The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has become the latest member of the ruling All Progressives Congress to publicly turn down the prospect of drumming support for his party’s presidential flag bearer, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
The minister, who was a late night guest on Politics Today, a popular programme on Channels television, hesitated when asked who he would vote for between Tinubu and his fellow kinsman, Peter Obi of the Labour Party ahead of the 2023 elections.
Ngige dodged the question, saying he is no longer active in politics and would make his decision on Election Day.
He said, “I’m not active in politics for now because I am facing a national assignment,” he said.
“Both of them are my friends. My choice will be in the ballot box. It is a secret ballot. I shouldn’t tell Nigerians what I would do secretly,’’ he said evasively.
While making a comparative analysis between Tinubu and Obi, the minister conceded that the former Lagos governor did creditably well in restoring sanity and order to the former Nigerian capital.
Ngige’s statement caused a stir on social media and among his party supporters who frowned on his utterance.
Political analysts argued that the minister’s stance confirmed speculations that a number of ministers and party members may be opposed to Tinubu’s presidential ambition.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, had also alleged that some appointees of APC in Buhari’s government were working for the candidacy of the Peoples Democratic Party’s Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
The development is coming less than five months before the 2023 presidential election.
In recent times, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, had threatened to mobilise Northern Christian electorate to vote against their party, APC, for fielding the contentious Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had similarly contended that delegates who voted at the party’s presidential primary were bribed to influence the outcome.
He said many of those induced with money had since regretted their action.
Amaechi came second in the APC presidential primary where Tinubu defeated Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and 12 others to clinch the ticket.
Osinbajo’s omission from the 422-man Presidential Campaign list has also sparked speculations that all was not well within the ruling party.
When contacted for reaction, the spokesperson for the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, and PCC Director of Media and Communications, Bayo Onanuga, declined to comment on Ngige’s stance.
“I will prefer not to comment. We don’t want to join issues with anyone,” Keyamo said.
‘Caution Ngige, others’
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress on Saturday called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to caution his ministers and other public holders to desist from working against the Presidential Candidate of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
This was contained in a statement signed by Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Murtala Yakubu Ajaka, and made available to Sunday PUNCH.
It added, “It is expected of a serving Minister in an APC government to be a trusted Apostle of Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s presidency in 2023, who, along other party leaders, laboured to ensure the enthronement of the same government in 2015 which they are now serving in.
“Chief Ngige and other APC appointees, especially in the federal cabinet should not forget in a hurry that they are holding onto party’s mandate, hence the need to protect it with whatever it requires, but if they can no longer protect the interest of the APC in public and that of our presidential candidate (Tinubu), I think the honourable thing to do is to step aside from the government formed by the APC.