By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, & Omeiza Ajayi
Senator Aisha Alhassan’s recent salvo of her irrevocable support for Atiku Abubakar against President Muhammadu Buhari in any presidential duel may be the opening barrage in a contest of wills for the soul and structure of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
What has generally been regarded as the deep-seated animosity among bigwigs of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, blew open penultimate week when the minister of women affairs, Senator Aisha Alhassan, publicly declared her preference for Atiku Abubakar against President Muhammadu Buhari in any possible presidential duel.
The minister had in a BBC interview publicly declared what many within the cabinet had always whispered about her; to wit, her apparent refusal to dance to the popular tune in Abuja that everything Buhari is correct.
The minister had reportedly declared; “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. 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. If because of what I said, I am sacked, it will not bother me because I believe in Allah, that my time has elapsed that is why… Baba is not 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.”
Though the party tried to paper over the controversy, especially after the minister asked for forgiveness for her boldness, there is, however, apprehension that that may not be the end.
Indeed, there could be more troubles for the party especially as it is understood that there are many within its rank who share the same sentiments with the minister.
In fact, many of those who recently called for sanctions against her are also known to be harbouring their own secret thoughts about Buhari and also making their political permutations for self-preservation.
After Alhassan, the latest senior party figure to openly speak against a second term for Buhari is Chief Bode Mustapha.
Speaking in an interview with a national newspaper, Mustapha disclosed that those calling for a second term for Buhari want him dead.
He of course spoke against the background of the health problems facing the 74-year-old president of the country.
As he said:
“When people begin to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to re-run in 2019, to me, it is the height of sycophancy.
“When you call on Buhari whose health is failing, two, on whose side age is no longer there to say, at late 70s to contest,” then there is something wrong. Nigeria is not Zimbabwe, Nigeria is not Tunisia, in terms of intellect of people, in terms of the complicity and complexity of the various 250 and 300 nationalities, in terms of, even everything about Nigeria. It is just like, wanting to kill the poor man.
“I believe that people who are calling for him to run again, have their own agenda, either they will think that, if it is ok, that I say, he should run, he would support me to run, or some of them are positioning themselves to be either vice president or senate president, etc and they think, they would make it.”
Chief Mustapha’s assertion is understandably being considered in politically sensitive quarters given the historic close relationship between him and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Given President Obasanjo’s hesitation on the issue of Buhari’s government during recent interview sessions, Mustapha’s comment is bound to raise feathers as to whether Mustapha was echoing Obasanjo’s words. That is against the background of the blanket support Obasanjo gave to Buhari in 2015.
Whereas the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and many others who speak on the issue of a second term for Buhari almost always come out to support the idea, Sunday Vanguard can, however, reveal that not all of them are speaking sincerely on the issue.’
Indeed, as many as three different major political structures are being built for a second term campaign.’
The structures include the 2015 campaign structure which is quietly being revved up for another round. A second structure is being provided by those in government while a third independent structure is being framed by some individuals who want to build a channel to rival the 2015 campaign structure.
Remarkably, some of those who are being recruited for a second term for Buhari are just hanging in there not because of conviction, but essentially as a means of sustaining relevance.