The presidency has refused to react officially to a statement credited to the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, that President Muhammadu Buhari had said he would not seek a second term in office.
Mrs. Alhassan had also said should the president decide to seek re-election, she would support her “godfather” – former Vice President Atiku Abubakar – against Mr. Buhari.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mrs. Alhassan told the BBC Hausa Service that Mr. Abubakar was her godfather and she would rather support him in the 2019 presidential elections.
She also added that President Buhari had not indicated interest in running.
“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,” Mrs Alhassan had said.
“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 said he is going to contest.”
PREMIUM TIMES also reported how Mrs. Alhassan, popularly called Mama Taraba, said she was not concerned about losing her job as minister over her comments.
“If because of what I said, I am sacked, it will not bother me because I believe in Allah that my time has elapsed.
“Baba is not a mad man like those calling for my sack. They have been spreading it that if Baba sees this (my comments), I will be sacked.” Mrs. Alhassan said.
In a separate interview with Reuters, Mrs. Alhassan said Mr. Buhari had told some of his supporters that he would not seek a second term.
“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 was quoted as saying.
Mr. Buhari who has been dogged by a persistent undisclosed ailment that has seen him visit the UK in recent months has not made any categorical statement in the media on whether he would seek re-election.
PRESIDENCY KEEPS MUM
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the Senior Special Assistant, Media to President Buhari, Garba Shehu, on his mobile phone, he declined comments.
”I can’t comment on in it right now maybe some other time,” he said tersely.
PREMIUM TIMES contacted him a while later to see if he could change his mind.
‘‘Why can’t we focus on another thing like we are out of recession? Nigeria is out of recession,” he said.
Efforts to also get the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina, to comment also met a brick wall.
In a short reaction via text message, he replied, ‘‘no comments.”
The ruling All Progressives Congress, the party Messrs. Buhari and Abubakar both belong, has also kept mum on the minister’s statements.
The APC spokesperson did not pick calls or respond to a short message sent to his phone.
Although both Messrs. Buhari and Abubakar have not publicly indicated their intentions in 2019, Mr. Abubakar is believed to be mobilising support across Nigeria for another possible shot at the presidency. He lost the APC ticket to Mr. Buhari in the build up to the 2015 election.
On Wednesday, he alleged that Mr. Buhari and the APC government had side-lined him despite helping the government to win the 2015 election.
Meanwhile, the minister, who is in the eye of the storm said she stands by her comments.
In a short reaction when she spoke briefly with journalists on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Mrs. Alhassan said she has said all that needed to be said in her interview with BBC Hausa.
‘‘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.
On her relationship with the president and fears she may lose her job, she said:
‘‘How will I know (on the relationship). I have not seen the President but I don’t think the president is a naive person.
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.”