Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, on Friday said it was good that former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar left the All Progressives Congress early.
He said the party was already aware that Atiku would leave in December, saying the earlier the former Vice-President returned to where he belonged, the better.
El-Rufai spoke in an interview with State House correspondents after joining Buhari in observing Jumat prayers at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He described Atiku as a serial defector and presidential aspirant, saying his latest move did not come to anybody as a surprise.
The governor said, “Well, I won’t even say we were in the APC together. Some of us formed the APC, some of them joined because they thought that the APC was a platform for which they would contest the elections, but when they didn’t get the opportunity, they started looking around.
“I have heard about what the former Vice-President said about leaving the APC. We knew he was going to leave in December but he has left in November, which is good because the earlier he left for where he belonged the better.
“He has changed political parties a few times, there is nothing surprising. Before the 2019 elections, if the situation changes and he thinks he can get the ticket in 2019, he will come back. That is what he has done a few times.”
El-rufai said he was confident that no state governor would leave the APC with Atiku.
He said he was sure that even his (Adamawa) state governor would not go with the former Vice-President since he had already endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term.
He said, “I don’t know about the loyalists in the APC that will go with him but I want to assure you that there is no governor in the APC that is going to go with former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
“The only governor that he would be thinking would go with him, that is, the governor of Adamawa State, has already endorsed President Buhari for the 2019 elections.
“There are many governors, I will not mention them, but a majority of the APC governors have already taken the position that the President should run for a second term in office.
“We are grateful to the Almighty God that the question mark about his (Buhari) health have been put to rest, he is getting better every day and we are confident that the way to preserve our party and preserve and advance the interest of Nigeria is for Mr. President to run for a second term.
“I’m curious to see which APC governor will go with Atiku. As for party loyalists, it depends on what you describe as loyalists. We will wait and see how that evolves.
“But as a governor, I want to assure you that not one governor is going to leave the party to go with the former Vice-President — that I am sure of. I can speak authoritatively about it because I’m in touch with my colleagues.”
The governor said if given the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, the former Vice-President is not a threat to Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.
He said he had in 2014 warned Atiku not to run for Presidency because this is Buhari’s era.
He added, “He (Atiku) has never been and will never be a threat to President Buhari. Let me say this very clearly, and I have said this to the former vice-president in 2014 in Dubai when we met because before joining the APC, he sent for me.
“He told me of his intentions and I welcomed it because politics is a game of addition, not subtraction. So the more, the merrier.
“However, I told him not to run for the presidency because I believe very strongly this is Buhari’s era.
“As long as President Muhammadu Buhari is in politics, I do not see any Nigerian from the northern part of the country that will be able to match him in popularity.
“The people of the 19 Northern states and Nigeria have decided because of the President’s past history of integrity and good governance, they are committed to him.
“Anyone standing up to challenge him is wasting his time. God has decreed that this is Buhari’s time and we are waiting for the PDP to give Atiku Abubakar the ticket and we will face him on the field but I have no doubt that I will not lose any sleep about it.”
El-Rufai said it was wrong for anybody to hold the view that Atiku was driven out of the APC.
He described the party as an equal opportunity platform for everyone.
“He has in his statement of leaving the party made reference to the memo I wrote to Mr. President in September 2016, where I was calling on the President to reach out to party leaders that feel aggrieved and I mentioned him, the Asiwaju and many others.
“The others are still in the APC because they believe in the direction of the party, they believe we have come to save the country from a very bad situation.
“But the former vice-president is always looking for an opportunity to contest. He is a serial contestant and we wish him luck,” he added.