Atiku Abubakar tried to keep his first trip to the United States – after a 12 year hiatus – low key and private, but he failed miserably.
A throng of supporters and daring journalists digged up his schedule and followed him everywhere he went in the freezing winter cold in this American capital.
The sky was cloudy and snow covered the beautiful roads in Washington D.C. as his convoy tored through junctions and streetlights.
His plane landed just before 3 p.m. on Thursday January 17 but he did not waste any time. After all, the presidential election in Nigeria takes place in a month and every second counts.
During winter, the days are short and nights are long. Just about two hours after Atiku landed, it was night-dark at 5pm.
But Atiku rushed to the United States Congress along with the Nigerian Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and Senator Ben Bruce, for a meeting with Chris Smith, a U.S. Republican Congressman from New Jersey.
It was not clear what the men discussed but Atiku returned to the Trump International Hotel where he lodged exhausted and unable to entertain those who came to see the man they hope would end President Muhammadu Buhari’s stay at the presidential villa in Abuja.
He mainly stuck to business and avoided meeting with journalists except for one Facebook live and a sit down interview with Voice Of America.
He juggled from a meeting at the State Department to an interaction with businessmen and women at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
He avoided making his trip about his main opponent, President Muhammadu Buhari, but when he was confronted by TODAY NEWS AFRICA’s Simon Ateba on why he believed he was the best man for the job, he said he has business experience, knows how to create jobs and prosperity, knowledge that President Buhari does not have.
He said he traveled to the United States because a number of organizations invited him, but for many people who were watching thousands of miles away in Nigeria, his trip was a political statement that he was not under any sealed indictment or declared wanted for criminal activities as his detractors had repeatedly said.
He laughed off those who said he could never come to the United States and not end behind bars, telling a journalist that they now have their answer.
Simon is a renowned international journalist, founder and publisher of TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.