Vanguard (Lagos)

2 January 2013

Nigeria: 2015 Polls - Obj, Jonathan Scramble for Northern Govs

Photo: Vanguard
President Goodluck Jonathan campaign posters

Lagos — The shape of the contest for the 2015 presidential election was at the beginning of the New Year unfolding as a battle for the support of second term governors of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Besides the governors, Vice-President Namadi Sambo was also becoming an issue in the battle of wits between President Goodluck Jonathan and his onetime benefactor, former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The vice-president's problem is also being compounded by the reported interest of two second term governors angling to displace him in the event of Dr. Jonathan seeking another term in 2015.

The political difficulties of the Vice-president emerged following reports that Sambo through Governor Mukthar Yero of Kaduna State was in the know of a meeting between Obasanjo and traditional rulers in Kaduna State on New Year eve. Yero who emerged as governor of Kaduna State last month is largely believed to be a scion of the political family of Sambo having first served as an accountant in his private company before emerging as Commissioner for Finance in Sambo's cabinet as governor of Kadnua State.

Obasanjo was in Kaduna State on New Year eve allegedly to commiserate with the state over the death of its immediate past governor, Sir Patrick Yakowa. During his stay in Kaduna, the former president met with traditional rulers who were summoned by the powerful Emir of Zauzzau, Alhaji Shehu Idris. The meeting with the traditional rulers followed similar meetings between the former president and opinion moulders in Northern Nigeria in recent times.

Obasanjo's private meetings

The New Year eve meetings in Kaduna trailed earlier private meetings in Abia last weekend. Before then, Obasanjo, who is believed to have taken a position to champion the return of the presidency to the North was alleged to have been mobilizing political opinion leaders in the region for a possible confrontation with the incumbent and his onetime protégée, Jonathan.

Multiple sources in the North confirmed yesterday that the events in Kaduna may have inadvertently put Sambo in a precarious position in the unfolding battle of wits between Obasanjo and Jonathan. Sambo was in Kaduna on New Year eve ahead of Obasanjo's arrival.

"How do you explain the fact that the governor got all the traditional rulers to meet with Obasanjo and do you think it could have been for nothing," a top political operative in the North asked yesterday.

Sambo has largely refrained from giving vent to the increasing opposition in the North to another term for Dr. Jonathan in 2015. It was as such a surprise to some political leaders in the region yesterday that the vice-president would have associated himself with Obasanjo's condolence visit which some alleged was a cover for his continuing mobilisation for the battle ahead of 2015.

Mallam Sani Umar, Media Aide to the vice-president did not return a call and a text message sent to him on the development.

Obasanjo, it was learnt, has been reaching out to governors across the country in a bid to win their confidence ahead of 2015. His efforts, Vanguard learnt, was upon submissions earlier made to him to beware of Jonathan's power of incumbency. The former president it was further gathered was said to have dismissed the threat with the assertion that he knows that the power of the PDP rests with the governors.

The governors' influence over the party flows from their control of delegates who come from the states.

Two northern govs eye VP position

Obasanjo's alleged efforts nonetheless, northern cohesion to combat Dr Jonathan for the presidential ticket is alleged to be threatened with the subtle quest by two of the north's second term governors to displace Sambo from the post of vice-presidential slot in a possible Jonathan presidential ticket in 2015. It is, however, not known if Dr. Jonathan is directly involved in trying to woo any of the second term governors to join him in a possible 2015 race. He, has, however, over time bent towards the governors on several issues concerning the PDP.

Two of the second term governors despite being beneficiaries of President Obasanjo's goodwill are said to be playing a game of political survival and are believed to have given their indication to partner with Jonathan in 2015.

"Well that is one option and it is on the cards and there is nothing wrong with it," a top aide of one of the governors that has been repeatedly mentioned as a possible vice-president told Vanguard on the condition of anonymity.

Obasanjo is said to be working on the strength of a conviction that he sold the Jonathan presidential ticket to the North on the promise that he would exit the stage in 2015 for a return of power to the North. Following pressures on Dr. Jonathan to contest the 2015 election and reports of the incumbent president's failure to dismiss the pressures, Obasanjo who had earlier indicated his withdrawal from the political stage has lately been on a circuit of private meetings across the country during which he is reported to have been mobilizing opinion in support of his plan.

After a meeting with the National Chairman of the PDP Alhaji Bamanga Tukur last month in his Abeokuta, Ogun State home, Obasanjo pledged that he would not be stopped from making his opinions known.

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