How Atiku worked with Donald Trump's campaign strategists in the 2019 Election

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general elections, hired United States based Public Relations (PR) professionals who helped to get Donald Trump elected, in his bid to become Nigeria’s President last February, a report in the New York Times (NYT) reveals. 

Atiku Abubakar reportedly worked with US PR consultants ahead of the 2019 presidential vote [Twitter/@bolanle cole]

The report also states that these PR professionals helped get Atiku on U.S soil on January 17, 2019 and arranged meetings with top U.S lawmakers for the presidential candidate, as part of a series of well orchestrated makeovers of a presidential candidate who has been battling corruption allegations since he left office as Vice President of Nigeria in 2007.

“After years of being subject to a visa ban because of corruption allegations, Atiku had a team of Western consultants and lobbyists to thank for the warm American welcome”, the story reads.

The report further states that: “One of those who helped was Riva Levinson, who was mentored in the art of political consulting by Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Trump’s presidential campaign, sentenced this month to more than seven years in prison for a host of crimes.

“Ms. Levinson, who now has her own firm, KRL International, is among the many American political consultants with ties to President Trump who have become regular fixtures in African political campaigns, seizing on the region’s turn toward democracy".

According to the story, a top ranking Nigerian legislator who was in charge of the Atiku presidential campaign, brought Trump’s allies onboard.

The report didn’t name the Nigerian legislator in question. However, Senate President Bukola Saraki was Director General of the Atiku Presidential Campaign.

Saraki was also part of Atiku's entourage to the U.S in January.

“The party’s presidential candidate was Atiku Abubakar, and her client was a powerful Nigerian senator who was managing Mr. Abubakar’s campaign.

“Consultants with perceived ties to Mr. Trump are especially valued by their political clients, even in countries that he disparaged with a vulgar phrase, and which are largely off his administration’s foreign policy radar”, the report reads.

Levinson learnt at the feet of Trump ally, Manafort.

Reminiscing about the old days when Manafort would dispatch her across the globe to help clean up the images and international reputations of unsavory leaders, Levinson was quoted as saying: “Paul was a master strategist. He could hover above at 30,000 feet and see how all of the moving parts fit together, and then move each one with precision. I learned that from him, and he gave me a front-row seat to watch history. I’m grateful to him for this.”

The NYT writes that getting Atiku to the United States, was a big win for the PDP and its presidential candidate.

“Mr. Abubakar lost”, writes the NYT. “But during the campaign, Ms. Levinson and a team of other American lobbyists and consultants with ties to Mr. Trump helped their client secure meetings with legislators and with powerful American lobbying groups. He stayed at the Trump International Hotel, a five-star hotel near the White House.

“Those small victories, in which Mr. Abubakar won access to Washington power centers, were impressive for a candidate who was named as a prime example of overseas corruption by a United States Senate subcommittee in 2010. Its report said that he had funneled tens of millions of dollars worth of Nigerian oil revenues into foreign shell accounts. Mr. Abubakar has never been prosecuted, but for years he was prevented from traveling to the United States”.

Levinson’s KRL International was not the only foreign firm Atiku hired to help him win the election, according to the story. 

NYT writes that "in Nigeria, the opposition party also tapped another consulting firm, Ballard Partners, to help facilitate meetings for Mr. Abubakar on Capitol Hill as part of a $90,000 a month contract. Brian D. Ballard, the firm’s owner, was a top fund-raiser in the Trump campaign”.

However, “Ms. Levinson accompanied Mr. Abubakar to many of his meetings in Washington, and Holland & Knight, an American law firm, lobbied the State Department to secure his visa. Scott D. Mason, a former aide to Mr. Trump, led the law firm’s effort, according to filings.”

Levinson told The NYT that her job in Nigeria, while it lasted, was “to keep international and U.S. attention on Nigeria’s elections, to be free and fair.”

Atiku’s “team of Western and local consultants helped shop articles to local newspapers that reflected poorly on the incumbent president and eventual winner, Muhammadu Buhari”, the story adds.

Atiku won’t be the first presidential candidate to work with foreign Communications consultants during a major electioneering campaign.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly enlisted the services of UK based Cambridge Analytica ahead of the 2015 elections. 

In 2015, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari was also briefly advised by Obama's 2008 campaign strategist, David Axelrod and his AKPD Consultancy.

Buhari polled 15,191,847 of the total votes cast, while Atiku racked up 11,262,978 votes. The incumbent president defeated Atiku with a vote margin of 3,928,869.

Atiku has rejected the result of the election as announced by the country’s electoral commission. He is also challenging the outcome of the election in court. 

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

Unblock notifications in browser settings.

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng

Recommended articles

Joe Igbokwe drops hint of Wike's visit to Tinubu in France

Joe Igbokwe drops hint of Wike's visit to Tinubu in France

Sanwo-Olu increases BRT fares by N100

Sanwo-Olu increases BRT fares by N100

Military recovers 3.8m litres of crude oil, arrests 26 thieves

Military recovers 3.8m litres of crude oil, arrests 26 thieves

Onitsha port will generate over N23 billion in 30 years - Saraki

Onitsha port will generate over N23 billion in 30 years - Saraki

NEMA receives 98 stranded Nigerians from Niger Republic

NEMA receives 98 stranded Nigerians from Niger Republic

Corruption: EFCC expresses worry over declining number of whistleblowers

Corruption: EFCC expresses worry over declining number of whistleblowers

INEC vows to prosecute anyone involved in multiple PVC registrations

INEC vows to prosecute anyone involved in multiple PVC registrations

Trial of suspected invaders of retired Justice Odili’s home suffers setback

Trial of suspected invaders of retired Justice Odili’s home suffers setback

Anambra confirms 1 positive case of monkeypox – Commissioner

Anambra confirms 1 positive case of monkeypox – Commissioner