From Constance Ikokwu in Washington DC with agency reports, 05.10.2007
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua has engaged lobbyists in the United States to project the image of his government in that country, THISDAY can now reveal.It was learnt yesterday that the Federal Government signed a deal with a consultancy firm in the US in a bid to win global support for his administration in the face of allegations of irregularities trailing his election.According to records the US Justice Department posted online, Watts Consulting Group has signed a preliminary contract with the new government of President Yar’Adua in the hopes of inking a longer-term deal.
Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, also engaged lobbyists in the US for the eight years he was in power.Goodworks International, a firm owned by former US ambassador to Nigeria, Andrew Young, who had long-standing relationship with Obasanjo, was the former president’s lobbyist in that country.The contract with Good-works International ended last month.
According to TheHill.com, "The call just came out of the blue," a senior partner at J.C. Watts Companies, Steve Pruitt, said of the new deal with Yar’Adua’s government. Pruitt was invited to New York to meet with the Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe. Watts Consulting Group is a subsidiary of J.C. Watts Companies, named for the former Republican congressman from Oklahoma. Goodworks plans to work with the Yar’Adua government as well, according to the firm's chief operating officer, Wallace Ford.Its contract is up for renewal and a new proposal has been forwarded to President Yar'Adua for approval.
The African continent continues to have a solid lobbying presence in US through a variety of agreements between various countries and top firms. Ford said Goodworks has opened up branch offices in Angola, Ghana, Tanzania and Rwanda during the past two years. The April 2007 elections in Nigeria have led to a lobbying battle between opposing factions in Washington.Several candidates, including former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who contested the presidential election on the platform of Action Congress (AC) and former head of state and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) candidate in that election, Major-General Muham-madu Buhari, have complained of vote fraud in favour of President Yar'Adua.Atiku and Buhari and a few other candidates in that election are at present at the election tribunal challenging Yar’Adua’s victory.
J.C. Watts’s firm has also lobbied for the former vice president in the past. Pruitt, a former Democratic staff director for the House Budget Committee, credited his long-standing ties to Nigerian officials for the contract. Having lobbied on and off for the Federal Government during the past two decades, Pruitt was very familiar with Maduekwe.It was gathered that as a young government aide 15 years ago, the foreign minister allowed Pruitt to make international calls to his daughter in the U.S. while the lobbyist was in Africa. "I consider him an old and dear friend," Pruitt said. Still "in the midst of ongoing negotiations," according to the contract filed with the Justice Department, the firm is coordinating meetings between Nigeria's new government and lawmakers as well as administration officials "in order to secure a more formal, long-term agreement with the government."Already, Pruitt is planning to take Maduekwe on a tour around Capitol Hill in late October and introduce him to key members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The lobbyist characterised the meetings as "introductory" in nature.
With Africa emerging as more of a common destination for lobbyists, the federal government may also sign more firms other than just J.C. Watts's group, Pruitt said. "We will be positioning Nigeria to work with the next administration here in America," he said.
sourced from This Day 05/10/07