February 25, 2023 election: FG, el-Rufai differ on support for Tinubu




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Ahead of the February/March general elections, the federal government Wednesday said President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to free, fair and credible polls in line with the wishes of Nigerians.

The government also said it was not officially aware of any element within the Aso Rock Villa working against any of the presidential candidates.

The clarification followed allegation by Kaduna state Governor Nasir el-Rufai against some elements in the Presidency working to frustrate the winning chances of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The governor, had, while featuring on Channels Sunrise Daily, a breakfast show, alleged some elements within the Villa, whose candidate lost his bid for the APC presidential ticket,  were hiding under the ‘doing it right’ of the president to work against Tinubu.

FG clarifies

But speaking to journalists after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed said the federal government was not aware of anyone within the presidential villa  working against any candidate in the forthcoming polls.

He said the federal government has been fair to all candidates regardless of party affiliation, and that President  Buhari has consistently demonstrated that he is for free, fair and credible elections.

“On a more serious note, one thing I can assure you is that no matter what, this administration is focused, determined to ensure free and fair elections. But I think with this administration, the most important person is Mr. President and I think he has shown by words and by deed that he is dedicated to free, fair and credible elections.

“And fair, free, credible elections actually mean not backing anybody. And everywhere he goes he makes that very clear even as recently as Friday when he was in Daura, he said the same thing. If there’s anybody working against a candidate we don’t know officially,” he said.

What el-Rufai said

But featuring on the television show, Governor el-Rufai blamed unnamed persons in the Presidential Villa for being responsible for the currency redesign and persistent fuel scarcity to frustrate the APC presidential candidate.

The governor said the currency redesign and persistent fuel scarcity were not good at this material time.

“The policy of currency redesign is the idea of a few people in the Presidential Villa. APC never promised Naira redesign. This is not the right time to embark on such an exercise because most of the areas in Nigeria have no banking facilities.

“I must say that the naira redesign and fuel scarcity is the handiwork of 5th Columnists because they want to bring the country down, otherwise why must redesigning naira be the priority of the federal government at this time,” he said.

The governor also alleged that most of the people in the Presidential Villa are not APC members hence some of the policies, saying this explains the reason the policies being churned out from time to time were those that would hurt the party.

He said: “I believe there are elements in the Villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way; they had their candidate. Their candidate did not win the primaries.

“They are trying to get us to lose the election and they are hiding behind the president’s desire to do what he thinks is right.

“I will give two examples: this petroleum subsidy, which is costing the country trillions of Naira, was something that we all agreed would be removed. In fact, I had a discussion with the President and showed him why it had to go. Because how can you have a capital budget of N200billion for federal roads and then spend N2 trillion on petroleum subsidy? This was a conversation I had with the President in 2021 when the subsidy thing started rising. He was convinced. We left. It changed. Everyone in the government agreed, and it changed.

“The second example I will give is this currency redesign. You have to understand the President. People are blaming the Governor of the Central Bank for the currency redesign, but No. You have to go back and look at the first outing of Buhari as President. He did this; the Buhari, Idiagbon regime changed our currency and did it in secrecy with a view to catching those that are stashing away illicit funds. It is a very good intention. The President has his right. But doing it at this time within the allotted time does not make any political or economic sense.”

Asked why he was not using his close relationship with the President to make suggestions on how to solve some national issues, the governor said he cannot remember when he has made suggestions that were accepted.

“I stopped going to Presidential Villa a long time ago. What is the use when every suggestion you bring will not be accepted.

”I rather stayed back solving the problems of my state (Kaduna) which I believe will be more important to me and my people. I don’t go to the Presidential Villa anymore,” he said.

 APC-PCC

In a related development, the APC Presidential Campaign Council said the most important support Tinubu needed from the Presidency is that of President Buhari, who already backed his party’s candidate.

Addressing journalists Wednesday in Abuja, Special Adviser Media and Public Affairs to the presidential candidate, Dele Alake, insisted Tinubu remains unbeatable in the presidential poll scheduled to hold on the 25th of this month.

Alake addressed the journalists alongside the APC-PCC Director Strategic Communications, Mohammed Idris Malagi, APC-PCC spokesman, Bayo Onanuga and Deputy Director Strategic Communications Lanre Issa-Onilu among others.

Alake said with Buhari solidly behind Tinubu’s aspiration, the subterranean plots by his adversaries would not see the light of the day.

When Blueprint correspondent asked whether the PCC was making move to woo back those against Tinubu in the presidency as alleged by Governor el-Rufai,  he said:  “The most important person in the presidency like I have said is the President and Commander-in-Chief and the man has reiterated it often and often that Bola Ahmed Tinubu is his party’s candidate, and he has appealed that we should vote for him (Tinubu), he is the one coming to consolidate on his achievements and address whatever challenges remaining. Why?  Because he has the managerial competence, he has the administrative acumen; he has the tract record of experience and performance.

“Look, it is not a fluke, neither Atiku, nor Obi or any other person contending today for the presidency can point at lasting legacies that they have left anywhere they ran before in the public office. Obi was governor for eight years, point at any enduring legacy of Obi today in Anambra. Atiku was Vice President for eight years, point at any enduring legacy, whether in Adamawa or even in Nigeria that was an initiative of Atiku that you can point at today. 

“Now, when we begin to reel out the enduring legacies, envisioned and executed by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, it is a litany, it goes on and on.”

Alake pointed accusing fingers at the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for doing all within their powers to undermine Tinubu’s chances at the poll.

 “For Nasir el-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna state, to state the obvious is nothing for us to clear again. We know that mischief makers, especially from the opposition, will latch on it and twist it out of context. 

 “That has always been the way of the opposition that we are contending with in Nigeria today. I made bold to say and you can quote me. The PDP opposition that we have today has been conducting the most pernicious, divisive, abusive, ineffective and most irresponsible campaign in the history of this country. 

“They have no issues, no track record, no, not nothing. No record of performance to put before the Nigerian voters. What then do they do? They resort to personal abuses, issue fabricated and fake stories to denigrate our presidential candidate. That is also because they have no track record of performance to push out to the public. 

“That is also because they know that our principal is the candidate to beat. He is a front runner in this race. And where I come from in this country, there is an adage that says it is only the tree that is full of fruits people throw stones at. 

“You won’t get to see anybody throwing stones at a tree that is barren or dying. It is clear that Asiwaju is the only fruitful candidate and that is why all of them are throwing stones. 

“We understand that and also know it has never won them any election. This one too will not be different. It will also not win them this election because Nigerians are discerning. They can see through their shenanigans,” he added.

Continuing, he said: “As a campaign council, it is very simple. There’s really nothing spectacular about what el-Rufai has said. And it’s even self explanatory. He did say that some people but he never said the President. In any organisation including your own individual media houses, you have editorial policies, and there are elements within your organisation’s that won’t agree with those policies. Yet, they still work there. 

“It is therefore not a spectacular thing. It is merely a natural phenomenon. In all organisations and institutions, you cannot have 100 per cent of the operatives see issues exactly the same way. However, it is the preponderance of views that matter. 

“Now, in terms of the presidency, who is the power base? Of course, it is the Commander in Chief. He holds all the aces. We do not expect that he would actually see all his staff eye to eye. But they’re still there. 

“Again, you also need perspectives from various angles. That is why we even say even our own principal, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, one of his strengths is to accommodate dissenting views within his own milieu. I have a personal experience of this and I continue to have it. We argue a great deal when we sit down to strategise and plan policies. 

“Asiwaju is one leader, from my experience, who has a very large heart, whose horizon is so wide, who is so accommodating of opposing views with a view to reaching a logical conclusion from which germane policies are made. An example of that is what we have in Lagos today.”

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