Posted by By Felix Onuah on
Nigeria accused a top U.S. State Department diplomat of disrespecting the African country's leadership on Wednesday after she dismissed a high-level corruption feud as political muckraking.
ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria accused a top U.S. State Department diplomat of disrespecting the African country's leadership on Wednesday after she dismissed a high-level corruption feud as political muckraking.
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer was reported as saying a dispute between President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar was the work of politicians trying "to smear the reputation of their opponents."
Her remark was interpreted by Abuja as siding with Abubakar, who has dismissed accusations of corruption against him as an attempt by the president to disqualify his deputy from running in next year's general elections.
"The lady in question has exhibited the tendency of straying from the ethics and protocol of diplomatic engagement to disrespect and denigrate the leadership of Nigeria," Obasanjo's political adviser Akin Osuntokun said in a statement.
"We deplore in its entirety the attempt ... to politicize and interfere in the report of the investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the case concerning Vice President Atiku Abubakar."
Obasanjo, whose election in 1999 ended three decades of almost continuous military dictatorship in Africa's top oil producer, has been engaged in an increasingly bitter power struggle with Abubakar for at least two years.
Earlier this year Abubakar helped defeat an attempt to rewrite the constitution to allow Obasanjo to run for a third term in next year's elections.
Obasanjo had accused Abubakar of disloyalty on live national television over the issue of the proposed third term.
An investigation by the EFCC, which was created by Obasanjo, found earlier this month that Abubakar had diverted millions of dollars of public funds to private business concerns. Abubakar has denied the charges.
Abubakar has responded by accusing Obasanjo of using public money to operate a political slush fund and covering up for embezzlement of public funds.
The dispute has dominated the political scene with just seven months to go until elections which should mark the first democratic handover of power from one president to another in Nigeria's 46 years of independence from Britain.
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