(NNPA/GIN)—Top U.S. officials made an unannounced visit to Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, a former military dictator, during their recent trip to the oil-producing African nation—a move that raised fears of U.S. support for a possible run by Babangida for the presidency in next year’s elections.

“At the very least, the parley suggests that Obama’s team regards the retired general as an instrument for solving Nigeria’s myriad and deep political crises,” wrote columnist Okey Ndibe on the anti-corruption website SaharaReporters.

“Babangida and ex-president Sani Abacha helped to deepen and entrench patterns of corruption and human rights abuse from which the country has since made almost no progress in escaping… as much as $12.2 billion in oil revenues simply “disappeared” under his watch,” wrote Human Rights Watch in a 2007 report.

The visit by Johnnie Carson, U.S. Ass’t Sec’y of State for African Affairs, and Robin Saunders, the U.S. Ambassador, was omitted from their State Dept. travel itinerary and local media were not informed about the meeting there.

Nigerians were, however, able to read a flattering letter of congratulations by the U.S. Ambassador to Goodluck Jonathan, elevated last week to “acting president,” to replace the ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua.

“We believe that the principles of democracy have been served well in Nigeria through the leadership shown by the National Assembly, the Governors’ Forum, several ministers and the courts in finding a way out of the political impasse,” wrote the Ambassador.

But Jonathan’s assumption of power without a formal letter to parliament from the country’s ailing president has no precedent and is not explicitly backed by the constitution.

Adua responding to Ndibe wrote: “We don’t know what the meeting is about, but that they are meeting him at all to me is a bad sign at least that means they don’t have intentions of arresting and charging him for looting our common wealth and for that I am well PO’d.”

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