OBJ's secret plot: Wants El-Rufai to run as Jonathan's deputy in 2011

SUN Newspaper-Nosike Ogbuenyi

The pendulum at the Aso Rock seat of power has continued to swing with the latest indication that the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan may after all contest the 2011 presidential election with a former minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai as his running mate.

Daily Sun learnt that the Jonathan/El-Rufai ticket is being perfected as the main political option, while the earlier idea of Jonathan contesting the election as the running mate to former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida has been relegated as plan B.

By ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo’s latest calculation, this would mean two of his protégés being in power at the same time. El-Rufai was one of the hawks in the eight years of his presidency and a fanatical supporter of his failed third term gambit. Jonathan, on the other hand, was imposed single-handed on the ticket of Yar’Adua who himself was imposed by Obasanjo.

Very dependable sources also revealed plans by Jonathan’s power brokers to bring in the former boss of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, as special adviser on anti-corruption to the Acting President, in which case the Farida Waziri-led EFCC would be left as an empty shell, while most of her schedules will be treated in the adviser’s office.

The Jonathan/El-Rufai ticket, according to our source, was mooted when it was discovered that some younger political elements were deeply skeptical of a return to the presidency by Babangida 17 years after leaving the ultimate office in a not-too-tidy fashion. Among such younger elements who are not favourably disposed to the former military ruler’s return to Aso Rock are majority of the governors belonging to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a preponderance of their fellow party men and women in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Such politicians had increasingly begun to perceive the IBB option as “ another journey back to Egypt.”

El-Rufai as minister of FCT was an influential member of Obasanjo’s kitchen cabinet particularly during the last term of his two-term presidency. He was also a member of the federal government economic team during the period. Now, as Obasanjo plots El-Rufai’s return to power as Vice President under Jonathan presidency, some northern politicians are said to be very angry and are therefore, perfecting their counter plot to ensure that the option does not materialize.

This group of northern politicians is insisting on the North producing the presidential candidate of PDP for the 2011 election. Already, several meetings have been held by the northern forces in their bid to checkmate the Acting President and stop him from contesting the next election. Their argument is that under the PDP zoning arrangement, the presidency would remain in northern hands for a total of eight years, 2007 to 2015, to equal the number of years the South, through former president Obasanjo, held the office between 1999 and 2007. The group has also resolved to mobilize and fight against any northerner who accepts the running mate slot under a southern presidential candidate in the PDP. El-Rufai, himself, in several interviews, has been advocating a southern presidency in 2011 without stating that his interest has been factored in the whole game plan.

But the argument of those proposing the Jonathan/El-Rufai pairing is that the idea behind the North-South power rotation presupposes a kind of relay race in which a presidential standard bearer runs in one election or possibly two consecutive ones and then hand over the relay baton to another standard bearer from the opposite section of the country. They reason that it was not envisaged that two different standard bearers from one section would hand over the power baton to themselves via election without passing through a candidate from the other section. In other words, the target of the power oscillation between the two regions is via election passing through one person only to the other person from the opposite section of the country.

Besides the above game plan which implies that the next presidential candidate of the PDP after President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua should come from the South, those pushing the Jonathan/El-Rufai ticket are counting on the attraction of the pairing. While the Acting President is seemingly docile, the former FCT minister is abrasive and strong-willed. Besides, the latter is seen by some Nigerians as a no-nonsense goal getter who could be used to counter the likely opposition candidate, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari with serious-looking Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon ruled Nigeria with iron fist between January 1984 and August 1985. The draconian regime did a lot to instill discipline and moral etiquettes in the psyche of Nigerians. The packagers of Jonathan/El-Rufai formation believe it would be the closest democratic variant of the Buhari/Idiagbon example.

The same group strategizing for the Jonathan/El-Rufai ticket is said to be plotting the return of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as special adviser on anti-corruption to Jonathan. Part of their strategies is to destabilize the EFCC as presently constituted. That will pave way for the return to the EFCC of Ribadu’s loyalists.

The Ribadu come-back plan also entails the lobbying of some judges who are expected to be sympathetic to him to give favourable verdicts in the two cases affecting him. His ongoing trial at the Code of Conduct Bureau and his controversial dismissal from the Nigeria Police Force. However, the plot to bring Ribadu back as the EFCC boss is said to have divided the Obasanjo camp with some in favour and others against. While those in support of him see him as the right person to add needed impetus to the EFCC, others express fears that he might be used by politicians to settle scores.


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