A previous call by the PDP for Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, EFCC, to arrest and prosecute Atiku Abubakar over a fraud involving the staggering sum of N500m fraud staged through ‘SPVs’, a term revealed by an aide to the former Vice President to describe shell companies used by Atiku to divert public funds, has led more Nigerians to question the wisdom of his choice as the party’s standard-bearer in the coming election.
Media reports and internal party records show that in 2006, the PDP found Atiku culpable of stealing N500million in party funds through a Marine Float Account, a controversial entity at the heart of recent allegations by Atiku’s ex-aides who blew the lid on the insidious tactics deployed by Atiku to divert public funds whilst serving as the country’s Vice President between 1999 and 2007.
The indictment follows the conclusion of an administrative panel and investigation by the EFCC which held that Atiku fraudulently obtained the sum on behalf of the party without remitting the same. Following the discovery of the fraud, the PDP demanded his arrest and prosecution and set in motion processes for his ouster as a party member.
The recent unearthing of this event, which ended with Atiku leaving the party with a battered reputation, has triggered fresh questions about the selection of Atiku as the party’s presidential candidate less than two decades after.
Some Nigerians who commented on the issue translated his emergence on the same party platform that found him guilty of fraud and theft as indicative of the PDP’s ingrained flaw as “an assembly of corrupt individuals who stole the country blind for 16 years and are gathering again to regain access to the public treasury.”
The recent revelation is also likely to form part of the criticism of the G-5 faction of the party led by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who disagreed with the emergence of Atiku and has vowed to work against his victory at the polls.
Wike, who leads four other rebellious governors elected on the platform of the PDP, has accused Atiku of being an unprincipled political actor in desperate pursuit of power who disregarded the north-south rotation of power underpinning the country’s continued unity, and who obtained the party’s ticket through corrupt means.
It is unclear how the PDP will defend the poor optics of nominating a candidate it declared guilty of stealing party funds previously, more so amid ongoing controversy over growing revelations about Atiku’s sordid acts of alleged corruption, involving the channelling of public funds to private accounts through ‘SPVs’ – a corruption tactic similar to what the PDP indicted him for back in 2006.