With the dust yet to settle over her BBC Hausa Service interview in which she declared her support for former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Aisha Alhassan, has also revealed that Buhari had told his party members before the 2015 elections that he would only seek one term in office.
Alhassan was quoted in a Reuters interview on Wednesday as saying: “In 2014/2015 he 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.”
She said Buhari made the promise in 2015 to members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) but gave no further details.
Alhassan, who had also declared her support for Atiku during a visit to his home during the Sallah break, reiterated her position in the Reuters interview that she would resign if Buhari seeks re-election and would support the former vice-president if he decides to run.
Her visit to Atiku and declaration supporting him went public when a video of the visit went virile, a position she reaffirmed in the BBC interview.
“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 godfather may be running,” said Alhassan.
Meanwhile, the minister remained unyielding Thursday over her stance, when she insisted that the president was not naïve.
Alhassan, who doubled-down on her position while responding to questions from State House correspondents in Abuja, said she could not determine what Buhari’s reaction would be to her public support for the former vice-president, who she termed her “godfather”, but reasoned that the president was not naïve.
But should the decision lead to the termination of her position in the cabinet, Alhassan was swift to state without any fear of equivocation that everything that has a beginning must surely have an end.
She said she had stated all that needed to be said on the matter when she spoke on the BBC Hausa Service and hence, could no longer comment on the matter.
“No, I have no comment. What will I say now? I have said all in BBC Hausa. Get someone who speaks Hausa very well to translate it for you,” she said.
Asked what the impact of her loyalty to Atiku would have on her relationship with Buhari, Alhassan said she did not know because she had not set her eyes on the president since the interview, but believed that the president was not inexperienced.
“How will I know? I have not seen the president but I don’t think the president is not an inexperienced person,” she said.
On whether her position would not cost her, her place in the cabinet, Alhassan said it is God who gives and takes, stressing that everything that has a beginning also has an end.
“God gives and God takes. That is all and I have said it all in Hausa. You know that there is an end to everything. Let the will of God be,” she stated.
Alhassan has been in the eye of the storm following the release of a video of her visit to Atiku during the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations, where she described the former vice-president as “His Excellency” and father of the nation come 2019 and pledged that the people of Taraba were behind him.
The leaked video prompted her invitation on the BBC Hausa Service where she affirmed her stance in the video, reiterating that Atiku had been her godfather from her days in the civil service up to the time she joined politics and hence, it was too late for her to desert him.
She was adamant to the extent of stating that even if Buhari opted to seek re-election in 2019, she would not hesitate to tell him that her loyalty would not be to him but to Atiku.
On Wednesday, Atiku had also accused Buhari and the APC-led federal government of sidelining him despite helping the government to win the 2015 election.
Although there has been no official reaction from the APC or presidency to Alhassan’s explosive statements, a chieftain of the APC and its senatorial candidate in Bayelsa State in 2015, Hon. Preye Aganaba, said Thursday that the APC might not have any alternative than to field Buhari to run for a second term in 2019.
Aganaba also said the minister was being unfair and uncharitable to the president.
“She has a right to her choice but I think she is not being fair. If she wants to make such a public statement as a serving minister, she should resign her appointment,” he said.
Aganaba, who served as a member of the president’s transition committee after the 2015 election, said Buhari was still the rallying point for the party and that no one has been able to match his popularity.
Speaking in an interview with reporters in Abuja, Aganaba said despite challenges facing the country, he believes the president is still held in high esteem by his supporters.
“So, I don’t think for now that the APC has any other choice than to re-elect President Buhari, though people are free to contest, nobody is stopping them, this is APC where we usually have free and fair primaries.
“The last presidential primary in Lagos, President Buhari won more than half of the votes,” he said.
When reminded about the uncertainty surrounding Buhari’s health, the APC chieftain said: “If President Buhari runs in an election today, he is going to win. I don’t think the president is terminally ill, and like every other human being, people fall sick but the problem is because he is the president, he is in government and you begin to hear stories but he is back.
“I saw him yesterday, he was looking very fresh, at least he rested very well in Daura.”
Aganaba also said he was not bothered about the Nigerian economy, expressing confidence that it will soon be fixed.
“For me, I’m looking at the politics of various zones because that will determine how we will win the election. We definitely will win, but the question is by what margin?
“These are the issues and then if we can also do well at the National Assembly elections.
“During the last APC presidential primary, the campaign slogan for Buhari was ‘12 million assured votes’, and I don’t think one single vote has left that 12 million assured votes. In fact, more have even been added.
“On the governance front, I think we have done well. Yes, may be not where we are suppose to be because we also did not know what to expect when we came in 2015, but we have done well.
“A few days ago, we heard about the story of Nigeria exiting the recession, the prices of food stuff are coming down too. In Abuja here, where I live, I get a minimum of 20 hours of electricity and some days light does not go off for five days and so on,” he said.
On the various crises facing the ruling party, Aganaba assured his interviewers that “they will be amicably resolved before the next election”.
“Whether you like it or not, we are going into the elections and we cannot go into the elections with a divided house. In 2013, I saw leaders of this party brought together under a dysfunctional system and we went into the elections in 2015 and we won.
“So, I still believe in the ability of this party to do the same thing before 2019,” he said.
Also speaking on the various agitations from the Niger Delta, Aganaba advised the government and Nigerians to ignore the agitations.
He said most of the calls were political from people seeking relevance from government.
“For me, I think they should be ignored because when they want to destroy pipelines, nobody announces it,” he said.