Vanguard (Lagos)

14 July 2013

Nigeria: 2015 - Jonathan Seals Deal With Muslim Leaders

President Goodluck Jonathan may dump Vice President Namadi Sambo for the former Zamfara State governor, Senator Sani Ahmed Yerima, as his running mate for the 2015 presidential election, it was learnt at the weekend.

The President, who met with some Muslim scholars and leaders on his anticipated second term bid, was said to have been impressed by the senator's role in facilitating the meeting between him and the Muslim leaders, who promised to mobilise support for him.

Interestingly, this is coming at a time when the Professor Ango Abdulahi's Northern Elders Forum, NEF, has made it known that the North would not support President Jonathan's second term bid.

Sources said that Yerima, an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, directed his associate and deputy governor of Zamfara State, Ibrahim Wakala, who served under him as the Commissioner for Religious Affairs for eight years, to mobilise Muslim scholars to the Presidential Villa, Abuja, for the meeting.

Although the scholars were earlier scheduled to hold another meeting in Ibadan, Oyo State, for the purpose of forging unity among Muslim leaders, they abandon the Ibadan parley for the Aso Rock meeting, where the President solicited their support for his political aspiration.

The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saa'd Abubakar, it was learnt, was not aware of the Abuja meeting.

Vice President Sambo and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), were said not to be part of the meeting.

A source very close to the meeting revealed that "in 2011, the President received bloc support of Christians because they were organised. He is trying to see how he can get the same support from Muslims in 2015. This is where Alhaji Sani Yerima came in.

"He convinced the President about his popularity among Muslim leaders throughout Nigeria.

"The former governor directed Wakala to act as the link between the Muslim scholars and the President, and to mobilise them to the meeting in Aso Rock where the President, Yerima, the Chief of Staff and Protocol Officer were present.

"There, Jonathan sought for their cooperation, which they promised to give".

The source disclosed that, at the meeting, Jonathan promised to address the grievances of Muslims before the 2015 general election which includes appointing a Muslim minister from the South into the Federal Executive Council.

The source added. "The former governor also used the meeting to strike a deal with the President. Now, the President, apart from promising to make Yerima the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) during the next cabinet reshuffle, is considering making him his running mate in 2015, owing to his perceived influence among Nigerian Muslims. The President believes that he will be a better choice in this circumstance.

"In fact, at the end of the day, logistics support was reportedly provided for the leaders for taking time out to meet with Mr. President.

"Yerima", Sunday Vanguard learnt, "then threw in another request, advising the President to sponsor them for the Umurah, the lesser hajj, so that they can pray for the actualisation of his ambition in the holy land".

This request may not be strange as the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been known to extend such favours to 'Men of God'"

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