Yar’Adua’s Death, Vice President And Politics Of 2011
Until Wednesday’s death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the Nigerian political space was dotted by conscious optimism, as the country glided towards next year’s general elections.
The uncertainty about his true state of health, coupled with intermittent arranged visits, even when his then deputy was not allowed access to him, and often ‘planted’ stories of his miraculous ‘recovery’ in the newspapers further fuelled the lack-lustre approach to 2011.
But with his death, things have already started looking up for the polity, just as the jostle for the Vice Presidency in the remaining 12 months has picked up. For once, President Goodluck Jonathan’s measured steps have become steady, and his actions henceforth are backed by the full weight of the law, since the circumstance of his elevation can no longer be questioned or challenged.
Who Becomes Vice President?
THE first issue to be resolved would be the filling of the vacancy in the office of Vice President, following the elevation of the former occupier, President Jonathan.
The indisposition of Yar’Adua and his long absence from the political scene and public view had necessitated the attempt to get him out of the way to allow him time and space to nurse his health earlier in the year.
That was until he was smuggled into the country in the dead of the night to avoid public scrutiny in an ‘unpresidential’ manner on February 24 by his wife and cronies, bent on hanging on to power.
Before then, many names were bandied around as possible candidates for the position, all from the North, since the President is from the South, in an unwritten South-North political arrangement. With Yar’Adua out of the way, the coast is now clear for the position to be filled, as required by law.
CURRENTLY the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), talks of Yayale Ahmed emerging the next Vice President have been in the air for quite a while.
A former Minister of Defence and Head of Service (HoS) of the federation, Ahmed has been instrumental in events that followed the sudden evacuation of Yar’Adua and the unfolding drama. He is said to have been a stabilising factor in the efforts to ensure peace and continuous administration while the late President was away, and worked for the smooth transmission of power to Jonathan. And it would be no surprise if he clinched the position.
The SGF who was, at a point, said to be nursing the ambition to be governor of his home state Bauchi, was set to challenge Governor Isa Yuguda for the post. But once the governor married the daughter of Yar’Adua and returned to the PDP from All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), his chances became dimmed and he had to recoil for another day. Now may be that day for him, if he gats the position.
But, Yuguda is not unaware what an Ahmed Vice Presidency could mean to him, politically, if he (Yuguda) does not get it.
But Ahmed’s proximity to the seat of power and his strategic roles during the political logjam that followed Yuguda’s father-in-law’s long absence from the country might count for him when the chips are down, probably next week, at the end of the mourning period for Yar’Adua.
For one who has been on the corridors of power and Presidency for sometime now, he sure should know how to position himself for the carrot, as he indeed had been doing.
BAUCHI State Governor Isa Yuguda was in a good stead to become Vice President at the peak of the debacle created by the absence of his father-in-law, ostensibly as a soft-landing or compensation for the Yar’Adua family.
As a matter of fact, all pointed to that direction, as there were efforts to make his mother-in-law, Turai, backpedal and come down from her Olympian height, to pave way for Yuguda’s ascension to the position.
It is not clear how he must have felt by the sudden ‘return’ of Yar’Adua in February, considering that unusual move evaporated his chances of moving up and possibly being in the pole position for next year’s presidential election.
Now that Yar’Adua is dead, Yuguda’s chances are just like any other aspirant’s, without any edge or advantage, and a second term as governor could as well be his main pre-occupation.
For him, it must have been a blown opportunity and dashed hope.
IT might not be very surprising that Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State has been about town and in the news recently. His eyes might be on the Vice President slot, especially with the increasing influence of his ‘mentor,’ former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the PDP and indeed Presidency.
Beyond the tacit backing of Obasanjo, there is little or nothing else going for him, except that he has always been on the side of the masses- the Talakawas.
It would be the surprise of the decade if he smells it, considering the growing public disdain for his master’s utterances of late. Some members of the ruling party might oppose his elevation just because of Obasanjo, thereby denying him the opportunity to return to the politics of the centre.
GOMBE State Governor Danjuma Goje is one name with his achievements in office working for him. Apart from that, he is said to be playing from outside.
But because of his roles in ensuring stability in the polity, more than anything else, the two-time governor might be given a thought. Whether that can carry him far into the position may depend on his lobbying and those backing him.
THE return of General Aliyu Gusau to the position of National Security Adviser (NSA) might not be for nothing. For a man interested in the Presidency, having contested the PDP primaries with Yar’Adua, his second coming to the Presidency could be in preparation to succeed Jonathan, that is if the President is not running.
But in an era many are clamouring for full civilian democracy, and giving the antecedents of Obasanjo in office, his candidature might not be smooth sail.
THE name of former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has been touted as a potential material.
With his return home last weekend and softening of its earlier position against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), it would not be surprising if he is considered for the position, after all, he is a member of the ruling PDP and one of those once touted to succeed Obasanjo until Yar’Adua came along.
In any case, his choice could fit into the equation for a younger material and one not averse to the Western ideals.
But it would be a Herculean task for him to get there, as the big toes he stepped on during the demolition exercise of his administration as FCT minister, might want to take their own pound of flesh.
LIKE El-Rufai, former EFCC Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu could be accommodated in that capacity. With the decision of the federal government to withdraw the charges against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the coast is now clear for him to not only return home, but also seek political office.
However, Ribadu would be a hard sell to most politicians, whose feathers he may have ruffled during his tenure at the anti-graft agency. To them, it could be a pay back time. More so, many of them fear that his being in power could smell trouble for them, now or in future.
Politics of 2011
THE post of Vice President would become less juicy and contentious if Jonathan decides to contest in next year’s election by adhering to his party’s zoning arrangement, which favours the North for the Presidency.
But if he opts to tow the Nigerian constitution rather than his party’s zoning formula, the political equation is bound to change and many politicians would return to the drawing board.
In any case, it is not impossible to have the arrangement changed or altered slightly to accommodate the emerging political realities, after all, it had happened in the past.
It is in this context that Obasanjo’s recent comment on the Voice of America (VOA) that PDP had not zone the Presidency to the north becomes instructive.
The former President is alleged to be striving to get the party, albeit, the northern elements, to accept Jonathan as their next candidate.
But he has other factions or interests within the party to contend with.
Also, what commonly goes as ‘north’ and ‘south’ is not anything beyond contending interests of small political elites, rather than the presumed geographical expression.
No doubt, the death of Yar’Adua has seen the death of some ambitions, political and otherwise. And those shedding tears are certainly for different reasons.
His passage has also ushered in a new power brokers and power blocs, and some dead ambitions may now have resurrected, as some of those schemed out or not in contention yesterday may have become today’s powers-that-be.
This will replicate itself in all facets of the nation’s political life, especially within the ruling PDP, as the jostle for 2011 enters a sharp corner.