President supporting APC candidate, says Lai Mohammed
•‘No split in APC’
President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to the victory of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the February 25 presidential poll is not in doubt, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai and Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola confirmed yesterday.
The President, they said, is solidly behind the ruling party’s candidate.
Their confirmation came in the wake of an affirmation by Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, of the President’s backing for the aspiration of the one-time Lagos State governor.
El-Rufai, who dismissed as a mere rumour that Buhari was not supporting Tinubu’s presidential bid, said all APC governors under the umbrella of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), would work hard for victory on February 25 and March 11.
Speaking on Journalists’ Hangout, a Television Continental (TVC) programme, the governor rubbished many of the polls that tipped the candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, to win the presidential race.
El-Rufai, who insisted that Buhari has publicly declared his unflinching support for Tinubu, said due to national assignments, the President cannot be in all states for their party’s rallies.
He said: “It is not true that President Buhari is not attending our rallies. The first major rally we had was in Jos, Plateau State.
“Buhari was there and he spoke very well. Publicly, the President said Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is his Khalifa, meaning my successor.
“The next place was in Kano, but the President was not there. When I met him, I asked why. He said, he was not invited; he was not scheduled. That was when we had to schedule him for Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi and other states.
“In Adamawa, he raised Asiwaju’s hands and said: ‘This is my successor, this is my Khalifa and you’re lucky as a party to have him as the candidate of the party’. He said the same thing in Yobe.
“He was supposed to be in Kwara, but, due to national engagements, he could not. He asked the Vice President (Prof Yemi Osinbajo) to represent him. He, too could not make it. On the day he was supposed to be in Ogun, he was somewhere else.
“So, it is not true that President Buhari is not supporting Asiwaju.”
Recalling how Buhari, alongside Tinubu with Ogbonnaya Onu and some others founded the APC, El-Rufai said the President would never work against the party.
He said: “Buhari will never work against the APC. He may not go out of his way to help us like other presidents do, such as rigging elections for their party.
Read Also: We will work until Tinubu, other APC candidates win, says el-Rufai
“He may not lift a finger to give an advantage, but he will never, never work against us. It is those elements that are doing these things and using the name of Buhari.
“He will still go to other campaigns, though you need to understand that it is his primary responsibility to govern the country.
“But when he is with us, he endorses our candidate, he praises Asiwaju and the relationship between them is excellent.”
On the polls favouring Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar to win the election, El-Rufai said: “I am in love with data analysis.
“When I was a student at the Kennedy School of Government, I was a teaching assistant to statistics. The most important thing in looking at any opinion poll is the sample, followed by your methodology.
“When you have about 100 million registered voters and you are sampling 2,000 voters, I am sorry, your results from day one are unreliable. You will have a wide margin of errors. And most of those polls are like that.
“What about methodology? Most of these polls, like those by Bloomberg, the ANAP and a few others, used telephones.
“How many registered voters have their telephone on INEC’s record? It is just 31 per cent. So, from the beginning, your results are dead on arrival.
“I can take each of these polls and deconstruct them. This is because I understand sampling and methodology. So, with the greatest respect, those polls are a joke.”
Admitting that the election will be tight, the governor, however, said the poll he conducted tipped Tinubu ahead of others.
El-Rufai said: “We have done a poll with a sample of nearly 40,000 across Nigeria and the results show that we are ahead. It is going to be a tight election.”
El-Rufai said his polls revealed a large percentage of undecided voters, saying the ruling party must work hard to swing the undecided to our side.
On Obi, he said: “How can Peter Obi, who is polling one per cent in Sokoto, two per cent in Katsina, five per cent in Kano, win the election? The fact that you are doing 70 per cent in Anambra State does not mean that somebody doing 10 per cent in Kano is not better than you.
“Kano has four million votes. The number of voters in Anambra is one local government in Kaduna State.
“Yes, Peter Obi will sweep Southeastern states; he will do well in Southsouth, where else? He won’t do well in the Southwest. He is polling well in the Christian enclave in the north. But how many are they? Obi cannot win the election.
“He does not have the number of states. He does not have the 25 per cent spread. Peter Obi is a Nollywood actor and that is where he will be.
“This election is between the APC and the PDP because they have the spread.
“Ethnicity and religious bigotry will not take you anywhere and those are what the Labour Party’s campaigns are about.
“The APC is the only party with a broad base of support across Nigeria and by the grace of God, the party will win.”
Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, spoke during an Instagram live question and answer session with popular TV host, Morayo Afolabi-Brown, monitored by The Nation.
He affirmed that President Buhari was strongly committed to Tinubu’s victory at the poll.
He said: “I saw the President, and I’m not the one to tell you what I discussed with the President in private. I saw him and what he told me, dispels all rumour.
“We were just having a conversation and he (Buhari) just said ‘I’ve to do this… This is very important for our campaign’…that’s much I’m going to say. That dispels all of these hearsays.”
According to Fashola, the APC candidate was fighting for Nigerians when he expressed concern about the scarcity of the new notes.
He admitted that the naira redesign policy “is hurting Nigerians” and must therefore be reviewed.
Fashola said: “It is in the interest of the opposition to create or spin a criticism of an impact of a policy, and that’s the impact of policy.
“Our candidate has not said don’t change the naira, but that it is hurting people. So, let’s be frank. The implementation needs a relook and this is what Asiwaju has been famous for.”
On why he has not been on various campaign grounds, Fashola said: “I was at the Lagos rally, and that was the only rally I also attend in 2019, but I was doing a lot of work for our party backroom. I’ve had all manner of meetings today with different directorates of our party.
“We are working, and we are not going to show the opposition what we are doing. Everybody can’t be on the rally stage. We are working round the clock.”
‘President’s support not in doubt’
Mohammed said the President has demonstrated his support for Tinubu by actively participating in the APC campaigns, adding that “the President is not equivocating on his support for Tinubu”.
The minister made the clarification in his opening remarks at the 22nd PMB administration scorecard in Abuja.
He said: “Let me use this occasion to make a quick clarification. Yesterday (Wednesday), while reacting to a question at the post-FEC briefing at the State House, I said, inter alia, that Mr. President is committed to free, fair and credible elections, and that he is doing everything possible to ensure a level playing field for all contestants.
“This comment has been misinterpreted in some circles, especially with regard to Mr. President’s support for Tinubu.
“Well, I want to say, unequivocally, that Mr. President is in total support of our party’s flagbearer, and that is attested to by his continuing campaign with the candidate across the country.
“It is preposterous to even suggest that Mr. President, who is the leader of our party, is equivocating in his support for our presidential candidate.
“I hope this clears any ambiguity that may have arisen from my statement yesterday.”