• APC reacts
By Emma Emeozor and Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Ahead of 2019 general elections, Minister for Women Affairs, Hajia Aisha Jummai Alhassan, has declared support for former vice president Atiku Abubakar, saying President Muhammadu Buhari promised members of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) before he was elected in 2015 that he would only serve for one term.
The implication of the disclosure by Alhassan is that the president may not run in 2019.
“In 2014/2015 he (Buhari) said he was going to run for only one time to clean up the mess that the (previous) PDP government did in Nigeria. And I took him for his word that he is not contesting in 2019,” an agency report quoted her as saying yesterday.
In an interview with the BBC Hausa Service, she restated her position, saying she would resign if Buhari presented himself for re-election.
The minister who was caught on camera pledging loyalty to former vice president Atiku Abubakar if he decided to run, allegedly told the media that she would personally discourage Buhari from re-contesting, insisting that she was ready to sacrifice her position in the federal cabinet.
Abubakar was deputy to former president Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007 on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He joined the APC in 2014.
“If today Mr President says he is running in 2019, I will go to him respectfully and thank him for giving me an opportunity to serve and then tell him that I have to resign because my political father may be running,” the minister fondly called “Mama Taraba,” said.
Before his election in 2015, Buhari had contested and lost the presidential poll in 2003, 2017 and 2011, twice under the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Congress of Progressives Change (CPC). He contested for the fourth time on the ticket of the APC, a coalition of several political parties, after beating Rabiu Kwankwaso, Atiku and others at a keenly contested primary held in Lagos.
In the interview with the BBC, Mama Taraba 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. And 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, ‘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.’ (That is) if Atiku said he is going to contest; as we are talking now, Atiku has not said he is going to contest. Why I said our president in 2019 is because we all hope he (Atiku) is going to contest, but he never told us that he is going to contest. But if he said he is going to contest, I will surely do what I told you I will do, because if Atiku said he is going to contest and I remain in the cabinet of Baba while Baba (Atiku) also wants to contest, then I have become a hypocrite, and I am not one. If I said I am not with Atiku, Buhari himself will not trust me at all because he will say I am a hypocrite.”
Asked if it was not too early to start campaigning, she replied: “Yes, I made this statement when we went for a courtesy call during Sallah festivities. I am not going to stand before him and campaign. Besides, this is not the time for the campaign. Even when my people asked me to come out and start campaigning, I told them this is not the time for that. This is the time to work for the people.”
Sher blamed political foes who wanted her fired from the Buhari cabinet, for the video that went viral. But she declared that she was not scared sack.
“…they have been going round saying I should be sacked as a minister. I never hoped to be a minister, Allah gave it to me If I get sacked, it will not bother me because I believe in Allah, that my time has elapsed; because I believe only Allah do and undo. And you think Baba is a mad man like those calling for my sack? They have been sending it and spreading that if Baba sees this I will be sacked. He will not sack me from being a minister because of this, only if I commit another offence. I am doing my job as a minister with all my heart and I always protect this government because it is a government of APC. And Baba our President, the President of Nigeria and somebody that I respect even before I joined politics. I will continue to respect him as a man of integrity. For those who are saying I will be sacked, they will be shamed. And even if I am sacked, I believe it is my time as a minister that has ended. I never asked for it, Allah gave it to me.”
Reacting, the APC promised to take appropriate sanction against Alhassan.
National Publicity Secretary of the governing party, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, told Daily Sun that though the party had been following the development in the media, the national leadership of the party would meet, deliberate over it and take the necessary disciplinary action if need be.
“All I can tell you is that we are following the development. The national leadership has not met to take a decision on the issue. We will meet when we get the detail report to take the necessary disciplinary measure if need be,” he said.
Born in 1959, “Mama Taraba” narrowly missed making history as Nigeria’s first female democratically elected governor when she lost to Governor Darius Ishaku of the PDP.
A lawyer, she was former senator representing Taraba North constituency on the ticket of the PDP.
She was later appointed Minister of Women Affairs by Buhari.
Before then, she had served as the first woman to be made Secretary of the FCT Judicial Council in 2002, and Chief Registrar of the Abuja High Court in 2003. (The Sun)