Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has challenged former Vice President Atiku Abubakar on his claims that he financially supported President Muhammadu Buharis 2015 presidential campaign.
The Governor cast doubt on the claims that Atiku funded Buhari's campaign with his personal wealth, saying he would have been aware as part of the party's leading members.
He further reiterated his confidence in President Buhari's reelection chances in the 2019 presidential election, saying he can't lose sleep over Atiku's potential candidacy especially in light of the president's improved health.
The governor made these remarks while speaking during an interview with the Hausa service of the Voice of America (VOA) in Kaduna on Wednesday, December 20, 2017.
He said, "We in the APC were aware from the outset that Atiku was going to leave the APC back to the PDP in December and we thank God that he left in November.
"Atiku had seen that we in the APC, especially the APC governors, had resolved to support President Muhammadu Buhari to run again in 2019. That is why he left APC since he was only looking for where to contest for president.
"Even in the 2015 APC primary election, Atiku didn't come second; he was floored by Kwankwaso. So, even if President Buhari decides not to contest, Atiku knows that the APC ticket is not sure for him.
"Majority of the APC governors have endorsed President Buhari as our candidate for 2019.
"And God has continued to improve the health condition of the President. Each time I see him, I thank God and I still pray that God continues to give him sound health.
"So, by 2019, we are waiting to see Atiku contest; we are waiting to contest against him and see what happens. I cannot lose sleep because Atiku wants to contest because, by God's grace, this is the reign of President Muhammadu Buhari.
"Agreed, in politics if you lose even only one person, it should worry you, but the utterances of the former Vice President that APC used his money who did he give the money to?
"For me, I know those that supported us with their money and property that we used during election, and I never heard the name of Atiku that he brought a dime.
"If Atiku said he brought money, who did he give it to? Let him come and say it and how much did he give and what was it used for?
"And, in fact, if Atiku brought money, I ought to know, because I was part of the leadership of the party and during campaign, along with former Governor Rotimi Amaechi. We were at the centre of the presidential campaign. Therefore, we are supposed to know. So, let him mention who he gave the money and how much?"
"We cannot rule out the possibility of some greedy people following him; those that are following material things. But, if people will consider how we can work for the progress of our country, everybody knows that you cannot compare Atiku with President Muhammadu Buhari."
Buhari's reelection status
While meeting with the Nigerian community in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire last month, the president explained that he was accompanied to the meeting by two state governors because it will "be another vote for me in the future."
Also, while speaking during a two-day visit to Kano State a week later, the president said he's confident of winning reelection particularly due to the crowd turnout.
"I am overwhelmed by the sea of people I see, and by what I see today, if elections are contested I will no doubt win it," he said.
Atiku's defection from APC to PDP
In what was a widely-expected move, Atiku resigned as a member of the All Progressives' Congress (APC on November 24, after months of growing discontent.
In his signed resignation letter, the 71-year-old accused President Buhari of neglecting him and condemned the APC for "instituting a regime of a draconian clampdown on all forms of democracy".
In a live Facebook broadcast on December 3, as expected, the former Vice President officially declared his return to the PDP.
In an interview with Dele Momodu, the Publisher of The Boss magazine, Atiku noted that Buhari has wasted his massive goodwill, adding that he will defeat the president in 2019.
History of Atiku as presidential contestant
After serving as Vice President to former President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 to 2007 under the PDP, Atiku contested the 2007 presidential election as a candidate for Action Congress (AC), losing to the late former President Umaru Yar'Adua.
He returned to the PDP only to lose the party's primary election for the 2011 presidential election to the eventual winner, Goodluck Jonathan.
Due to an internal party crisis he defected to the APC in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election before losing the party's ticket to another eventual winner, President Buhari.