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‘Why the hawks may lose out in the VP race’


*Jonathan cool, shrewd

*Consulting northern caucus

FROM the many suitors whether self-styled or group made, President Goodluck Jonathan’s choice of vice president may emerge from sources other than arm-twisting or cajoling. For one, it is becoming clear that President Goodluck Jonathan is not as politically naive as some had earlier feared.

And what has become apparent the morning after the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua funeral rites is that the race for the Vice President’s slot is not for the strong after all, nor is it for the smartest. Calculations for the 2011 polls are now crucial in shaping the presidential decision on the plum office.

Spin-doctors who have been working for those jostling for the job have been bandying all sorts of names from the North for the job. In fact, the name of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, has been the most mentioned.

But The Guardian learnt from sources close to the “inner circle” of the Presidency that President Jonathan “has been under serious pressure from powerful individuals from the political North that have always been organised and focused in power-sharing specifically.”

It was learnt that the apparent absence of leadership even from the Northern Governors’ Forum whose members have been part of the private lobby for the Vice President’s (VP) slot has strengthened the desire of the President to take a chance in the 2011 presidential race.

The top source said: “The unexpected leadership vacuum from the North is a development that will significantly alter the colour of politics that will shape the decision to choose a VP in the next 24 hours.”

The insider disclosed yesterday in Abuja: “The trouble for the North is in the following simple details: The SGF, who is supposed to be leader of the North-East caucus of the PDP is gunning for the job on his own. The governor of Bauchi State, where he (SGF) comes from, is reportedly jostling for the job. The governor of the neighbouring state, Gombe, has been in the race. The governor of Adamawa State too is in the lobby for the job from the same North-East.”

The source added: “It is even worse in the North-West where all the governors and some past ministers have dispatched all their arsenal and war chest to lobby for the VP slot: All the governors and even Adamu Aliero who should meet to present a common front are all privately lobbying Dr. Jonathan’s men. They have all forgotten that the National Security Adviser’s (NSA) name, Aliyu Gusau, has been pencilled for the top job too in the same North-West. So, the game now is for all these aspirants to spoil one another’s credentials for the job.”

The lobby story is not particularly different in the North-Central, it was learnt, where the Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, Dr. Bukola Saraki (Kwara), comes from. The said source said: “The Northern Governors’ Forum cannot present a common nominee because the chairman is said to be interested, the Governor of Niger State is in the race. And even the President of the Senate, David Mark (Benue), is strategically interested in the top job that may be a critical electoral factor in 2011 and 2015 politics.

“So, you can see how individualism and politics of personal interests have combined to destroy cohesion in the North where Sardauna is still their ‘hero.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian was told yesterday that the institutional weaknesses noted in the tripod comprising the Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani and Igbo at the moment have also been fingered by strategic thinkers for Dr. Jonathan as one other critical factor that will make Jonathan run come 2011. The source said: “The Yorubas have no leader. The Igbos remain largely republican, notably everyone there is a chief and leader. The (core) North now embraces individualism, monetisation of politics and Abuja politics…So, the Fourth Force as symbolised by the arrival of the Niger Delta on the political scene where one of their own has mysteriously become President through a constitutional arrangement, has paved the way for Jonathan. That is the new power game in Abuja in a capsule.”

The sources added that the afore-mentioned weaknesses would shape politics of the choice of the VP. This is also the way it has been revealed to us:

“President Goodluck Jonathan is now seen as a quiet operator. It is now getting crystal clear that the Ijaw man, who remained totally calm even when the former First Lady and trounced cabal usurped his functions, is not a fool after all. He will calculate and think very deeply before naming the Vice President. He already knows that the most critical factor in this game is intrinsic value of loyalty and absence of inordinate ambition. He has learned from the Atiku factor in vice presidential management…”

The source continued: “He will not choose somebody that will sack or even attempt to eliminate him in the next one year…All the obviously ambitious aspirants that you people in the media have been mentioning, none will make it. The VP that will be unveiled before Tuesday will be a Dove, a docile and malleable person who will not and cannot upset the apple cart midway into May 2011. Dr. Jonathan knows that and the intelligence institutions, internal and external are assisting him in tracking all the bits and pieces of intelligence needed in this regard. So, the race is really not for the strong and smart as you expect. It is for the Dove, not Hawks…”

It was also learnt yesterday that immediately after the late President Yar’Adua left for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia in November 2009, Dr. Jonathan set up a five-man Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) headed by the current Minister of the Niger Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe. One of the members was Col. Umar Dangiwa (rtd), former Military Governor of Kaduna State. It was learnt that the private advisory committee was the precursor to the current Presidential Policy Advisory Committee chaired by Gen. T.Y. Danjuma (rtd).

It was revealed that on account of the secret relationship, Dangiwa was actually offered a ministerial appointment recently but he politely declined the offer.

As the source put it yesterday: “Jonathan is not as apolitical or cold or docile as some commentators have dubbed him. He is a quiet operator of a different hue.”

As the search of Vice President intensifies, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has begun intensive consultation with the caucus of the party in the North with a view to arriving at a conclusion before meeting Jonathan on Tuesday when the final position on the matter will be taken.

The Guardian learnt that when members of the National Working Committee (NWC) paid the President a courtesy call last week in the Presidential Villa in Aso Rock, the leadership of the party agreed with the President that the party would make input into the process leading to the emergence of the Vice President but asked for time to consult the northern caucus of the party both in the National Assembly and the state levels of the party with a view to coming up with a candidate who will enjoy the support of the majority.

The Guardian further learnt that following the “gentle man agreement,” the party leadership at the weekend summoned the Deputy National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bello Mohammed Haliru, and mandated him to liaise with the top echelon of the party in the North so as to come up with a candidate that could be presented to the President for endorsement.

Party sources told The Guardian that consequently, Bello spent last weekend shuttling the state chapters of the party in the 19 northern states consulting with the governors and chairmen of the party. According to sources, the governors asked for time to meet in Abuja and take a position, which is expected to be conveyed to the party today and the position will be communicated to Aso Rock before Tuesday’s meeting between Jonathan and other key stakeholders.

The Guardian also gathered that at the meeting with the President last week, he told the party leadership that the search should not be limited to the political class alone as he is prepared to work with any trusted hand that would assist him deliver on his promises to Nigerians. It was further gathered that the President is much more disposed to a bureaucrat who is popular among the power brokers in the North. Party sources also said that the president has given the party leadership an idea of the kind of VP that he wants. The Guardian gathered that Jonathan told the National Working Committee (NWC) that he would prefer a candidate who is not controversial so that he could use the remaining period of the administration to concentrate on core areas that he thinks could move the nation forward.

“The northern caucus has been given the charge and the party is very serious about it. We hope that on Monday we will have the report on the strength of which we will be able to discuss with the President on soon,” a party source told The Guardian yesterday.

Members of the NWC met with Jonathan last week and after the meeting, the National Chairman of PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, told journalists that the NWC members only came to congratulate the new pew President.

The Guardian further gathered that the President has contacted Senate President, David Mark and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, that he would be sending the name of the nominee for the position of Vice President to the National Assembly this week and pleaded with them that the two chambers should expedite action in view of the limited time available for the administration.

When The Guardian tried to reach the national publicity secretary of the party, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali, on telephone, his line was switched off. But a top-notcher of PDP who chose to be anonymous confirmed that the party “has been reached to search for a VP from the North.”

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