• Party leaders express apprehension as Presidency denies working against any candidate

By Romanus Ugwu, Fred Ezeh, Chinelo Obogo and  Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye

The allegation, yesterday, by Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai,  that some persons at the Presidential Villa are working to frustrate the chances of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, winning the February 25 election has sparked fresh fears, anxiety and confusion among leadership and members of the ruling party.

The Kaduna State governor who was guest on a national television program claimed some persons in the presidency were behind unpopular policies like the Naira redesign and  failure to remove subsidy on petrol which he said brought hardship to the people. He said these policies were designed to anger the people, and turn them against the  APC during the poll.

“’I believe there are elements in the Villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way. Obviously, they are working against our presidential candidate simply because things didn’t go their way during the APC primary election that produced Tinubu. They had wanted a presidential candidate different from Tinubu who later emerged at the primary election…I think they are still trying to get us to lose the election and they are hiding behind the president’s desire to do what he thinks is right. But that won’t stop Tinubu from victory,”he said.

The allegation, however, elicited a swift response from the  Minister of Information and Culture, Lia Mohammed, who denied such sinister plot against the APC presidential candidate by the Federal Government.

Mohammed said President Muhammadu Buhari was not working for or against any candidate, but concerned with the conduct of  free and fair election for all contestants.

He said: “One thing I can assure you is that no matter who, this administration is focused and determined to ensure a free and fair election; I think in this administration, the most important person is Mr. President, and I think he has shown by words and by deeds that he’s committed to a free, fair and credible election.

“Fair, free and credible election actually means not favouring anybody or disadvantaging anybody, and everywhere he goes he makes that very clear, even as recently as Friday, when he was in Daura, he said the same thing.  So, if there’s anybody who’s working against any candidate, we don’t know officially.”

However, amid the rebuttal by Mohammed,  leaders and members of the ruling party have expressed the fear that for a high ranking party official like El-Rufai to allege sabotage, it proved that there were indeed some persons in corridor of power working to scuttle the chances of Tinubu.

Some of top party faithful who spoke to Daily Sun, however, flayed the Kaduna governor for going public on a matter that ought to be handled as a family affair. Some alleged that the body language of the president in recent weeks had suggested he was not fully committed to the Tinubu aspiration and that this could have emboldened others close to him to follow suit. 

A National Working Committee (NWC) member, however, exonerated the national leadership of the party from the alleged sabotage even as he said the revelation by El-Rufai had thrown members into confusion.

The source, who preferred to remain anonymous said: “What I am against is making what could have been handled internally a public affair as the Kaduna governor did on national television. Governor El-Rufai has succeeded in creating confusion among party members with his claims of sabotage from the presidency.”

He raised the concerns that with what was going on in the party, another chieftain would also accuse the party’s leadership of sabotage and  of equally working against Tinubu’s victory for next month’s presidential poll.

However, reacting formally, the APC PCC said there was noting strange in the claim by the Kaduna governor.

Special Adviser, Media and Public Affairs, Dele Alake, told newsmen in Abuja that: “As a campaign council, it is very simple, there is really nothing spectacular about what El-Rufai said, and it’s even self explanatory. He did say that some people, but he never said the President. In any organisation, including your own individual media houses, you have editorial policies, and there are elements within your organisation that won’t agree with those policies. Yet, they still work there. It is therefore not a spectacular thing. It is merely a natural phenomenon. In all organisations and institutions, you cannot have 100 per cent of the operatives seeing issues exactly the same way. However, it is the preponderance of views that matter. Now in terms of the presidency, who is the power base? Of course, it is the Commander-in-Chief. He holds all the aces. We do not expect that he would actually see all his staff eye to eye. But they are still there.”

Regardless,  El-Rufai in the interview had expressed disappointment that President Muhammadu Buhari, could not  end the era of petroleum subsidy that had consumed huge chunk of Nigeria’s financial resources even as he said some of he policies like the new naira notes a were not of the APC as governors were not consulted.

“Besides, for such programme to work, we, the governors, must be involved and carried along but that wasn’t done. The duration for the mop up of old Naira notes is too short.

“However, Nigerians must know that these policies are not of the APC nor our presidential candidate, Tinubu. It’s obviously, the policies of some fifth columnists whose intentions are to bring us and the country down. These policies were simply designed to inflict more pains and sufferings on our rural people,” he said.