If former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, gets the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he can never meet the popularity of President Muhammadu Buhari in the north, Kaduna state governor, Nasir el-Rufai, has said.
Speaking to State House correspondents after observing Friday Muslim prayers at the Villa Mosque with President Buhari, he said this is Buhari’s time, affirming that no All Progressives Congress (APC) governor will defect from the party on account of Abubakar’s resignation from the APC.
He pointed out that the governor of Abubakar’s home state of Adamawa, Jubrila Bindow, has already endorsed Buhari for 2019.
The governor revealed that the former Vice President was expected to leave the APC in December but had apparently decided to move earlier, saying, “the earlier the better.”
El-Rufai said he was not surprised that Abubakar left the APC since he could not realize his ambition to secure its presidential ticket of the party.
The governor stated: “I have heard about what the former Vice President said about leaving the APC. We knew he was going to leave in December but he has left in November which is good because the earlier he leaves for where he belongs the better.
“He has changed political parties a few times, there is nothing surprising. Before the 2019 elections if situation changes and he thinks he can get the ticket in 2019 he will come back. That is what he has done a few times.”
He denied that the former nation’s number two citizen was driven out of APC, saying: “No one has driven him out of the party. The APC is an equal opportunity platform for everyone.
“He has in his statement of leaving the party made reference to the memo I wrote to Mr. President in September 2016, where I was calling on the President to reach out to party leaders that feel aggrieved and I mentioned him, the Asiwaju and many others.
“The others are still in the APC because they believe in the direction of the party, they believe we have come to save the country from a very bad situation. But the former Vice President is always looking for an opportunity to contest. He is a serial contestant and we wish him luck.”
On threat that some party members loyal to him Abubakar may now leave APC, el-Rufai stated: “I don’t know about the loyalists in the APC that will go with him but I want to assure you that there is no one governor in the APC that is going to go with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
“The only governor that he would think will go with him, the governor of Adamawa State has already endorsed President Buhari for the 2019 elections. And there are many governors, I will not mention the number but a majority of the APC governors have already taken the position that the president should run for a second term in office.
“And we are grateful to the Almighty God that the question marks about his health have been put to rest, he is getting better every day and we are confident that the way to preserve our party and preserve and advance the interest of Nigeria is for Mr. President to run for a second term.
“I’m curious to see which APC governor will go with Atiku. As for party loyalists, it depends on what you define as loyalists. We will wait and see how that evolves.
“But as a governor, I want to assure you that not one governor is going to leave the party to go with the former Vice President. That I am sure of. I can speak authoritatively about it because I’m in touch with my colleagues.”
Asked whether Abubakar will not be a threat to Buhari’s re-election, the Kaduna governor declared: “He has never been and will never be a threat to President Buhari. Let me say this very clearly, and I have said this to the former Vice President in 2014 in Dubai when we met because before joining the APC he sent for me. He told me of his intentions and I welcomed it because politics is a game of addition, not subtraction. So, the more you have the merrier.
“However, I told him not to run for the presidency because I believe very strongly this is Buhari’s era. As long as President Muhammadu Buhari is in politics I do not see any Nigerian from the northern part of the country that will be able to match him in popularity.
“The people of the 19 northern states and the majority of Nigeria have decided because of the President’s past history of Integrity and good governance they are committed to him.
“Anyone standing up to challenge him is wasting his time. God has decreed that this is Buhari’s time and we are waiting for the PDP to give Atiku Abubakar the ticket and we will face him on the field but I have no doubt that I will not loose any sleep about it.”