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8 Sep 2017

2019: Buhari’s minister in Villa, insists on backing Atiku

The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Aisha Alhassan, on Thursday, said that there was no going back on her decision to support former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 presidential election.
Alhassan, who stated this in an interview with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, said,  “Let the will of God be done.”

The minister, who was sighted at the villa at 2.24pm, was not seen by President Muhammadu Buhari and his vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

The minister, had on Wednesday, said she was ready to support the former vice-president in the 2019 election against Buhari.

Alhassan had, in an interview on the BBC Hausa Service, said that although she respected Buhari, Atiku remained her godfather.

She also confirmed her statement in a leaked video, where, during a private meeting with Atiku,  endorsed the former vice-president.

Also in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, she stated that Buhari had said that he would spend only one term in office.

She said that before the 2015 elections, Buhari promised that he would spend only one term in office to clean up the mess of the Peoples Democratic Party’s government.

It was not clear if the minister was summoned to the Presidential Villa on Thursday.

Alhassan was seen leaving the Office of the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, who was said not to be on seat at the time she came.

When asked by State House correspondents to react to media reports credited to her that she would support Atiku  in 2019,  Alhassan, while walking to her car, referred newsmen to the  interview she granted the BBC Hausa Service. She  said her position had not changed.

Alhassan said, “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.”

On her relationship with Buhari now, she asked, “How will I know? I have not seen the President but I don’t think the President is a naive person.”

On whether she was confident that she could retain her job, she replied, “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.”

She also responded to  Buhari supporters, who said she was not loyal to the President. Alhassan said. “Let the will of God be.”

Attempts to make Alhassan to disclose the purpose of her visit to the villa did not succeed. In an SMS sent to her  she was asked if she was summoned to the villa or she was there on her volition. She did not pick the calls to her mobile telephone line. Also, the minister had not responded to the text message on the issue as of the time of filing this report by 8.30pm

It was learnt the minister walked around the Villa but the purpose of her visit could not be ascertained as of press time.

A top source at the Villa said, “She came to the Office of the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, but he was not around so she left almost immediately. She was walking over the place and then we didn’t see her again.”

The source said everyone was waiting to see what Buhari would do.

He  added, “There is supposed be a cabinet reshuffle soon and maybe she knows she might be asked to leave and that is what is giving her the effrontery to act in such a manner.

“Anyway, we are all waiting to see what President Buhari will do. He will also look at the security and political implication of having someone who is not loyal to you in your cabinet.”

The Presidency and the APC again on Thursday kept mum on Alhassan’s comments about the 2019 elections and Atiku’s criticism of the ruling party.

Atiku, had on Wednesday in an interview on the Hausa Service of the Voice of America, said he had been sidelined by the APC-led Federal Government.

He had said that he used his contacts and resources to defeat the Peoples Democratic Party in 2015.

Atiku had said,  “Honestly speaking, I’m still a member of the APC; I was part of all the processes, including campaigns until success was achieved.

“But sadly, soon after the formation of government; I was sidelined, I have no any relationship with the government, I’ve not been contacted even once to comment on anything and in turn, I maintained my distance. They used our money and influence to get to where they’re but three years down the lane, this is where we are,” Atiku said.

When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, declined comment on Atiku and Alhassan’s statements.  “We have no comment at the moment,” he said.

When contacted, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said he would not comment on the matter.

“As I said before, I cannot comment on the issue,” he said.

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