Thursday, September 7, 2017 12:24 am
Nigeria’s minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, aka Mama Taraba was literarily “the Woman in the News” on Wednesday.
Alhassan, who was stopped from becoming the first elected female Nigerian governor by the Supreme Court had, began trending in the social media early in the day when a video footage of a delegation he led to the home of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar surfaced online.
In the one-minute-thirty-three-seconds video, the Minister told the former Vice President who was rumoured to be gearing up to contest for the presidency in the next general election that the purpose of their visit was to felicitate with him over the health God has given him.
The reference to ‘good health’ of the former VP would not have made news but for the suggestion that Atiku will succeed Buhari who have been struggling with his own health come 2019.
“Mr President, our father, Nigeria’s president for 2019. God willing, in your presence today are your people who have been placed under your care for forever. They’ve come to pay tribute and greet you for the Sallah celebrations and also to rejoice with you for your health,” she was heard saying in Hausa language to unrestrained cheers from members of the delegation.
The APC 2015 governorship candidate in Taraba further stated that members of the delegation would have loved to express themselves but “Baba” (Atiku) was tired and needed time to rest.”
The video went viral soon after its emergence on the social media with the expected backlash-many supporters of Buhari who are already campaigning that the President should contest for a second tenure in 2019 in spite of his health took to the social media, asking for immediate sack of Alhassan from the cabinet.
But if they thought that such threat will make the Minister back off his support for Atiku, they were mistaken.
Later in the day, Alhassan was even more unequivocal that given the choice between Buhari and Atiku in the 2019 presidential election, she would go for the former Vice President.
In the interview with BBC Hausa service, the Minister who described Atiku as her godfather, added that she is not scared of being sacked from the cabinet as a result of her position.
Alhassan told the BBC: “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,” she said in hausa.
“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.
“As we are talking now Atiku has not said he is going to contest. Why I said our president in 2019 is because we all hope he is going to contest, but he never told us that he is going to contest. But if he said he is going to contest I will surely do what I told you I will do.
“Because if Atiku said he is going to contest and I remain in the cabinet of Baba while Baba also wants to contest, then I have become a hypocrite and I am not one. If I said I am not with Atiku, Buhari himself will not trust me at all because he will say I am a hypocrite.
“I am doing my job as a Minister with all my heart and I always protect this government because it is a government of APC. And Baba, our President, the President of Nigeria is somebody that I respect even before I joined politics.
“I will continue to respect him as a man of integrity. For those who are saying I will be sacked, they will be shamed. And even if I am sacked, I believe it is my time as minister that has ended. I never asked for it, Allah gave it to me.”
Though some groups have began campaigning that he should run for a second term, President Buhari who has been battling with his health has not indicated that he will re-contest in 2019.
Atiku contested and lost the presidential ticket of the ruling APC to Buhari in 2014.
Before then, the former VP had contested for the presidency on the platform of Action Congress, AC and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in 2007 and 2011 respectively.
Lately, there have been speculations that the billionaire politician may return to PDP on which platform he was Nigeria’s VP for eight years to contest for the presidency in 2019.
PDP which was kicked out of the presidency by the APC after 16 years in power in 2015 has already zoned its 2019 presidential ticket to the Northern part of the country, a situation that many say favour the Adamawa State born politician.
The Ahmed Makrafi leadership of PDP has also indicated that it is working to bring back notable politicians who were formerly its members back into its fold.
Indeed, the party said it has been talking with many of such bigwigs as part of its strategy to displace the ruling APC from power.
Like Atiku, Alhassan was a member of PDP.
The Minister had sent tongues wagging when she led a woman delegation to meet with the chairman of PDP national caretaker committee soon after the Supreme Court judgment which recognized Senator Makarfi as the authentic chairman of the party against Ali Modu Sheriff.
Though she claimed that the visit to Makarfi was to canvass for grater inclusion of women in the political process, not many were convinced.
With recent developments, the skeptics may as well conclude that the visit was to test ground for eventual return of Atiku and others to PDP.
Whatever be the case, Alhassan’s open endorsement of Atiku for 2019 presidential election against the President who appointed her minister is a big gamble.
It’s doubtful if Buhari can resist calls for her sack which will certainly continue to get louder and louder from supporters of the President in the days ahead.