As the race for 2019 presidency hots up, the minister for Women Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Alhassan, has declared her readiness to support former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s bid for the Presidency against President Muhammadu Buhari if the former decides to contest.
Alhassan, in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service said she respected Buhari, but that Atiku remained her godfather.
The minister had, in a leaked video on social media, endorsed the former vice-president for the 2019 presidential election.
According to the leaked video, Alhassan endorsed Atiku when she led a delegation on a private visit to the former vice-president on an undisclosed day during the last Sallah celebration.
The minister, who spoke in Hausa in the video, said, “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 our homage and to greet you on the occasion of Sallah and for all that Allah has done to you because Allah has raised your status.”
On Wednesday, Alhassan, in the BBC Hausa Service interview, confirmed that she would support Atiku in 2019.
The minister added that Buhari had not told anybody that he would contest the 2019 presidential election.
She, however, said even if the President decide to contest the election, she would support Atiku for the presidency.
Alhassan stated, “Since I was in the civil service, His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar, has been my mentor and godfather. He has remained so even now that I have joined politics. There is a reason for every political relationship.
“Secondly, Baba Buhari has not told anybody that he is contesting in 2019. I can assure you that today, if Baba Buhari says he is going to contest, walahi tallahi (I swear by Allah), I will go and kneel down before him and say ‘Baba, I am grateful for the opportunity you have given me to serve as minister in your administration but Baba, like you know, Atiku is my godfather’.
“If Atiku says he is going to contest, but he too has not said he will contest… Why I said (Atiku) ‘our President come 2019’ is that we expect that he will contest, but he has not told us he will contest. But if he contests, I will go and do what I just told you I will do.”
Alhassan said she was not a hypocrite, adding that Buhari was aware of her relationship with Atiku.
“I am not one to betray trust. If I now say I have no business with Atiku, even Baba Buhari will have doubts about me, he will say ‘this one is a betrayer of trust,” the minister stated.
In response to a question on if it was not too early to talk about 2019, Alhassan popularly called mama Taraba, said, “I said what I said when we went to pay Sallah homage to (Atiku). Is it before him that I am going to campaign? The issue of campaign does not arise.
“Even me, people are calling me to go and contest but I tell them this is the time for governance. This (leak) is the handiwork of my detractors, those who are asking that I should be removed as minister.”
Alhassan believed the ministerial appointment she got was the work of God, adding that whatever happened to a person was destined by Allah.
She stressed, “Is Baba (Buhari) a mad man like them? They have been sharing this (video) using their mobile telephones, saying that ‘if Baba sees this one, he will sack her’. He will not sack me on account of this unless I commit an offence.
“I am doing my job as minister honestly. I defend this administration because it is a government of my party – the APC and Baba is our President whom I respected long before I joined partisan politics. I respect him as President and I will continue to respect him as a man of integrity until I die.
“Those who are saying I will be sacked will be put to shame. Even if I am sacked, it is Allah’s will; I never lobbied for it. It was Allah who gave it to me.”
Presidency, APC decline comments
When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, declined comment.
Also, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, neither returned to one of our correspondents’ telephone calls nor a text message sent to him.
But the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said he could not comment on the issue.
“I don’t want to comment on the issue please,” he said.
The Special Assistant to the President on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, said she wasn’t competent to speak on the matter.
“I believe I’m the least person qualified to speak on an issue such as that. If the situation changes, I’ll let you know. Many thanks,” Onochie stated.
Sources in the Presidency said Buhari’s media team had been instructed not to speak on the matter but to leave the minister to handle the issue.
Endorsement of ex-VP shows executive decadence, indiscipline –Junaid
But a Second Republic lawmaker and northern elder statesman, Dr. Junaid Muhammed, said the endorsement of Atiku by Alhassan showed lack of discipline and the decadence within the executive arm of the Federal Government.
He stated, “Let me be honest with you. The step by the minister is very unfortunate and it is a very serious indication of the decadence and lack of discipline within the executive branch.
“This is because being a minister is a privilege granted by the President to any individual, whether in the same party or not.
“It is important to also consider the fact that loyalty pays in whatever one does in life. It is not something that the political party should be happy about.
“I sincerely hope that the President will take this as a sign of warning that something is missing within his political party.”
Resign if you want to work for Atiku, Shehu Sani tells minister
The lawmaker representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Senator Shehu Sani, however, advised Alhassan to leave Buhari’s cabinet if she want to work with Atiku.
He condemned the criticism that followed the open admittance of her loyalty to the former vice-president, saying the minister was better than others in the Buhari’s government who were nursing political ambitions and were undermining the administration.
Sani stated, “The difference between that woman, who made the statement as a minister and others, is that she was open and others are still having it in their minds.
“If she is prepared to work for the former vice-president, I think in the event that this President contests (again) or not, she can easily excuse herself from this government and concentrate on what she believes in in 2019.”