The Minister of Women Affairs, Senator Aisha Alhassan, appeared before the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), during which the party claimed that she apologised to it over her recent declaration of support for former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar ahead of her principal President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 presidential poll.
After the over 2-hour meeting, the ruling party, however, acknowledged that she was entitled to her opinion and her choice.
The minister had, in an interview with the Hausa Service of the BBC last week, said she preferred former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, not Buhari for the 2019 presidential election.
In a separate interview, she had said she would support Mr. Abubakar even if President Buhari chooses to contest.
Though there was no official reaction from the APC or presidency, several chieftains of the party – whose loyalty are to Buhari – fell over themselves to condemn her decision not to support the president, with some even calling for her sack from the cabinet.
Speaking with newsmen after the meeting with the minister, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said she accepted her error and apologised to the party.
He said: “Since the issue of the comments she made came up, the party has not said anything, regardless of what individuals may have told you, because we are a party that recognises the rights of our members to express their opinions or views.
“We also had an opportunity to discuss with the minister, to understand what she said and in what context she said so, before we know how to respond.
“So, when she came, we asked her to explain to us what truly transpired and, in what context she said what she said and she did offer these explanations.
“Now, having offered her explanations, we acknowledged that, as a member of this party, she is entitled to her opinion and she is entitled to her choice.
“However, as a senior member of this party, her statements represent an act of indiscretion because, with the kind of position she occupies even within the party, she is a party leader in her own right.
“What she said was not what she was supposed to say at the time that she said it; that she ought to have exercised greater judgement than she did and she acknowledged that yes, maybe she ought not to have. Maybe the timing was wrong and she apologised that if she had put the party in any difficult position, she apologised.
“I want you to take note of the fact that nobody is questioning her right to take the position she has taken. We have not come out to say, ‘why are you saying you are supporting this person?’ she has a right to her choice and to support whoever she wants to support afterall, she is not saying she supports a member of another party.
“But, what we are saying is that with the position she occupies, she ought to have exercised greater sense of discretion and better judgment, knowing that making that kind of statement would definitely create some other situations for the party, if not for the government.”
On whether party asked her to resign, he replied:
“No, that did not come up. What we just said was that we understand the context in which she said what she said but, it was an act of indiscretion, for someone occupying the position she is occupying in the party, to make that kind of statement.
“If this were 2018 and the people have filed applications, to say they are contesting and she now comes out and says she is supporting this person, how can that be an issue?
“But, we are still in 2017. We are still far away. Atiku has not said he is contesting.
“He has not collected any form. He has not announced to anybody that he is contesting.
“So, that is what we mean by the timing. It is not that she has no right to say what she had said.”