What you need to know:
- Mr Frank was in Nairobi in August this year for about two weeks during which time he was put up at Kempinski Hotel.
- During the interview at Kempinski, Mr Frank also disclosed that he cannot set foot in Nigeria because he would be arrested.
- Mr Frank is a close associate of Mr Atiku, a fabulously wealthy former Nigerian vice-president who has been described by his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, as “not trustworthy” and other not very kind terms.
Deputy President William Ruto met with a controversial man on the run alongside former Nigerian vice-president Atiku Abubakar during his highly guarded trip to the emirate of Dubai this week.
Pictures of the Deputy President alongside Mr Abubakar and a third man, whom the Sunday Nation has identified as Timi Frank, surfaced on social media on Friday as rumours and conjecture dominated debate in Nairobi on Dr Ruto’s mission.
Mr Frank, a high-flying but controversial political activist, is wanted in Nigeria on various accusations of character assassination.
Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service in 2019 announced that it was suing him over a series of fraud allegations he made against the agency, while the current Nigerian vice-president Yemi Osinbajo last year announced that he was suing Mr Frank for defaming him by making corruption allegations against him.
The Sunday Nation can also reveal Mr Frank was in Nairobi in August this year for about two weeks during which time he was put up at Kempinski Hotel.
At the time, it was not clear what his mission in the country was, even though he disclosed to a Sunday Nation reporter who talked to him at the hotel that he had met with Dr Ruto and dropped other big names, including that of a senior lawyer and a flamboyant Nairobi MP. The Sunday Nation is not revealing the identities of the lawyer and the politician for legal reasons.
During the interview at Kempinski, Mr Frank also disclosed that he cannot set foot in Nigeria because he would be arrested. Now it appears that his trip to Nairobi was a precursor to the meeting between Dr Ruto and Mr Abubakar, which the Sunday Nation understands has been long in planning.
We could not independently confirm that Mr Frank had met with the Deputy President in Nairobi, even though he showed us photos from the supposed meeting at a venue he did not disclose.
In the two weeks he spent in Nairobi, his Kenyan handlers fixed interviews with at least three local television stations as he talked about his “vision for Africa” and praised presidents John Magufuli of Tanzania and Paul Kagame of Rwanda, as well as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, for their “visionary leadership”.
Mr Frank is a close associate of Mr Atiku, a fabulously wealthy former Nigerian vice-president who has been described by his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, as “not trustworthy” and other not very kind terms.
Dr Ruto left the country on Wednesday for Dubai hours after holding talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta. Sources said he used the meeting to seek clearance to travel out of the country. In the past, his foreign travel requests have been frustrated by the bureaucrats at State House.
Both the DP and his political nemesis, ODM leader Raila Odinga, are out of the country amid raging debate on the Building Bridges Initiative. Mr Odinga, also the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development, is in the Democratic Republic of Congo on a follow-up trip to examine progress on the Grand Inga Hydropower Project, a month after a similar trip.
The DP’s Dubai trip caught a number of his trusted lieutenants off-guard as some of those interviewed initially termed it as “fake news” until social media went abuzz with pictures of Dr Ruto in the company of former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar.
Following publication of the pictures on social media, majority of the DP’s staunch lieutenants said he was in Dubai for vacation. Since then, the DP’s usually vocal allies have remained tight-lipped on the trip.
However, Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa said Dr Ruto is in Dubai to look for “friendship bridges” for future endeavours.
“He is a hustler and meeting people who can aid him in hustles,” said Mr Barasa. “His Dubai diary is full.”
Mr Abubakar is a wealthy Nigerian with vast investments in oil, but President Obasanjo, in his 2014 biography My Watch, described him in unsavoury terms.
“What I did not know, which came out glaringly later, was his parental background, which was somewhat shadowy, his propensity to corruption, his tendency to disloyalty, his inability to say and stick to the truth all the time, a propensity for poor judgment, his belief and reliance on marabouts (religious teachers), his lack of transparency, his trust in money to buy his way out on all issues, and his readiness to sacrifice morality, integrity, propriety, truth and national interest for self and selfish interest.”
Mr Atiku publicly fell out with President Obasanjo and even decamped from then ruling People’s Democratic Party to the Action Congress of Nigeria, but lost the 2007 presidential election, which was won by the now-deceased Umaru Yar’Adua.
When contacted for comment, the DP’s Director of Communication Emmanuel Talam referred the Sunday Nation to communication secretary David Mugonyi, who was also unavailable.
Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono, a staunch ally of the DP said: “Social media is peddling a lot of rumours, The DP is fine and he has gone to Dubai for business.”
Some of the DP’s critics have alluded that he has shied away from leading ‘No’ campaigns against BBI because of “financial woes”.
Cherang’any MP Joshua Kutuny, a firebrand critic of the DP, claimed the Tangatanga camp has no resources to face the Uhuru-Raila-Gideon-Kalonzo force when it comes to drumming up support for the report.
However, the Deputy President has in recent days indicated that he is not angling for a ‘No’ campaign, but rather for consensus on the report. That assertion has left many of those who were bracing themselves for a political duel throwing punches at him.
Mr Kutuny is one of them: “Early this year when it was only the former prime minister leading the BBI drive, it got a great momentum, now with the President preparing to lead these campaigns, Ruto has no resources to counter that formidable force,” he said.
“Had the DP had resources to fund ‘No’ campaigns and his 2022 State House bid, he would not have hesitated to do so.”
Both Dr Ruto and Mr Atiku have political aspirations. Dr Ruto will be taking a stab at the presidency in 2022, while Mr Abubakar is the candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the Nigerian presidential race a year later, in 2023.
Early this year, the DP also secretly travelled to Khartoum, Sudan, hours before President Kenyatta announced changes to government. The Deputy President also travelled to Congo Brazzaville quietly, as he has done in several trips to Uganda to meet with President Yoweri Museveni.
Additional reporting by Onyango K’onyango