Power play thickens to find VP for Jonathan

Power blocs within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are involved in deft political manoeuvres to push their different candidates for vice presidency should President Musa Yar’Adua become unable to carry on because of health reasons, The Nation can authoritatively reveal. The latest moves signal the thinking among PDP political elite that the constitution is sacred on the question of succession to the

presidency in case Yar’Adua does not return as president. Vice President Jonathan Goodluck would automatically have to step in as president. This would leave open the position of vice president for manoeuvres within the party.

Confronted with the scenario of a Jonathan presidency, the blocs have rolled out stealth strategies aimed at influencing who emerges as vice president.

The Nation

learnt that the thinking among the groups is that a formidable candidate of Northern extraction must emerge as the new vice president to keep Jonathan in check and possibly contest for the presidency in 2011.

The candidate, sources revealed, must be a Muslim of immense influence.

An impeccable source within the PDP said that “the strategists are of the opinion that the possibility of a Jonathan presidency is rather high considering the gravity of the president’s health problem. Should Jonathan take over, then a Northerner must become the deputy and must be so strong that he can whittle down Jonathan’s influence pending the next election.”

The post of vice president will boost his profile during the remaining of the current presidential term, another source said.

“Then, he can be presented as a presidential material having served as the last vice president in 2011. That way, not many changes would have taken place in the political outlook of the nation,” the source added.

It was further gathered that two powerful blocs have emerged in the new calculation. The first is said to be led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and is believed to be seriously rooting for the candidacy of Alhaji Sule Lamido, currently Governor of Jigawa state.

Obasanjo’s men are said to have commenced intense lobbying to promote Lamido for the post.

Then, there is the group of former military president Ibrahim Babangida, which is said to be strongly opposed to the aspirations of the Obasanjo group.

Though no clear candidate has been selected by the Babangida group, former National Security Adviser Alhaji Mohammed Gusau may eventually emerge as its preferred candidate. This group, it was learnt, is however leaving its options open.

A highly placed source within the party said, “both groups are leaving nothing to chance because whoever becomes the next vice-president will determine so much about 2011. That is why they have both vowed to pursue their interests strongly.”

The thinking within the Babangida group is that should Obasanjo and his men decide the next vice-president, the former president would be in charge of the presidency.

This is because Vice President Jonathan is believed to be an Obasanjo man having risen to his current position courtesy of the former president. With a president dancing to Obasanjo’s tunes, a recalcitrant vice president capable of reducing such influence must emerge, the Babangida group believes.

It would therefore be a complete take-over of the presidency should Obasanjo and his men again determine who becomes Jonathan’s deputy, according to the group.

But feelers from Obasanjo’s camp indicate that there is no going back, as yet, on the nomination of Lamido for the post.

However, the Obasanjo group wants to resist the Babangida group’s efforts to secure the presidential slot because it would signify the return of the former military dictator.