Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Aisha Jummai Alhassan, last Wednesday let loose a torrent of shocking statements that both Taraba State, where she hails from, and the presidency, by whose grace she is a minister of the federal republic, are stupefied. She had led a delegation of Tarabans to pay former vice president Atiku Abubakar a Sallah visit.
Addressing the former vice president, she had gushed:
“Your Excellency, our father and our president by the grace of God come 2019, before you are your people, your supporters for life, the people of Taraba State. They are here to pay our homage and to greet you on the occasion of Sallah and for all that Allah has done to you because Allah has raised your status.”
A video recording of that visit, however, leaked, with all the portentous implications of her statements.
Probably shocked by the leakage but still keeping her wits about her, she reiterated her views on a BBC Hausa Service interview indicating that her support for the former vice president was not a fluke but a conscious, deliberate and determined action. In the interview, she alluded to a statement President Muhammadu Buhari allegedly made indicating that he would only run for one term, and suggested that the statement justified her support for the ex-vice president. She offered no substantiation for President Buhari’s so-called announcement to serve for only one term, nor has anyone from the presidency corroborated her allusions.
Everyone expects her to be sacked from the Buhari cabinet, for her loyalty, as some argue, has become doubtful. She herself half expects the sack, but takes dubious consolation in her supposition that the president is naturally disinclined to enter hasty judgement on anyone, especially a minister.
It is not clear whether in coming to her soothing conclusions she took cognisance of the president’s grovelling aides, some of whom revel in conspiracy theories and love to instigate far-reaching but sometimes damaging decisions. But soon, it seems, she will discover that she has become a pariah in the corridors of power, given the cold shoulder and palpable signals that will leave her with little choice but to fall on her sword. Or perhaps, she has set herself up to be the perfect trigger for a general cabinet reshuffle.
Whatever the political consequences of Senator Alhassan’s incautious statement on 2019, she has at least shown she has conviction, and is willing to call her soul her own. The former vice president will doubtless stand by her, and given his own not-so-gentle rebuke of the president’s style on the same day the senator’s incendiary statement became public, both of them might have unwittingly signalled the commencement of Politics 2019.