Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar left the All Progressives Congress (APC) not for the reasons he claimed but because APC governors had endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in 2019, Kaduna governor, Nasiru El-Rufai, said.
Mr. El-Rufai spoke on a Voice of America (VOA) Hausa service programme, “Democracy Today”.
The governor featured on the programme alongside the former vice president and a former governor of Jigawa state, Sule Lamido.
Mr. El-rufai had also disputed the claims of the former vice president that the ruling APC abandoned him after he sponsored the 2015 campaign of President Buhari.
The governor challenged Mr. Abubakar to show proofs that he gave out money in support of Mr. Buhari’s campaign.
When asked about his ambition now that he is a full member of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the former vice president said he would let Nigerians know his position about 2019 if he eventually make up his mind.
Prior to his defection to the PDP, Mr. Abubakar was reportedly said to have given conditions before returning to the party, and that included assurance of getting the party’s presidential ticket for 2019.
The former governor of Jigawa state, Mr. Lamido, who is also being tipped as a contender for the PDP presidential ticket come 2019, said though the party celebrates the return of Mr. Abubakar, his being in the party would not deter him from actualising his dream of running.
“Obviously we are happy that our former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has come back to PDP. It was PDP that made him; so his coming back to his party is our collective joy. We are not talking about him only; as a matter of fact, we want others who left the party like the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, as well as former governors to come back home.
“If our interest is to see the progress and development of our dear country, Nigeria, then we should also pray that everyone who left PDP should return home.”
Governor El-Rufai said Mr. Abubakar’s exit from the APC was more about his personal ambition than the interest of Nigeria.
“We in the APC were aware of it long ago that Atiku was going to leave the APC back to the PDP in December; but we even thank God that he left in November,” said Mr. El- Rufai.
He said the former vice president left simply because it was made clear to him that he would not get the APC ticket following the governors’ endorsement of Mr. Buhari for a second term in 2019.
“Atiku had seen that we in the APC, especially the APC governors, had made up our mind to support President Muhammadu Buhari to run again in 2019,” Mr. El-Rufai said. “That is why he left APC since he was only looking for where to contest for president.”
He argued that even without Mr. Buhari contesting the 2019 election, Mr. Abubakar who was defeated by Kano state former Kano governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, to third position in the 2015 APC primary, would not have been the party’s ticket bearer in the next election.
“Even in the 2015 APC primary election, Atiku didn’t come second; he was floored by Kwankwaso. So, even if President Buhari decides not to contest, Atiku knows that the APC ticket is not sure for him. Majority of the APC governors have endorsed President Buhari as our candidate for 2019.
“And God has continued to improve the health condition of the President. Each time I see him, I thank God and I still pray that God continues to give him sound health.
“So, by 2019, we are waiting to see Atiku contest; we are waiting to contest against him and see what happens. I cannot lose sleep because Atiku wants to contest because, by God’s grace, this is the reign of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“It is agreed that in politics if you lose even only one person, it should worry you, but the utterances of the former Vice President that APC used his money; who did he give the money to? For me, I know those that supported us with their money and property that we used during election, and I never heard the name of Atiku that he brought a dime. If Atiku said he brought money, who did he give it to? Let him come and say it and how much did he give and what was it used for?
“And, in fact, if Atiku brought money, I ought to know, because I was part of the leadership of the party and during campaign, along with former Governor Rotimi Amaechi. We were at the centre of the presidential campaign. Therefore, we are supposed to know. So, let him mention who he gave the money and how much?
On his opinion about the rumour that large number of politicians are likely to follow Mr. Abubakar in defecting to the opposition PDP, Mr. El-Rufai said “Sure, we know that, we cannot rule out the possibility of some greedy people following him; those that are following material things. But, if people will consider how we can work for the progress of our country, everybody knows that you cannot compare Atiku with President Muhammadu Buhari”.