There were jubilations last week among Nigerians loyal to the Buhari regime. Initially, one would have ascribed their joy to possibly, a miraculous
So why would a case that has irrefutably been in the public domain since 2009 reemerge with such distracting controversy? In a heated political exchange late June, the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose had questioned Mrs. Buhari’s integrity, citing her involvement in the Jefferson’s fraud, and challenging her to travel to the United States as a proof of innocence. Fayose was right in his challenge for several reasons; Mrs. Buhari and others listed as witnesses in the case had avoided the United States for fear of prosecution. For instance, Atiku Abubakar and his wife were subpoenaed by a federal court in Virginia, but a district judge declined to request the U.S. government to invoke an accord with Nigeria to facilitate the process. Mrs. Buhar’s possible indictment in the scam was thus left pending.
Fayose’s challenge embarrassed the regime and raised a credibility question that contradicted Buhari’s wobbly campaign against fraud. To save face, the regime embarked on an image-cleaning scheme of the First lady, and invoked counter measures against the Governor. In this process, Mrs. Buhari through the regime had instigated a media campaign, claiming it was a different “Aisha Buhari” that was mentioned in the case; then she turned around and filed a defamation lawsuit against the Governor. This was why Mrs. Buhari had avoided the United States and in fact, declined all formal invitations for major events with flimsy excuses. She had cancelled her scheduled trip for the World First Ladies’ Conference in Colorado; she equally skipped a similar U.S. invitations August 2015, when she was scheduled to lead four other First Ladies; from Ghana, Mozambique, Gambia and Rwanda to Houston for a conference about African women in leadership.
To further clear the grounds for a U.S. visit of the First Lady, the regime engaged pricey government lobbyists and legal advisors to explore Aisha’s foreign immunity options under Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). FSIA –defines the jurisdiction of United States courts in suits against foreign states – where a foreign state generally is immune from the jurisdiction of the courts of another sovereign state.
The truth however, is that all Nigerian witnesses and accomplices, including Mrs. Buhari did not corporate with investigations and court orders then, leaving the case wide open for further action. Mrs. Buhari finally visited the United States because the regime found out she was not going to be arrested. To add to the drama, she had falsely announced that the reason for her visit was to hold discussions with aid organizations on how to help the women and children facing starvation in the north eastern part of Nigeria. Critics differ and took to the social media, lampooning her for lavishing millions of Dollars to paint the wrong image of the high profile fraud case she was involved in.
Furthermore, it must be noted that Buhari backed off from an acceptance by the U.S. to assist Nigeria in locating and returning funds stolen by corrupt government officials. This was because core members of his administration, allies, past Nigeria leaders, and also his own wife could be indicted if the United States would proceed.
As a top official of the States Department noted, Aisha’s visit is neither “a guilty verdict nor a proof of innocence. The simple fact is that her case is open, and she has not yet been indicted for specific reasons, so she’s entitled to visit.” Therefore, the Governor was absolutely right – Aisha has a case to answer in the United States and indictment is a matter of time, the law, and the scope of diplomatic immunity.