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Governors, ministers want Buhari back in 2019, says El Rufa’i

By Wahab Akanji, Abuja

Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufa’i has stated that governors and ministers serving under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have resolved to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to contest the 2019 presidential election.

El-Rufa’i, who made this known to State House correspondents after a closed door meeting with President Buhari in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday, said the governors and the ministers made the call as members of the “Buharist Group”.

The “Buharist Group” is an association of APC governors and ministers, whose primary aim is to promote and defend the perceived socio-political interests of President Buhari.

The governor dismissed the assertion that he was being groomed to replace President Buhari in 2019.

According to him, as a member of the “Buharist group’’ he has no presidential ambition as being speculated since he left the public service as minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in 2007.

“My name has continuously been mentioned as a Presidential aspirant s‎ince 2007 after my years in the FCT, there is nothing new about that. What I want to say here very, very clearly is that I have never been a Presidential aspirant, I have never even been a gubernatorial aspirant.

“I am governor today by the grace of God because President Buhari called me and said go and run for Governor of Kaduna state.

“As far as 2019 is concerned, my position is the President (Muhammadu Buhari) is looking very well, he is recuperating very fast. My hope and prayer is he will contest in 2019,’’ he said.

On the recent political comments attributed to the Minister of Womem Affairs and Social Development, Aishat Alhassan, El-Rufa’i said Nigerians should not be surprised or shocked over her utterances, saying that in the APC she was never in the Buhari camp.

Aishat Alhassan had on Wednesday disclosed in a BBC Hausa Service interview that she would rather resign as minister than abandon the former vice  president “if he decides to run for presidential elections in 2019’’.

However, El-Rufa’i said  that Alhassan neither supported Buhari’s candidature during the APC National Convention nor voted for (Buhari) him during the party primaries.

“This has always been her position because from time she has never supported Buharism or what Buhari stands for.

“Being part of Buhari government is a different thing because government sets policies and if you are a minister you execute the policies. You can execute those policies while pursuing a different brand of politics,’’ he said.

The governor, who said he was in the Presidential Villa to wish the President “very happy Sallah’’ and also join him in performing the Juma’at prayer, said it was the President’s prerogative to either retain or remove the minister from the cabinet.

He said: “Look, you can retain a person in the cabinet even if he doesn’t support you if he adds value to the country. Because this is a government, it is not a political group fighting for some political progress.

“If Jummai Alhassan is coming as Minister of Women Afairs and adding value to the government and the people of Nigeria it is the President’s prerogative to retain her in spite of her political views.

“But if she is not adding value in spite of her political views she can be dispensed with…… people shouldn’t get worried about it. I have worked closely with the President, I know him and I know how he thinks. He doesn’t take these things personally…. What is primary to him is Nigeria’s progress… that is what matters ultimately.’’

On the ongoing debate on restructuring the country, El-Rufa’i, who is chairing the APC ‎committee on true federalism, said his committee would  start public hearings on the matter from September 18.

He said that the committee had started receiving a lot of comments and memoranda particularly from young people who had never been part of the restructuring conversation.

According to him, the committee will have 13 public hearings  across the country.

“By the time we listen to Nigerians and synthesize their views, we will write and make recommendations to our party how to operationalise true federalism as we have promised in our constitution,’’ he said.

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