The frosty diplomatic relations between the US and Nigeria may be further worsened by claims that consultants to All Progressives Congress (APC) are associates of President Barack Obama.
The Jonathan administration, according to a minister who spoke with TheCable on Tuesday, is poised to protest “strongly” against White House’s “meddling” in the Nigerian elections which it believes is influenced by AKPD Media and Messages, the firm handling APC’s political strategy in the US.
The political consulting firm was co-founded by David Axelrod, an Obama confidant. He was a chief campaign adviser to Obama during the campaign for the presidency in 2008 and was later appointed as senior advisor to the president.
In 2011, Axelrod left government and became the senior strategist for Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012.
The minister told TheCable that the Jonathan administration will raise concerns with the Obama administration over its “hostile” attitude to the Nigerian president and its obvious endorsement of the APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, had issued a strong-worded statement on Sunday condemning the postponement of the general election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and warning against further delays.
Unconfirmed reports say Kerry, on a recent visit to Nigeria, had asked Jonathan why he did not fire Sambo Dasuki, a retired colonel and national security adviser, for suggesting in London on January 22 that the 2015 elections should be postponed because of the fiasco over 30 million uncollected biometric voter cards.
In a report in the Washington Free Beacon, an online newspaper, AKPD was accused of lying that it had stopped working for the APC.
AKPD once said it stopped working for the APC since March 2014, but that its email exchanges with senior party members and advisers since then “show that contrary to the firm’s claims, AKPD has quietly continued to perform political work on Buhari’s behalf as he fights to unseat current President Goodluck Jonathan”, the newspaper said.
Isaac Baker, AKPD spokesman, had told the Washington Times last year that the firm worked with the APC from December 2013 to March 2014 “to form a new political opposition party and create a platform in advance of their first national convention. We were no longer working with the APC when the Boko Haram kidnapping of the young girls took place”.
However, he was said to have admitted on Monday that the firm worked again with the APC in December 2014.
“AKPD worked with APC from December 2013 to March 2014, at which point our contract ended. Nine months later, in December 2014, the APC re-hired AKPD for a 3-week engagement to help the party in organizing announcement events,” Baker told the Free Beacon in an email.
“That was our only involvement with the party since we completed work in March. That project is now complete and we have no ongoing relationship with them,” he said.
But Free Beacon says the internal emails sent between APC advisers over the past several months and obtained by the newspaper confirm that the work with AKPD continued after March 2014.
In a series of messages between senior APC officials and advisers from September 2014 to late January 2015, AKPD polling and other work are repeatedly discussed, the newspaper reported.
“The meeting went well and the report well received. [Gov. Rotimi Amaechi] will meet with the AKPD team tomorrow to discuss the facilitation of the event but no dates fixed yet,” APC member Olubunmi Adetunmbi is reported to have written in one September 23 email to Kayode Fayemi, former governor of Ekiti state.
AKPD’s work is again mentioned in a separate chain of emails sent between Buhari’s running mate, Yemi Osinbajo, and adviser Fayemi.
“I also think the AKPD surveys also clearly showed that the South West is the battle ground for this election,” Osinbajo writes in a discussion about boosting election turnouts for the APC.
A third email chain from Jan. 21 shows APC leader Nasir El-Rufai discussing an “October 2014 AKPD poll” that he hoped to disseminate to “the team”, the newspaper reported.
Lai Mohammed, APC’s spokesman, told TheCable on Tuesday that the fact that AKPD is APC’s consultant “is in the public domain”.
Another US firm Levick, led by former US President Bill Clinton’s confidant Lanny Davis, currently works for the Jonathan administration after signing a consultancy deal with the News Agency of Nigeria in 2014.