From Noah Ebije, Kaduna

Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai has disclosed that he does not have presidential ambitions, saying that at 62 he is too old to lead Nigeria.

El-Rufai said he has suffered presidential ambition suspicion for 15 years, a situation which he said has made some people paint him in a bad light, including calling him a Jihadist, just to keep him out of the presidential race.

El-Rufai stated this in an exclusive interview with the Pidgin service of the BBC, adding that governing Kaduna State alone was telling on his age, not to talk of the entire country.

He stated categorically that governing Nigeria is a serious job, which is obviously too much for a 62 year old man.

‘Look at me, look at my grey hair. If you see my picture when I was sworn in, my hair was very black but look at how it has become. This is a very difficult job and that is just state governor, one state out of 36, a big one, yes; a difficult one, yes, but it is not the same as Nigeria,’ he stated.

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‘Presidency of Nigeria is a very serious job, it is too much for a 62-year-old,’ El-Rufai said.

Asked if he is interested in the office of the Vice-President, he said: ‘I have not thought about it at all. I have said it that in the political system we have, after eight years of President Buhari, the presidency should go to the south.

‘I have been suffering this presidential ambition suspicion since 2006, I have suffered it for 15 years today, and I am sick and tired of it. There are people that are out to paint me in a particular picture so that, I will be out of the presidential race, but they don’t know that I am not in any race anywhere.

‘They have called me all sort of names; they said I am a Hausa-Fulani Irredentist, I am Jihadist and all that, Jihadist when? Where? I am not even an active member of any Islamic organization. I am Muslim yes, a devote one but, I believe religion is private. Even here in this office, when it is time for prayer, I just excuse myself as if I am going to the restroom, I don’t ask anyone to come and pray with me, because we will all go to our graves separately.

‘Look around me as see, I am surrounded only by Muslims, this government is the only state government in this country that has at least people from 13 other states of the Federation as cabinet members.

‘One of the most influential persons in my life, one of my closest political associates is Pastor Tunde Bakare. It was Pastor Tunde Bakare that actually introduced me to Buhari and CPC. I didn’t join the CPC because Buhari lives in Kaduna or he is a northerner. So, if I am an Islamic Jihadist, why will Pastor Tunde Bakare be speaking to me?,’ El-Rufai asked.