Seven northern states governors were at the presidential villa, Abuja on Friday to observe the Juma’at prayers with President Muhammadu Buhari after which Governor Nasir el-Rufai observed that the president was getting better each day, noting that the governors want him to re-contest the post in next year’s election.
Other governors present at the prayer session include Muhammed Abubakar (Niger), Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Jibrilla Bindow (Adamawa) and Simon Lalong (Plateau).
Speaking to State House correspondents after the Mosque service, el-Rufai added that most of the governors are first timers and they want continuity for themselves and for the president.
He said: “We are politicians and those of us you see here want the president to contest the 2019 election. We have no apologies for that.
“We believe in Mr President, we want him to continue running the country in the right direction. People can speculate about 2019, we have no apologies”
Asked whether people are right to speculate, el-Rufai responded:
“Whether they are right or wrong is beside the point. Everybody is entitled to his own opinion but as governors, and most of us here with the exception of Yobe Governor, are first-time governors. We are interested in the continuity and stability and we want the president to continue with that.
“Like our leader, the Governor of Kano said we just happen to be here by coincidence and we went to pray and decided to felicitate with the president and we feel satisfied that anytime we see him, he is getting better and better.”
On the sack of teachers and the ensuing Labour protest in his state, the Kaduna governor maintained that he did not try to stop the protest, vowing however that such protest would not change the position of the government.
He stressed: “I did not direct the police to stop the workers. I was not even in Kaduna. For me, the right to protest is guaranteed by the constitution provided you don’t go violent and you don’t violate any laws.
“I think the concern of the police is because of the precarious situation in the country particularly in Kaduna, made it unsuitable to have such protest.
“And the last time they did such a thing, they attacked the State House of Assembly, a legislator, for which they have filed criminal charges.
“So, this is the concern. The concern is breaking down of law and order and not protest or strike. They are free to do so but it will not change our position.”
On whether he would step back from his position to sack the teachers, he added: “There is nothing to step back on. Is a well thought out position. We took one and half years before we made the decision and we will not change it.”
He noted that the sacked teachers would be paid three months salary as their severance package while being offered retirement training.
According to him, “We have announced that in line with the public service rule, we will pay three months severance pay and we have provided incentives for those that are retiring to go through the retirement training.
“Those that are interested in farming, we have the reserve land available and for those that want to go into trade, we have microcredit to support them but they are not suitable for teachers. They can do other things and the government will do other things to support them.”
In his remarks, Governor Ganduje of Kano had explained that the governors were at the presidential villa to observe their Friday prayers.
Asked about the purpose of the high-powered delegation in the villa, he stated: “That’s a good observation. We are seven in number here but we came separately not for any purpose but after the Friday prayers, we decided to say hello to Mr President. Is just coincidence that we met in the Mosque and some joined us later and we decided to go to greet him.”