A screenshot of a purported story of Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on the watch list of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is making waves online.
According to the story said to have appeared on Gulf News, one of the biggest English newspapers in Middle East, UAE security operatives are keeping a close tab on the PDP presidential candidate for allegedly holding a meeting with members of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the country.
It also alleged that Atiku has been in UAE for several weeks.
“The men who have the ears of ISWAP leader, Abu Abdullahi Idris bin Umar (a.k.a Umar Al-Barnawi) were flown from Senegal on a private jet into UAE last Wednesday for the meeting that began on Thursday night and ended on Friday afternoon last week,” the report circulating on social media read.
“This meeting was held in a hotel different from the one where ISWAP allies were lodged. It was against the backdrop of the meeting that security operatives began tracking the movement of the Nigeria’s former Vice President who had been in Emirates since February 23 presidential election he lost to the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.”
Lauretta Onochie, an aide of President Muhammadu Buhari, shared snippets of the purported story on her official Twitter handle.
“Atiku on UAE watchlist- Security sources Security operatives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are keeping a close tab on a former Nigerian Vice Pres Atiku Abubakar who has been in the Middle East nation for several weeks now What is he doing there? Me: Shopping for Terrorists?” Onochie wrote.
Atiku on UAE watchlist- Security sources
Security operatives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are keeping a close tab on a former Nigerian Vice Pres Atiku Abubakar who has been in the Middle East nation for several weeks now
What is he doing there?
Me: Shopping for Terrorists? pic.twitter.com/4EBccZadfi
— Lauretta Onochie (@Laurestar) May 7, 2019
TheCable checked for the authenticity of the story and here is what we found:
STAY IN DUBAI
Atiku could not have moved to the UAE after losing the February 23 presidential election since there are evidence of events he attended in Nigeria between February 23 and May 4 when the purported report was released. On March 20, Atiku paid a courtesy visit to the southern and middle belt leaders at the Abuja residence of Edwin Clark, a leader of the group.
Addressing the group, Atiku had said he would reclaim his “stolen mandate”, referring to his loss of the election to Buhari.
In another instance, Atiku paid a visit to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on March 14 — and the meeting definitely did not hold in the UAE. So, how could he have been in the UAE and still meeting with people in Nigeria? The last known trip of Atiku to the UAE was when he visited Dubai in November 2018.
PICTURE OF ATIKU USED IN STORY
The picture of Atiku in the said news item showed him in what seemed like breaking of fast during Ramadan. Atiku shared the picture, via his official Twitter handle, at the beginning of Ramadan on May 6. But the promoters of the news pushed it out on May 4, giving the impression that Atiku broke his fast two days earlier.
Allah says: “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” [2:183].
Through prayer, fasting, and justice, Nigeria will overcome her challenges. -AA pic.twitter.com/hP6I4NFfnn
— Atiku Abubakar (@atiku) May 8, 2019
Checks by TheCable showed that none of the stories or pictures circulating online appeared on the May 4 issue of Gulf News.
Further checks revealed that “US hints at unilateral action”, one of the stories that appeared on the same page where Atiku was said to be on UAE watch list, this particular story surfaced on the internet in April 2017. Gulf News published the report on April 7, 2017. This clearly shows that those circulating the false story on Atiku are out for mischief.
Some of the other news items in the screenshot could not be traced to Gulf News while a search of “Atiku” on the news website showed that the last story about the Nigerian politician on Gulf News was on February 27, 2019.
The search of the news headline “Atiku on UAE Watchlist” showed no results.
Calls placed by TheCable to the UAE embassy in Nigeria to confirm if Atiku is on its watch list were not answered.
TheCable could not reach Paul Ibe, Atiku’s spokesman, for comments as his number was unreachable while Gulf News is yet to respond to an email request for comment on the issue.
VERDICT: Atiku is a newsmaker anytime. The non-appearance of a story of such magnitude on any credible news medium, whether national or international, gives credence to the fact that the said story was doctored. Also, it is worth considering how Atiku could be lead story in a UAE newspaper. Therefore, the picture of Gulf News allegedly reporting that Atiku is on UAE watch list is FAKE.