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Nigeria: First Lady Aisha Buhari Backs El-Rufai’s Claims of Saboteurs Within Presidential Villa

The government said it was unaware of anyone within the presidential villa working against any candidate in next month’s presidential poll.

Aisha Buhari

Despite Nigeria’s federal government on Wednesday denouncing insinuations by Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, that some fifth columnists in the State House, Abuja, were working to frustrate the victory of All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu in the February 25, 2023 presidential election, First Lady Aisha Buhari seems to have endorsed El-Rufai’s comments.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, while reacting to the allegation after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari held at Abuja, said the government was unaware of anyone within the presidential villa working against any candidate in next month’s presidential poll.

El-Rufai had earlier during an interview on Channels television, blamed some of the government policies including the naira redesign and persistent fuel scarcity in the country on those he termed fifth columnists, saying the naira redesign and persistent fuel scarcity may cause unrest in the country. He alleged that the naira redesign project was the idea of few people in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, adding that it was never the policy of the ruling APC.

However, Mrs. Buhari, on Wednesday shared the video clip of El-Rufai’s comments on her Instagram page, implicitly endorsing the statement by the governor.

Aisha is the grand patron of the Tinubu/Shettima women campaign team and she has been actively campaigning for the party’s presidential candidate.

In reaction, to El-Rufai Mohammed said: “On a more serious note, one thing I can assure you is that no matter who, this administration is focused and determined to ensure a free and fair election and I think in this administration, the most important person is Mr. President and I think he has shown by words and by deeds that he’s committed to a free, fair and credible election.

“Fair, free and credible election actually means not favouring anybody or disadvantaging 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.

“So, if there’s anybody who’s working against any candidate, we don’t know officially”, he explained.

Earlier, El-Rufai had alleged that some elements in the Aso Rock were working against the victory of the APC and Tinubu in the forthcoming election.

The governor argued that “those elements” had their candidate in the presidential primary election, but he didn’t win the primary.

He said against this background, they were working against the ruling party and Tinubu.

The governor said the persons in the presidency were hiding behind the president’s desire to do what was right to scuttle the party’s chances.

El-Rufai, however, pointed out that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele was not to blame for redesigning the naira.

 The former FCT minister recalled that the president did same as a Military Head of State with the aim of getting those that had stashed illicit funds.

The governor said while the president has his right to redesign the currency, doing it at this time did not make any political or economic sense.

El-Rufai explained: “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 primary election.

“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 N200 billion 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 CBN, 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 were 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.”

The presidential candidate of the APC during a rally of the party in Abeokuta, had alleged that the decision to redesign the naira and the fuel scarcity were all meant to scuttle his victory at the poll.

Though the presidency then refused to react to Tinubu’s attack against the Buhari’s government, the APC presidential campaign had in a statement insisted that Tinubu did not mention, blame or accuse Buhari for the current challenges in the country.

However, on Tuesday in Calabar, Tinubu once more attacked the Buhari-led government, saying it met the exchange rate at N200/$ dollar and because of their poor management of the economy, the nation’s currency has depreciated to about N800/$1.

 Adedayo Akinwale