Atiku explains why he said he will enrich his friends if he is elected President

Atiku says anyone with proof of his corruption should step forward or forever remain silent.

Atiku Abubakar says a comment about enriching his friends, had been taken out of context (AFP)

Atiku has been badgered with allegations of corrupt enrichment since he left office as Nigeria’s vice president in 2007.

Atiku has been prominently mentioned in two high profile corruption cases perpetrated on U.S and Nigerian soil.

According to the charge sheet, from 2000 to 2008, Jennifer Douglas, a U.S. citizen and fourth wife of Atiku, helped her husband transfer over $40 million in suspicious funds into the United States.

The name Atiku Abubakar also came up in a Siemens broadband contract scandal involving Nigerian and American officials in the mid-2000s.

Speaking to CNN, Atiku said if he were corrupt, he would have been long indicted or charged by the anti-graft agencies.

“I have been successful”, Atiku said, when asked why his name constantly comes up in the same breath as ‘corruption. “Secondly, I have never been charged, I have never been indicted. There are all allegations”.

Atiku added that he’s asked anybody with a shred of evidence against him to step forward.

“I have asked anybody, I have dared people publicly that if anybody has any evidence of corruption against me, let him come out. 

“I am certainly not corrupt because if I’m corrupt, I would have either been charged or indicted”.

Reminded that former President Olusegun Obasanjo insisted he was corrupt after they both left the villa in the early 2000s, Atiku said “Obasanjo investigated me more than anybody else. Why didn’t he prosecute me? Why didn’t he indict me?” Atiku asked rhetorically, a wry smile playing on the corner of his lips.  

Atiku also responded to reports that he purchased the entry visa that recently saw him set foot on United States soil, years after it was posited that he couldn’t visit the U.S because he risked getting arrested by U.S law enforcement for corruption.

“I know my party has a lobbyist, but they engaged that lobbyist before I even ran for presidency or the candidature of the party. But to say that they paid for my visa. You know that you don’t pay for U.S visa”, the presidential candidate said.

During a recent event in Lagos, Atiku swore he was going to enrich his friends should he be elected president—a statement that did him no favours in the face of allegations that he is a crony capitalist. 

Atiku chuckled before saying “this was taken out of context. I have been quoted out of context. What I said is that my friends shouldn’t be discriminated because they are my friends. In fact, all Nigerians are my friends. 

“Let me tell you, in our administration, we made more billionaires than any other administration. I don’t think this administration has made any billionaire. And out of those, there’s none that I knew before”.

Atiku also said even though he made billionaires while working as Obasanjo’s deputy, he is not friends with any of the billionaires. 

“No, they are still not my friends. Yes, I cannot say that I don’t know them, but they are not my friends”, he doubled down.

Asked if he believes in crony capitalism, Atiku said; “No, I don’t”. 

Atiku is incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari’s major challenger ahead of the presidential vote in Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation.

84 million Nigerians will partake in the election.

51 percent of registered voters, aged between 18 and 35, are young people.

This year’s general election is Nigeria’s sixth since the nation’s return to civilian governance in 1999. 

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