VP: SSS SCREENS SHAGARI, MAKARFI, GOJE
As the race for who becomes President Goodluck Jonathan's deputy hots up, four names were submitted on Tuesday to the State Security Services for vetting for the position.
A Presidency source, who made this known to one of our correspondents, however, gave only the names of three — Alhaji Danjuma Goje; Muktar Shagari and Senator Ahmed Markafi. He was silent on the fourth person screened.
Goje is the current governor of Gombe State while Shagari is the Deputy Governor of Sokoto State. Markafi is a former governor of Kaduna State.
When asked if the Secretary to the Governement of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, was the fourth person, the source said he was not sure. Ahmed's name had been widely mentioned as a frontrunner for the nation's number two seat.
The Northern caucus of the House of Representatives had on Monday reportedly nominated the Deputy Speaker of the House, Alhaji Bayero Nafada, for the post.
But a top security source, who asked not to be named, said the list of contenders for the position might be reduced to three because the fourth person had a poor health record.
The security source explained that the SSS was told to place emphasis on the health records of the nominees in order to avoid a repeat of the crisis that surrounded the illness that led to the death of former President Umaru Yar'Adua.
He spoke just as the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party prepared to meet with Jonathan on the issue of who becomes his deputy on Tuesday night.
Governors elected on the platform of the party had wanted Alhaji Isa Yuguda, the Governor of Bauchi State and a son-in-law of the late President Umaru Yar'Adua, to be considered for the position.
The governors were, however, said to have made a U-turn in rooting for Yuguda when they realised that he would be a hard sell.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, has said that the House will give its full backing to any person picked as vice-president by Jonathan.
Bankole gave the assurance while addressing a valedictory session held by the House in honour of the late President Yar'Adua.
The speaker said that Jonathan would only be performing one of his 'major constitutional' functions when he eventually appoints his deputy.
He observed that the late Yar'Adua 'embodied the rarest attributes of humility, gracefulness, compassion and transformative leadership,' expressing the hope that Jonathan would uphold the former president's values.
'As we are aware, the President will soon perform one of his major constitutional functions for our dear nation. It is in the national interest that I pledge that this House will give full support to President Jonathan's nominee for vice president.'
Former presiding and principal officers of the House also eulogised Yar'Adua. They all said he was a humble and peaceful gentleman, who was committed to the development of the country.
They listed the amnesty programme in the Niger Delta, electoral reforms and adherence to the rule of law as Yar'Adua's key legacies.
The National Chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, a Second Republic Speaker of the House of Representatives, said that Yar'Adua demonstrated statesmanship by forming a Government of National Unity, even though he won the 2007 presidential election.
Ume-Ezeoke also noted that Yar'Adua immediately set out to reform the electoral system.
Other former speakers — Chief Agunwa Anaekwe; Alhaji Umar Ghali Na'Abba; Alhaji Aminu Masari; and Mrs. Patricia Etteh — said that Yar'Adua lived a life worthy of emulation by political leaders.
But Masari said it was doubtful if current political leaders could render selfless service to the people, as they were concerned about promoting and protecting their own interests.
According to him, the typical political leader of today is interested in amassing wealth, building many houses, cars and buying the most expensive clothes.
'We talk of our past leaders in glowing colours but how many office-holders of today can live like them?
'Life is not about how long, but how well spent,' he added.
Speaking in the same vein, a former Speaker Pro-tempore, Mr. Terngu Tsegba, noted that no case of corruption was directly linked with Yar'Adua.
He recalled that during the crisis in the banking sector, Yar'Adua did not interfere with the case involving Bank PHB, though it was clear that his family members had a stake in the bank. He said that Yar'Adua did not give oil blocks to his friends.
'He restored sanity to Aso Rock Presidential Villa and no sitting political office-holder was kidnapped during his time,' he said.
On her part, Etteh observed that Nigerians were fond of praising leaders after they had died, urging them to drop the attitude.
She said, 'We should praise people for their good work when they are alive; not after they are dead. Yar'Adua was a great man; but what can people say about those of us showering praises on him?'
A former Deputy Minority Whip, Alhaji Haruna Yerima, pointed out that Yar'Adua did not loot public funds like his colleagues while he was the governor of Katsina State between 1999 and 2007.
The House later adopted a resolution to send a delegation led by Bankole to condole with Jonathan and the family of the late Yar'Adua.