By Henry UMORU
“We felt that the zoning of the presidency of theÂ Â partyÂ as enshrined in the partyâ€™s constitution should be maintained and therefore the zoning arrangement in the constitution should remain for the next four years. The south has had it for eight years and therefore the North should hold it for eight years so that we take care of the restiveness in the nationâ€
Those were the words of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Vincent Eze Ogbulafor while answering questions from journalists. It was at the end of a meeting of the PDP governors held at the Kwara State governorâ€™s Lodge, Asokoro, March 2, 2010.
Before now, the political situation in the country was pensive butÂ after the Wednesday March 3, 2010 Federal Executive Council meetingÂ presided over by acting President Jonathan, tension was dousedÂ considerably.
This started from November 23, 2009Â when the news broke that President Umaru Yarâ€™adua leftÂ Nigeria forÂ Saudi Arabia on health grounds. From that day to February 24, 2010, he was a patient at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He spent ninety-three days treating what was diagnosed as acute-Pericarditis.
Following his departure, the nation was at a cross road. First , there was the issue ofÂ the PresidencyÂ leaving the country for medical treatmentÂ without a letter to the National Assembly announcing his departure.
The then Vice President Jonathan was not empowered to act for him.
The PDP sat on the fence. The leadership of the party was very careful as it was not prepared to offend any person orÂ any geo-political zone of the country. Hence, Ogbulafor at several fora repeated that there was no vacuum in the presidency when there was actually a vacuum.
The Vice President was not empowered, hence he could not swear in the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu and he could not sign the 2010 appropriation bill . The document had to travel to far away Saudi Arabia to get President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s signature, among others. But the National Assembly came to the rescue of the country by applying a political solution to theÂ quagmire. A resolution was then passed that Jonathan should be the acting President.
All is now history. But it opened up other wounds: the question of who becomes the president of Nigeria come 2011, what geo-political zone gets what, until Ogbulaforâ€™s remarkÂ that the North must complete its eight year tenure like the South and this has brought to rest the speculations of whether Jonathan would metamorphose into the PDPâ€™s presidential candidate for the 2011 general election.
The present political zoning of the PDPÂ remains, following Ogbulaforâ€™s statement. The Senate President must comeÂ from the North Central, Deputy Senate President from the South East, Speaker, House of Representatives from the West and Deputy from the North.
The turks for PDP 2011
Ahead of the Peoples Democratic Partyâ€™s arrangement thatÂ the NorthÂ shouldÂ hold on for the next four years, the partyÂ is planning to bringÂ its convention to an earlier date as against the November arrangement and it is also considering having a special convention where it would update its membership.
But the issue of the north producing a vice president for acting President Jonathan is another issue to be tackledÂ before the 2011 general elections and before the partyâ€™s national convention.
At present, the war of which zone in the north produces the Vice President is between the North East and North West against the backdrop that President Yarâ€™Adua who hails from Katsina is from the North West.
The North West is of the view that it must complete its eight year tenure since Yarâ€™aduaâ€™s Predecessor, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo from Ogun, South West completed the stipulated eight year. Other states in the North West like Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Jigawa are said to be interested in the position.
The most visible states from the zone in this contest are Jigawa and Kaduna where Sule Lamido and Namadi Sambo who are penciled down for the position hail from.
But the position of other parts of the north as gathered is that if the Vice Presidentâ€™s slot moves to North West, it may risk the chance of clinching PDPâ€™s 2011 arrangement of producing the President since it would then be assumed that they have had their share in the presidency, having done three good years under Yarâ€™adua and Vice President under Jonathan in case the ailing President is not able to make it.
Also from this zoneÂ is the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), former governor of Kebbi State and former Senator, Muhammad Adamu Aliero, though he has denied having interest severally through his Special Assistant Media and Publicity, Abdullahi Zuru .
Another factor that would heat the polity ahead of PDP conceding the position to the north is that the North East comprising Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa is prepared to fight it out with the North West against the backdrop that the zone has not produced a President except for Adamawa state which produced Abubakar Atiku as Vice President.
They are of the opinion that it is their turn to occupy Aso Villa. The argument they are putting forward is that if the North West gets the Vice Presidentâ€™s position during Jonathan time, it may find it difficult to get that ofÂ 2011.
The governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema is said to haveÂ been penciled down for the position of Vice President to Jonathan by his people, at least to compensate the people of Katsina State where Yar “Adua comes from.
But what may work against him is the issue of Abuja boys in the likes of Agriculture Minister, Sayyadi Abba Ruma and the Presidentâ€™s Economic Adviser, Tanimu Yakubu, but to pave way for Ruma to realize his ambition of becoming Katsina State governor, Ruma and others may support Shema for the position.
North Central comprising ofÂ Kwara, Niger, Kogi, Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau and the FCT is also said to be interested in the present arrangement of producing the Vice President to Jonathan, but what may be working against the zone is that the number three citizen of the country, Senate President David Mark comes from there and when the name of Benue state governor, Gabriel Suswan was mentioned, the argument was that he is a Christian and Christian-Christian acting President and Vice President may not be favourable to the country.
Another key person from the North Central is the present governor of Kwara State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governorsâ€™ Forum, Dr. Bukola Saraki but whatÂ other parts of the north may use against him is still the same thing they may use against David Mark who is also from the zone.
As gathered, one of the very strong contenders to the position ahead of the PDP arrangement is governor of Gombe State, Danjuma Goje from the North East who is on his last lap as governor of the state. He is from a zone that has not produced a President unlike North West which has produced former President Shehu Shagari and the present Yarâ€™adua.
Former governor of Bauchi state, Adamu Mauzu also from the zone is said to be contending for the Vice President position. What may work against him is his successor, son in-law of Yarâ€™Adua, Mallam Isa Yuguda following their irreconcilable differences.
Though the former was the leader of the party before he dumped All Nigeriaâ€™s People Party (ANPP) for PDP, the game play has changed. Mauzuâ€™s other war will be how he would dislodge the Secretary to the government of the Federation,SGF, Ahmed Yayale who is said to be interested in the position.
The general from Minna, former President Ibrahim Babangida must not be ignored in the entire scenario as the game plan will not be concluded without his input. He will play a very prominent role in the emergence of the Vice President as he is likely to come out for the PDP presidential race come 2011.
As we await the realization of PDPâ€™s arrangement that the north must complete the next four years, the Vice Presidentâ€™s game plan from the north would determine how the politics for 2011 would be determined and how the self acclaimed largest party in Africa will manage the situation. Time shall tell as events unfold under the Umbrella.
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