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Yar’Adua: North divided over possible successor

By Dayo Bensom Political Editor, Okey Ndiribe & Emeka Mamah
LAGOS—Amid growing concern and uncertainty over President Umar Yar’ Adua’s health, there are  indications that the North is divided over a possible successor in 2011 just as the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, governors, particularly those of Northern extraction insist that the President’s  successor must come from their fold.

The governors’ position which appears to have shifted attention from Yar’ Adua’s health came to light even as the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the ruling party meets in Abuja tomorrow over the President.

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Vanguard gathered authoritatively that moves by a section of the North to position the Kwara State Governor, Mr.  Bukola Saraki, to run in the 2011 presidential ticket should President Yar’Adua drop out of the race, was opposed by the core-North which preferred a candidate from its zone.

Gov. Saraki, who is from the North-Central geo-political zone, had in company of the Bauchi State Governor, Alhaji Isa Yuguda, visited the President last week in his Saudi Arabia hospital.

Reason why Saraki was being opposed could not be confirmed but Vanguard learnt that it may not be unconnected with the fact that the Kwara governor was seen  more as a Yoruba than a Northerner.

A source who spoke to Vanguard said former Vice- President Atiku Abubakar would have been the prefered candidate if he had not pitched his political tent with the opposition.

“If he had accepted Yar’ dua’s gesture earlier on, he would have easily been the successor to the president,” the source said.

ACon VP’s slot

Meanwhile,  the National  Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress (AC), Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has described as unconstitutional, the reported move by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to sponsor the Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, for the position of Vice-President should the office become vacant. He spoke to Vanguard in a telephone interview, Monday.

Said he: “ It is entirely un- constitutional for anybody to embark on the search for a successor to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan when he is still occupying that office and President Umar Yar’Ádua is still alive and in office.”

On whether Gov. Lamido may be imposed on the nation as a vice-president, Mohammed argued that apart from Yar’Ádua and Jonathan, over half of the PDP governors and members of the National Assembly were imposed on the nation during the 2007 general election.

He asked: “Did any of these Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) elective office holders come into office through  free and fair party primaries? It is the PDP’s undemocratic record that has led this country to its present state,” he said.

According to him: “We are not surprised that they are already shopping for a replacement for Jonathan. Even in the present case what ought to have been done is to have a full consultation within the party.”
He maintained that  the Constitution is very clear on the matter.

Said he: “The PDP would nominate another candidate for the office of Vice-President and the candidate would be ratified by the  National Assembly. But whatever the PDP is doing,  what is important is that the constitution  has to be followed.”

He explained that there is a procedure for declaring the office of the President vacant, adding that it  had  not yet been put in motion.

“If for any reason the office of the Vice-President should become vacant on account of Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan vacating that office and assuming the office of President, the choice of who becomes the next vice-president is entirely that of PDP,” he said.

Relatedly, the National Publicity Secretary of Progressive Peoples Alliance ( PPA), Chief Ben Onyechere, has said the Northern political establishment should blame itself if they should allow former President Olusegun Obasanjo to dictate political decisions to them now that it is their turn to run the affairs of the country.

He was also  reacting to media reports that Obasanjo was already shopping for a successor for Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, in a telephone interview he granted to Vanguard Monday.

Said he: “I would not believe that the wise men of the North would allow Obasanjo to dictate to them what they should do. I think it is mere rumour.”

PPA carpets Obasanjo

He described Obasanjo as a mischievous person, adding that the mind of PPA does not work like Obasanjo’s.
He stated that the issue of shopping for a successor to Jonathan did not arise because the President’s ill-health is a natural phenomenon, adding that anybody could be sick and it is unGodly to do so.

Said he: “How can I comment on the health of somebody who is still living. It is not proper. I hate to discuss President YarÁdua’s health with regard to his official position. We don’t feel such a thing should be discussed.”

Song chides Northern Union

Meantime, the former National Chairman of the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA), Mr. Adamu Song, has lampooned the Northern Union (NU), over what he described as its veiled call against the takeover of power by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan in the event that President Umaru Yar’Adua is incapable of performing his constitutional duties due to his protracted illness.

Song said the reasons which the union relied on to oppose Jonathan’s takeover were not only alien to the 1999 Constitution but insulting to Nigerians and the North which it is claiming to champion its cause.

In an interview with Vanguard in Kaduna, yesterday, Song said, “it is insulting for the NU led by the former Senate Leader, Dr. Olusola Saraki to call for caution in a matter that is purely constitutional.

“The union said one of the reasons why it is against Dr. Jonathan’s takeover of power in the event of the President being unable to carry out his functions is because it is against the zoning policy of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP),” he said.


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