President Muhammadu Buhari and some of his top aides yesterday met secretly with Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State to inform him that Mr. Buhari intends to run again for the Presidency as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019.
A senior Presidency source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, stated that the decision to inform Mr. El-Rufai was taken because the governor was being touted as Mr. Buhari’s replacement in the event that the president cannot run for a second term in 2019 due to ill health.
During yesterday's meeting, President Buhari and his close associates asked Mr. El-Rufai to take up the role of honorary adviser to the presidential campaign which they said had already kicked off subtly through a series of propaganda initiatives since President Buhari returned from a prolonged medical treatment in London for an undisclosed illness.
President Buhari and his team also asked Mr. El-Rufai to prepare for a second term as governor so as to strengthen his credentials to run for the Presidency in 2023, a projection that is unlikely considering that the Presidency would likely be zoned to another geographical zone by the party.
APC sources have stated that President Buhari would be spared any form of internal party primaries should he seek reelection. They have also hinged their strategy on avoiding a hectic and bruising presidential campaign by spotlighting Mr. Buhari’s so-called record for transparency, integrity, and simplicity.
When Mr. El-Rufai emerged from the meeting with President Buhari, he took a swipe at the Minister of Women Affairs, Hajia Jumai AlHassan, who recently openly declared her intention to back former Vice President Abubakar Atiku for the Presidency in 2019, even if Mr. Buhari was in the race. Mr. El-Rufai told reporters that he had warned President Buhari against appointing Ms. AlHassan as a minister.
Mr. El Rufai also made a veiled reference to President Buhari’s health, stating that the president was looking good and “recuperating fast,” a phrase that upset some Presidency hawks as they have been portraying Mr. Buhari as having miraculously recovered from his ailment after spending 105 days in the UK receiving treatment.
The source who briefed our correspondent on the meeting between Governor El-Rufai and Mr. Buhari also revealed that the Kaduna State Governor was asked to visit Lagos shortly to communicate the president's latest decision to seek reelection to supporters in the southwest geopolitical zone.
Governor El-Rufai has stated that he and others were urging the president to seek reelection in 2019. Contrary to Mr.El-Rufai’s claims in this regard, SaharaReporters learned that it was Mr. Buhari who declared to the governor that he planned to seek a second presidential term, and asked Mr. El-Rufai to remain as the governor of Kaduna State for another term as well