9 September 2017
By Chidiebere Ejike
In the wake of the declaration by Senator Aisha Alhassan announcing support for former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, against President Mohammadu Buhari in 2019, the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai has said Nigerians should not be surprised or shocked over her declaration saying she was never a supporter of Buhari.
The Governor, who said this on Friday, September 8, 2017 while fielding questions from State House Correspondents after a closed door meeting with President Buhari at the presidential villa in Abuja noted that Alhassan never supported Buhari’s candidature during the APC National convention nor voted for him during the party primaries.
“This has always been her position because from time she has never supported Buhari or what Buhari stands for. Being part of Buhari’s government is a different thing because government sets policies and if you are a minister, you execute the policies. You can execute those policies while pursuing a different brand of politics,” he said.
Alhassan, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, had in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service on Wednesday, September 6, said she was ready to support the former Vice-President, Atiku against President Buhari if they both choose to run for the 2019 presidential election. She added that she respected Buhari but Atiku remained her godfather.
El-Rufai said President Buhari appointed Alhassan despite repeated warning from leaders of All Progressives Congress, APC.
According to El-Rufai, President Buhari appointed Alhassan “out of the largeness of the President’s heart and to encourage women in politics.”
On whether the President should sack Alhassan for what some described as disloyalty, El-Rufai said that was the sole prerogative of the President. He noted that if Buhari felt she was doing a good job in her ministry, then he could leave her to continue, but if she wasn’t doing well, then he could sack her.
He said, “It is the President’s prerogative. Look, you can retain a person in the cabinet even if he doesn’t support you, but adds value to the country because in the end this is a government and not a political grouping.
“If Alhassan is performing as Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development and adding value to the government and the people of Nigeria, it is the president’s prerogative to retain her despite her political views. But if she is not adding value inspite of her political view, she can be dispensed with; that is the President’s decision.”
El-Rufai also said that the APC governors and ministers have resolved to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to contest the 2019 presidential election. He dismissed the assertion that he was being groomed to replace Buhari in 2019. According to him, as a supporter of Buhari, he has no presidential ambition as being speculated since he left the public service as minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in 2007.
He said: “My name has continuously been mentioned as a presidential aspirant since 2007 after my years in the FCT, there is nothing new about that. What I want to say here very, very clearly is that I have never been a presidential aspirant. I have never even been a gubernatorial aspirant. I am a governor today by the grace of God because President Buhari called me and said ‘go and run for Governor of Kaduna State’.”
He continued, “As far as 2019 is concerned, my position is that the President is looking very well, he is recuperating very fast. My hope and prayer is he will contest in 2019.”
On the other hand, Atiku earlier had on the Hausa Service of Voice of America, said that the APC sidelined him after helping it to win the 2015 elections, sparking speculations that he may opt out of APC to run for president in another party.
Recall that PDP chieftains have of late been wooing Atiku to rejoin his former party.