NEW BATTLE IN ASO ROCK, JOSTLE FOR VP POSITION HOTS UP
President Goodluck Jonathan
While the jostle for 2011 electoral ticket in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) among northerners still remains alive, another vista has been opened in the immediate. As the late president, Umar Yar'Adua is buried, the political game masters have commenced a tussle on who should be the number two citizen between now and May next year when the Yar'Adua tenure will end.
In the political circles of PDP, the key players in the North are not taking the matter lightly, as names and more names keep cropping up as likely person(s) to manage the state with President Goodluck Jonathan.Indeed, it was gathered that many people are actually lobbying to be the anointed one.
Saturday Sun can reveal that Jonathan has been cosulting the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the PDP leadership and key officials of the National Assembly on who the vice president may be. He is said to be acting in such a way that he would not be accused of making the choice alone. He is expected to send the name of his nominee to the National Assembly for confirmation next week, perhaps, after the seven days national mourning declared by the Federal Government.
While the consultation is going on, there is a long list of possible takes from the entire North and they include for now the Senate President, David Mark; Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, Alhaji Mukhtar Shagari, Sokoto State Deputy Governor; Alhaji Mohammed Bello from Adamawa State; Niger State governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu; Bauchi State Governor, Mallam Isa Yuguda; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed; National Security Adviser, Aliyu Gusau and the late President Yar'Adua's nephew, who is now a minister.
A check by Saturday Sun found that these persons so far mentioned are formidable members of the party with good credentials for the number two job. But there are more to just good credentials to pick the job. For one, sources said that Jonathan prefers a vice president who would behave as he did when he was Yar'Adua's deputy instead of somebody who would give give problem or be in contetion in the battle for Aso Rock next year.
If the calculations are right, Mark, the present number three citizen, could be adjudged the closest to the empty throne. On political block alignment, he could be the man to beat. He is already close to the point and would need just a shorter push to possess the seat. Another selling point is that his activities as Senate president must have, one way or the other, impacted Jonathan, especially when the hiatus was rife on the seat of the president, when Yar'Adua was away in Jeddah.
Mark was a noticeable strong supporter of Jonathan as successor, in line with the constitution and he made sure he played his role well to convince the upper legislative house he leads to endorse the stepping in of Jonathan on February 9.
After Yar'Adua's clandestine return, it was Mark, according to reports, who called to order an announcement that designated Jonathan as vice president and asked the announcer to recant and address the man properly as the acting president, as his acting capacity was an act of the National Assembly.
Mark is also aligned to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president, who is unmistakably the man behind the Jonathan mask. If this point works as anticipated, the Obasanjo block that has totally taken over and directs Jonathan on who to employ and who to drop, like the El-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu case, then Mark would beat his chest in assurance that the seat is his.
The choice of Mark, sources say, would solve the pussle about the zoning arrangement. With a South southerner as president and northern, as vice president, it is expected that the Senate president position would move to another zone. Mark's exit from the Senate would make it easy for a senator from another zone to be picked as Senate president.
But given the way the North is about religion, Mark has a sore point, especially considering the fact that he is from Benue State, in the Middle Belt. Sources said that only the intervention of some northern Christians would save the day. Unless a heavyweight, like General Theophilus Danjuma, who is close to Jonathan, intervenes Mark will miss it on religious grounds. David Mark is Christian, just as Jonathan and the Muslim North would always play the religion card to oppose his selection for reasons that the president and the deputy won't all be Christians.
The talakawa governor from Jigawa is a leftist with a leaning to the Aminu Kano school of political philosophy, which opposes the status quo and rather bends towards the masses. PDP is an extreme right self-preserving political group. While they might allow the crowning of the like of Lamido at the state level, they might not feel comfortable with him at the very centre.
But Lamido has shown signs of leadership in his administration of his state and in places where work and results are taken as strong points, Lamido could be a good take. His second likely winning number is his religion.
Shagari, a former Water Minister in the Obasanjo regime and Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, is a good bet. But it is not known how close his family, his father especially, Shehu Shagari, second republic president, is to the inner caucus of the party. Based on goodwill, however, and old time sake, Obasanjo would not be opposed to him because of his father.
However, if he would bank on the Sultanate appeal, where the Sokoto monarch would wield his influence, Shagari, in addition to his family pedigree, would, at last, step in to succeed Jonathan as second citizen.
The outspoken Niger governor and chairman of the northern governors' forum is a tested technocrat who emerged as governor from the federal civil service. Aliyu has the experience it takes to hold such office, and if the scheme to stop despot and maximum ex-ruler, Ibrahim Babangida gathers momentum, he could be the man in order to divide the Minna political ranks because if Jonathan decides to contest in 2011, the deputy he picks now would very likely run with him. In political gaming, it would serve an effective purpose to pick a Minna man to stop another Minna man from pushing further.
What is going for Aliyu is that many northern elements are pushing his case.
The Yar'Adua man is a minister of state currently. The conclusion is that he was picked to the position as compensation for the Yar'Adua family over the illness and expected ouster of the late president. It is possible the compassionate consideration would have spent its vital energy to keep carrying him.
It is doubtful if the core PDP would consider a further compensation to the Yar'Adua clan as to choose one of them as second citizen.
Ahmed is the current Secretary to the Federal Government. He ascended the throne after the runaway ambition of his predecessor, Babagana Kingibe, threw him out of the position.
As per experience at the centre, it would be hard to find any of the likely contenders that would challenge the credentials of Ahmed. He had served as Defence Minister, when Yar'Adua started in 2007. Before then, Yayale, who retired from civil service in the administration of Obasanjo, hit the apex of his career as Head of Service of the Federation.
By that attainment, he had seen it all and known what governance at the federal level is. He is a technocrat, administrator and accomplished public officer.
With his foray in the post of SFG after serving as a minister, there is nothing left for Ahmed than further elevation.
Since he is from the North and a Muslim, there is hardly any issue anyone, apart from blind politicking, would raise to fault Ahmed from taking the number two vacant slot.
Yuguda is a political straggler. He swaps parties and loyalty at will. He had started as a member of the PDP, when he served as Aviation Minister under Obasanjo. When his ambition to be the Bauchi State governor hit the rocks, he quickly migrated to the ANPP and contested and surprisingly won as the Bauchi governor in 2007.
That victory was seen as the height of the popularity of the middle aged politician. Yuguda is prominent in politics among his people, but at the centre, there are doubts. He is a Yar'Adua block man. And as a fair-weather politician, he later left ANPP after clinching victory to jump back into the PDP wagon. To consolidate his position and key into the mainstream of the party, he quickly got himself attached by consanguinity to the Yar'Adua family when he married the late president's second daughter.
If the dominance of the Obasanjo factor prevails, there would be slim chances for Yuguda, but if luck propels him or his claimed popularity, then he could be a good bet to team up with Jonathan at the centre for the plum job.
However, the issue is whether Yuguda would actually want to be vice president for one year, if Jonathan bursts his presidential ambition, or continue as governor for another five years, as he is expected to win a re-election.
Another very strong contender and possible take for the position is General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, the National Security Adviser to Jonathan. The president appointed him to the position on March 8 after dropping General Abdullahi Sarki Muktar.
Gusua held the same position for almost the eight years Obasanjo was in power and part of the Yar'Adua's tenure before he picked Muktar. Before that, he had been in Military Intelligence and was briefly Army Chief. Within the Nigerian security circle, it is difficult to find anyone with more experience or the extent of contact in the global security than him.
His appointment surprised many, who feel Gusau is a close ally of Ibrahim Babangida, who eyes the presidency in 2011. Gusau showed interest in the political arena when he contested the presidential primaries of the Peoples' Democratic Party against late President Yar'Adua, whom he considers a younger one on account of being a contemporary of the late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar'adua.
While Gusua is viewed as an IBB person in Jonathan's inner circle, many still believe that his being there is because of his strong affiliation with Obasanjo, who he worked with and who recommended him for the job for Yar'Adua. If the affiliation with Obasanjo and his personal ambition have superseded his affinity with IBB, then Gusau who is said to have thrown in everything to pair with Jonathan must have got it on a platter. But should his allegiance be traced to IBB still, Gusau would rather forget it.
Our findings are that Gusau, more than the other likely candidates, has put in all - finance, connections, time, propaganda and others to make sure the position of VP does not elude him.
If there is any point against Gusau, it would just be his interest to be president. It was gathered that he does not just want to be vice president but also the man to succeed Jonathan. This will count against him, as Jonathan is also interested in being president beyond 2011.
While the names keep occurring and recurring, the major shaping factor of who should be chosen is the inclination of the core northern caucus and the disposition of Jonathan. So, far Saturday Sun can only confirm that the names are there and real, but the definite selection is still hazy, as the PDP keeps vigil in clandestine and nocturnal horse trading where betrayals and re-alignments and switch of allegiance is the normal thing.