics would play itself
out where you have the thesis and the antithesis, the synthesis
would surely come out. It is still early and difficult to predict
for now what will happen. There is every pointer to show that
Obasanjo is aiming for third term. Further clashes would still be
expected between him and Atiku who has own ambition to run in 2007.
So, definitely, we are going to see much more bitter relationship
between the two."