Jonathan may name Vice President on Tuesday

THE PUNCH Newspaper

Indications emerged on Friday that President Goodluck Jonathan will most likely name his deputy on Tuesday.

Saturday Punch learnt authoritatively from the Presidency that the flurry of activities that would take place before the new Vice President was unveiled began on Friday with the consultations Jonathan held with the National Working Committee of his ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party.

The President also consulted the governors elected on the platform of the PDP and some former Nigerian heads of state, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Chief Ernest Shonekan, when they visited separately to commiserate with him and Nigerians over the death of President Umaru Yar‘Adua.

First, the PDP National Chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, led members of the party‘s NWC to a closed-door meeting with Jonathan at his temporary Aguda House residence.

At the end of the meeting though, Ogbulafor denied that they discussed the issue of who would be Vice President to Jonathan, saying that they only visited to pledge their loyalty and support to the President.

A foreign news agency, Reuters, on Friday corroborated the information available to Saturday Punch. on the likelihood of the vice president emerging on Tuesday ”The president is holding consultations as part of efforts to arrive at who will be the nominee for vice president. He will likely send the name to the National Assembly for approval, according to constitutional requirements, by Monday or Tuesday,” the Reuters report said.

The report added that Jonathan‘s choice could alter the course of next year‘s presidential election because the new vice president may go on to be a contender in the race.

Asked about media reports suggesting that some people had been shortlisted for the position of vice president, Ogbulafor described the reports as speculative.

”They are speculations. We don’t work on speculations,” Ogbulafor said, adding that it was too early to start discussing the matter, as the late President Yar‘Adua had just passed away on Wednesday.

Asked if the Secretary to the Federal Government, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, had been pencilled down for the office, the PDP Chairman said it was another speculation.

Asked whether the party had taken any decision on the zone that should produce the vice-president, Ogbulafor said, ”No.”

He said that no decision on the position of the vice-president would be taken before the end of the seven-day national mourning period declared by President Jonathan on Thursday.

He said, ”No, the party has not taken a decision. I said let‘s respect the dead. The President has declared seven days mourning and all the flags in this country are flying at half mast.

”We have lost somebody who is dear to us, who has served this country. We expect that all Nigerians should pray for the repose of his soul. It is only yesterday that we buried him and we can‘t be talking about anything today.

”I think it is too early; we will flow with the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and he is ready. At least he has declared seven days mourning for President Umaru Musa Yar‘Adua. Let‘s respect the dead. After that, we can now talk about the Vice-President.”

But he also admitted that the decision on the position of the VP is in the hands of President Jonathan.

”We leave it to the President to handle the matter.”

The PDP Governors Forum also met with the President on Friday. The governors, numbering about 26, condoled with Jonathan on the death of Yar‘Adua, and congratulated Jonathan on his new position, and wished him well.

They also pledged their support and loyalty to him. They expressed confidence in Jonathan‘s ability to lead the nation during what they described as a ”critical point” in its history.

Kwara State Governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who chairs the Forum, read an address on behalf of the governors. Part of the address read, ”Mr. President sir, we visit you this morning with hearts full of pains. The demise of our late President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar‘Adua, is a national tragedy; but we know that it is a personal tragedy for you as well.

”We know that you have not only lost a great boss, but also a true friend and a loving brother…Mr. President Sir, even as you take office in this fateful circumstance, we congratulate you.

”The focus, the commitment and the resourcefulness with which Your Excellency has steered the affairs of this country even as the acting president, fill us with hope and confidence that we have found in you the leadership that we need at this critical point in our history.”

Also on Friday, Gowon, Shagari, and Shonekan visited Jonathan. After the meeting, Gowon, who spoke for the group in an encounter with journalists, said they urged Jonathan to do well for the country.

The elder statesmen said they told Jonathan to concentrate on electoral reforms in order to ensure that there is free and fair elections in the country in 2011.

President Jonathan received many visitors from various groups at the Aguda House on Friday, including government officials and diplomats.

But even as these visitors denied that the President consulted them on the choice of his deputy, our correspondent learnt that the name of the nominee would be forwarded to the Senate on Tuesday.

Nigerian media reports on Friday, including the THE PUNCH, speculated a short-list of possible vice presidential nominees, including Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, and National Security Adviser, Major Gen. Aliyu Gusau (rtd).

After visiting Jonathan also on Friday, Ahmed neither denied the reports nor admitted that he was among those that had been shortlisted.

Although he said that he was not aware of any plan by President Jonathan to appoint him as his deputy, the SGF said, ”My position up till now is that I am the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and anything that has to be done correctly must be done.

”Any other position, I do not think of it. When it comes, whether higher or lower, I adjust.”

Denying further any knowledge of a chance to emerge as the country‘s Vice-President, Ahmed said, ”I am not aware of anything. My position in life is that if I am in a position, I justify the position I am in because that is what God asked me to do.

”Any other higher position, whether it will come or not depends on God. I have not been doing anything to really get distracted or get out of focus for selfish interests; which is why I remained resolute during the period of crisis, because I am supposed to do that. If I did it for the purpose of selfish interests I would have failed.”

Yayale was said to have beaten other candidates like the Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido; a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu; and the Governor of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, to the position.

Asked on Friday whether the Presidency had written the letter containing the name of the nominee to the Senate, the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly, Senator Abba Aji, said he was not aware that such letter had been written.

Also, the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Mr. Ndoma Egba, said that while such a letter could be sent any time, he was not aware that the Senate had been written.


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