FG Replies El-Rufai, Says Buhari Focused on Delivering Free, Fair Polls

•Declares no villa staff working for or against any of the presidential candidates

 •Kaduna governor alleges some ‘elements’ in villa sabotaging Tinubu, APC 

•Gets Aisha Buhari’s backing

•El-Rufai exonerates Emefiele from naira redesign blame 

•APC PCC says Buhari most important person in presidency

Deji Elumoye and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The federal government yesterday denounced 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, adding that the president has consistently demonstrated his commitment to free, fair and credible elections.

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.

The wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, yesterday shared the video clip of the El-Rufai 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.

But in reaction, 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.

Meanwhile, following the allegation by El-Rufai, the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) of the APC yesterday said Buhari was the most important person in the presidency.

The campaign council also stated categorically that El-Rufai only stated the obvious.

The APC PCC made this known yesterday, in Abuja, during the launch of “ThinkingCaps” app, aimed at bridging the knowledge gap among youth and rally them behind the Tinubu-Shettima ticket.

Also in attendance at the event were: Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, Deputy Director; Bayo Onanuga, Director, Media and Publicity; Mr. Dele Alake, Special Adviser, Media and Public Affairs and Mallam Mohammed Idris, Director of Strategic Communications.

Reacting to El-Rufai’s comment, Alake, there was really nothing spectacular about what he had said, adding that the governor’s comment was self-explanatory.

“There is really nothing spectacular about what he had said and it’s even self-explanatory, he did say that some people, he never said the president and in any organisation including your own individual media houses, you have your editorial policy and their elements within your organisations that don’t agree with editorial policy, but they still work there.

“So it is not a spectacular thing, it is a natural phenomenon in all organisations, in all institutions, you cannot have 100 percent of all the operatives in an organisation seeing 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? It is the Commander-in-Chief, he holds all the aces. We do not expect that all his staff will actually see eye-to-eye with him, but they are still there. But again, you also need perspective from various angles.”

Alake explained that one of Tinubu’s strengths was his ability to accommodate dissenting views within his own milieu.

He added: “And I have a personal experience of this and I continue to have it.  We sit down when we are strategising and planning policies and all that, we argue a great deal and he is one leader in my experience that 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 policies germane policies come out. And the example is what you have in Lagos today.”

Alake added: “So for, El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna state stating the obvious is nothing to glare about. We know that the mischief-makers, the opposition would latch on it and twist it out of context. But that is the way of the opposition, especially the opposition that we are contending with in Nigeria today.”

Speaking further, Alake accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of conducting the most divisive, abusive and most irresponsible campaign in the history of the country.

He said the main opposition party has no record of performance to put before the Nigerian voters, hence, it’s resort to abuse and lies.

Alake stated:  “So what do they do? They resort to personal abuses, fabricating false fake stories to denigrate our principal, our presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu; issuing and churning out all kinds of lies, ridiculous and the mundane because they have no track record of performance to push out to the public.

“And in any case, we absorb all of this. Why? Because we know that our candidate is the candidate to beat. He’s the frontrunner in this race.

“Where I come from, my part of the country, there is an adage that says that it is only the tree full of fruits that people throw stones at. You can’t get anybody throwing stones at a tree that is barren.”

Alake argued that the PDP and others were barren, describing Tinubu as the only fruitful candidate, hence the reason why they had been throwing stones at him.

Asked if the campaign was doing anything to win those people in Aso Rock to their side, Alake said the most important person was Buhari.

His words: “Oh! The most important person in the presidency that 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 you should vote for him.

“He is the one who is coming to consolidate on his achievements and address whatever challenges remaining, because, why? He has the managerial competence, he has the administrative acumen, He has a track record of experience and performance”

Alake argued that neither Atiku Abubakar of the PDP nor Peter Obi of Labour Party nor any other person contesting for the presidency could point out lasting legacies they have left anywhere when they held offices

According to him, Obi was Governor for eight years, “point at any enduring legacy of Obi today in Anambra. Atiku was Vice President for eight years, point out any enduring legacy whether in Adamawa or even in Nigeria that was an initiative of Atiku that you can point at today.”

Earlier, Director of Strategic Communications, Idris, said the “Thinking Caps” was an epithet used to depict Tinubu and his running mate, Shettima, as possessing the requisite capacity to think out of the box to procure lasting solutions to diverse socio-economic challenges confronting our nation.

He noted that the demographic analysis of the population showed that the youth aged 35 and below constituted over 60 per cent of the population.

Idris stated: “It means Nigeria is a very young country – too young to know that there was a world without computers and GSM phones, not to talk of internet and social media. As far as these youths are concerned, End-SARS protest was the biggest civil disobedience and fight for citizens’ rights that has ever happened.

“They cannot understand what the older population mean when they talk about military rule and how rights and privileges of citizens were curtailed.  “They have no idea that some people came face to face with gun-wielding soldiers and some paid the supreme price fighting for democracy.

“They are not familiar with what it means to be pro-democracy activists, and the sacrifices they made that culminated in the democracy we enjoy today.

“So, it suffices to say if 60 per cent of our population did not witness these events and have no knowledge about them, they are not able to make informed choices amongst the front-runners in this race, with particular reference to the candidature of Asiwaju Tinubu.

“This is where the “Thinking Caps” app comes in, to bridge this knowledge gap amongst the Gen Z and millennials and rally majority of this demography behind the Tinubu-Shettima ticket.”

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