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• Says governors, ministers will support Buhari in 2019
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-Rufia has described as not surprising the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan’s declaration of support for former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, stating that she has never been a supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to him, Alhassan was never in Buhari’s camp and never voted for him during the primaries. El-Rufai who spoke to State House Correspondents after a closed door meeting with the President, said her appointment as a cabinet minister was done by Buhari, who ignored reservations by party members.
He advised Nigerians not to be surprised or shocked at her outburst. He however said her retention or otherwise as a cabinet minister should be at the discretion of the President.
In a video, which went viral on Wednesday, the minister declared support for the former vice-president. This has sparked condemnation, particularly among supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
El-Rufai, who said he was at the presidential villa to felicitate with the President in the spirit of Sallah celebrations, noted that Alhassan whom he has known since student union days, was never in Buhari’s camp.
He said, “The Minister of Women Affairs Jummai Alhassan has been known to me since university days and she was active in the Students Union. In the APC, she was never in the Buhari camp, she did not support our candidate during the National Convention, she didn’t vote for Buhari during the primaries. But out of largeness of the President’s heart and to encourage women in politics, he felt that even though she was never a supporter of his politics nor his beliefs or ideologies, and because of what she has tried to do in Taraba, he felt she earned being nominated as a minister. Many in Buhari camp did not support it but he overruled everybody because that is how he is, he tries to be inclusive, he considers every Nigerian his own son or daughter and he nominated her to be minister.”
On whether she should be retained, El-Rufai said, it is the President’s prerogative. “Look, you can retain a person in the cabinet even if he doesn’t support you if he adds value to the country. Because this is a government, it is not a political grouping that we are fighting for some political progress. If Jummai Alhassan is performing as Minister of Women Afairs and adding value to the government and the people of Nigeria, it’s the President’s prerogative to retain her in spite of her political views. But if she is not adding value in spite of her political views she can be dispensed with, that is the president’s decision. I don’t think people should get worried about it. I have worked closely with the President, I know him and I know how he thinks. He doesn’t take this things personally or to heart. What is primary to him is Nigeria’s progress and how well the government is doing and what everyone is contributing, that is what matters ultimately.”
On El-Rufai as possible replacement if President Buhari is not contesting in 2019, he replied, “Look, 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 governor today by the grace of God because President Buhari called me and said go and run for Governor of Kaduna state. As far as 2019 is concerned, my position is the President is looking very well, he is recuperating very fast. My hope and prayer is he will contest in 2019.
“Everything that our group is doing, and we have a group. We have a Buharist amongst governors, ministers. Our group wants to ensure that President Buhari runs in 2019. If he chooses not to run he will tell us which direction to go. We are Buharists, we don’t have any personal ambition, we don’t have any personal aspiration and we are waiting for him to decide. And every political effort we are making, every structure we are creating…And we know many people that have already started campaigning, they want to tag some of us as part of the problem and we are ready for them. But our political ideology is to support whatever President Buhari wants to support, that has not changed. And I want to assure you whatever names you hear, Nasir El-Rufai is not an aspirant for the presidency neither any of the governors that are known to be Buharists as well as some of the ministers that are known from time.”