7 September 2017

Nigeria: I'll Resign If Buhari Seeks Re-Election - Women Affairs Minister

Photo: Premium Times
Aisha Alhassan

Minister of Women Affairs, Senator Aisha Alhassan, has vowed to oppose President Muhammadu Buhari if he shows interest in the 2019 presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

The minister said she would resign and pitch her tent in the camp of Atiku Abubakar, if the President showed interest to contest against Atiku.

The Presidency offered no comments on Senator Alhassan's comments, while the APC said its leadership will meet to react to the issue.

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on its part, said it was a strong vote of no confidence on the President, saying it further underlined the fact that the Buhari government had performed woefully.

The brewing controversy over Mrs. Alhassan's political inclination arose after a video of her showering encomiums on Atiku as Nigeria's president in 2019 was leaked online.

The video was taken when Mrs. Alhassan led a delegation of political stalwarts on a Sallah visit to the former vice-president, during the recent Sallah holidays in Yola.

In the video, Mrs. Alhassan was heard saying in Hausa:

"Your Excellency, our father and our president by the grace of God come 2019. Before you are your people, your supporters for life, the people of Taraba State. They are here to pay homage and to greet you on the occasion of Sallah and for all that Allah has done for you because Allah has raised your status.

"We heard that they are coming to extend their greetings, so we said we have to be part of this, and we all came to you. Chairman of the party, come out chairman; he is our leader because he is the chairman of the party, I was only made leader of the delegation.

"Here are some of the party officials (pointing at them while sitting). Everybody here is asking to be allowed to say something, but I said no, Baba should be left alone, you are tired... "

Mrs. Alhassan did not reply to phone calls to her numbers and did not also respond to a text message on the issue.

However, Mr. Paul Ibe, Atiku's spokesman, confirmed that she was part of a delegation that paid a visit to the former vice-president during the Sallah holidays. He, however, could not confirm what was said during the visit as he claimed he was not present during the visit.

Following the visit to Atiku, Mrs. Alhassan, it was learned, subsequently followed Atiku as part of his delegation as Wazirin Adamawa to pay Sallah homage to the Lamido Adamawa.

Alhassan confirms video, says Atiku is her godfather

Mrs. Alhassan, however, confirmed the video in an interview with the BBC Hausa service.

Noting her historic relationship with Atiku, she said: "Atiku is my godfather, even before I joined politics and again, Baba Buhari did not tell us that he is going to run in 2019.

"Let me tell you today that if Baba said he is going to contest in 2019, I swear to Allah, I will go before him and kneel and tell him that 'Baba I am grateful for the opportunity you gave me to serve your government as a minister but Baba just like you know, I will support only Atiku because he is my godfather; if Atiku says he is going to contest.

"If because of what I said, I am sacked, it will not bother me because I believe in Allah, that my time has elapsed, that is why...

"Baba is not a mad man like those calling for my sack. They have been saying that if Baba sees this, I will be sacked."

APC spokesman, Abdullahi, Adesina decline comments

Her assertion shocked the political landscape in Abuja, yesterday, but there were muted reactions from political stakeholders.

Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, pressed for a reaction to her statement, said: "No comment."

APC spokesman, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, also did not offer any comments on the development, affirming that he would have to consult with the party leadership on the issue.

It's a vote of no confidence -- PDP

However, PDP spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said: "That is a vote of no confidence in the government and that shows you that the woman knows that the President has not done enough to fulfil the mandate given to him by Nigerians.

"She knows that the President has, most of the time, been an absentee President and the government has performed woefully, and this is therefore, a vote of no confidence in the government by a member of that government. It shows that there is no reason any Nigerian should support Buhari. The government has failed woefully."

Mrs. Alhassan was the APC governorship candidate in the 2015 elections in Taraba State and lost after a stiff challenge to the PDP's Darius Ishaku.

The Court of Appeal momentarily upturned the election in her favour, but she lost the battle at the Supreme Court.

Atiku has quietly been building up campaign structure across the country for a possible presidential bid in 2019. In 2007, he was the candidate of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. In 2011 he made another bid but failed to get the ticket of the PDP and in 2015, he made yet another abortive bid for the presidential ticket of the APC.

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