By Emeka Mamah

The alleged presidential ambition of the Kaduna State governor, Mohammed Namadi Sambo may have pitched him against President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.  Government activities at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, seat of the state government have virtually come to a halt since penultimate Monday when newspaper reports said that Sambo may succeed Yar’Adua in 2011.

The report had hinted that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP] was not comfortable with Yar’Adua’s second term in office due to his alleged failing health, a development which forced the leadership of the party to consider the option of replacing the President with a candidate from the North-West, to complete the two terms since the party had zoned the presidency to the North. The report further said that Sambo may have been  tipped for the juicy position because of his achievements in the state within the last two and a half years.

It was a jittery Sambo who rushed to Abuja the next day where he addressed a world press conference to disclaim the report arguing that it was the handiwork of the opposition. “I am not qualified to be President,” Sambo was quoted as saying, a pronouncement aimed at convincing Yar’Adua that he (Sambo) is still loyal and was not set to contest the presidency as claimed.

Earlier, the governor’s Special Assistant (Media and Public Affairs), Alhaji Umar Sani, had issued a statement on the issue where he stated thus: “we believe that the entire story is sponsored to muddle the hitherto good relationship existing between Mr. President and Gov Sambo. We see the hand of the Fifth Columnist in this episode and we wish to dissociate ourselves entirely from the story and its content.

We also want to use this opportunity to call on Mr. President and the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, Prince Vincent Eze Ogbulafor OFR, and all well-meaning Nigerians to disregard the content of the publication and consider same as handiwork and machinations of evil doers who wish nobody any good.”

Apart from the governor’s reaction, the North-West zone of the party also denounced the report describing it as “cheap rumour.” The zonal secretary, Baba Aliyu, said that the report that the National Working Committee of the party had endorsed Sambo was designed to pitch the governor against the party. Aliyu admitted that members of the party’s National Working Committee were indeed  in Kaduna but that, “their presence was to appreciate the efforts of the Kaduna State government in making life better for the people of the state and assist in the distribution of poverty alleviation materials.

“The National Working Committee of the PDP came to Kaduna to launch some poverty alleviation palliatives including agriculture and trading materials and distribution of cars to party chairmen at the state and local government and the North-West zone. We are however surprised to see in the media that the NEC came to Kaduna to endorse the candidacy of the state governor to take over from the President in 2011. To us, this is not fair at all. The essence of the visit was to appreciate the governor who is one of the best governors of  PDP.

“This is politics and the hand work of the opposition to pitch the governor and the leadership of the party. The party has its guidelines for the conduct of its primaries and we are yet to come out with that guidelines and it is rather too early to start campaigns. When the party guidelines for nomination are ready, the party intends to follow it to the letter. The party will do everything possible to get to the root of the publication. Governor Sambo was saddened by the publication and whoever is behind it did not mean well for Nigeria.”

Apparently jolted by reports that about three PDP governors from the North have their eyes on Yar’Adua’s job, the President’s 2011 Campaign  Organization on Monday November 16, hurriedly named coordinators for the states for the election that is about 18 months away.

The inauguration of the state coordinators however appears to contradict the President’s earlier position on the matter during the party’s special convention in Abuja earlier in the year. Yar’Adua had asked governors to stop campaigning for their second term in office and concentrate more on governance.  Yar’Adua had explained that the governors and the PDP as party in government had made a number of promises to their people which they have to fulfill.

As a further step to consolidate its position on the matter of who becomes the next president, PDP however issued a stern warning over what it described as “ambitious governors’ asking them to dump the idea as, “there is no vacancy in Aso Rock Villa.” According to the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali, “those governors should know that this is not how PDP operates; there are guidelines for issues like this within the party. They are mere noise makers.”

Still disturbed by the report and to further convince Yar’Adua that he does not intend to contest the presidential race, Sambo within the week, donated a Peugeot 307 saloon car to the Yar’Adua 2011 Campaign Organization, a move that has been described as “face saving.”

But a cross section of Northerners say Yar’Adua does not deserve second term in office arguing that the President’s ill health tended to weigh him down in the face of enormous task of moving the nation forward. A former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Alhaji Umaru Dembo, believes that Yar’Adua should not have contested the presidency in the first instance. “It was Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who imposed Yar’Adua on the North. Yar’Adua was not the Northern choice and candidate for the presidency.

All the promises they made especially on electricity are yet to be fulfilled,” Dembo said. Another prominent member of the PDP and former Minister of the FCT, Abuja, Alhaji Iro Abubakar Danmusa, who incidentally hails from the President’s home state was among the first northerners to question Yar’Adua’s suitability  when he noted that, “Nigeria is too complicated for Yar’Adua to rule.”

In a recent interview with Vanguard, the former minister said that he has been vindicated in his prediction that the country is too complex for him to rule.” The removal of Danmusa from the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the PDP may not be unconnected with his views on the President.  Moreover, a prominent Emir from Katsina State recently told members of the Northern Union that there should be evidence of Yar’Adua’s performance before asking the North to support him for a second term in office.

The Emir had reacted when the Union, led by the former Senate Leader in the Second Republic, Dr. Olusola Saraki, visited him in the course of a tour of the old Northern region, to solicit support for the President’s second term ambition. The opposition against the President has even got to a level where some opinions on the matter can best be described as ridiculous.

A national officer of the PDP, Chief Godwin Daboh, recently suggested that the President’s wife, Turai, who is believed to be the real power behind the throne, should be drafted to complete her husband’s tenure, due to poor performance on the part of Yar’Adua.

Elsewhere from the North, a former Head of State, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who had contested for the presidency twice, under the umbrella of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), is equally determined to ensure that Yar’Adua does not return in 2011 even as he has identified the PDP as constituting the greatest problem of Nigeria.

He has since established an alliance with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, to actualize their collective desire. And from the ANPP, Kano State governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, has indicated his readiness to challenge Yar’Adua in 2011.

With the current debate, claims and counter claims over the real position of the PDP leadership on the 2011 presidency, there is perhaps no doubt that governance at various levels will suffer as the President   may have indeed indirectly launched his campaign for a second term.

What is more, most PDP first term governors in the states have been adopted by the party to continue in office for second term. The development has contradicted the position of the Deputy National Chairman of the party, Dr. Haliru Mohammed, who at the height of the controversy insisted that the party would throw all positions open for all eligible members of the party.

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