The latest issue in Nigerian politics is the question of who will become the nation's next Vice President. Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as President on May 6th, 2010 to replace his predecessor, late Umaru Musa Yar'Adua who died on May 5th, 2010. Various interests and geopolitical zones are pushing to influence who will become Vice President and several names have been fielded for the job.
By Sunday, May 9th, the Daily Independent paper reported that Speaker of the Senate, David Mark, was a front runner for the VP slot. Jonathan is from the South while Mark is from the North Central geopolitical zone. However, what both individuals have in common are the following - both Jonathan and Mark are Christians, and come from minority tribal groups. Such a pairing would be relatively unique in that typically, but not always, the President or Vice President are members of one of the major tribal groups - Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba. As the leader of the Senate, Mark's nomination would likely not face much hurdles when submitted to the National Assembly as required by the Constitution.
WHAT THE GOVERNORS WANT
Nigeria's governors were instrumental in declaring Jonathan the acting President in February 2010. Their support galvanized the National Assembly to take a stance in ending a growing leadership vacuum created by Yar'Adua's absence. These same governors have now decided that the Governor of Gombe state, Danjuma Goje, become the Vice President. Goje is a northern Muslim and as a member of the House, support from his peers would be guaranteed.
However, despite their power, Jonathan has gone against the nation's governors. He exerted his command when he sanctioned the arrest of his own party's Chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor. The Governors supported Ogbulafor despite calls for his removal. Instead, Ogbulafor has been arrested by the anti-corruption body, the EFCC, and may face trial on fraud charges which he denies.
THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES INITIATIVE
The leader of the House, Dimeji Bankole, allegedly informed Goodluck Jonathan that Gombe State Representative, Bayero Usman Nafada, should get the job. Gombe is a member of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) and he lists a "Bill that has direct bearing on people" as his legislative interest on his page at the National Assembly website. He is the Deputy Speaker in the House and has served two terms as a Representative of his state.
Other members of the House announced that they want Jonathan to select a Vice President from the North West geopolitical zone because former President Yar'Adua was from that region. If this group were to have its way, the Vice President would come from one of the following states - Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto.
A FEMALE VICE PRESIDENT
Onyeka Onwenu is allegedly encouraging the President to be nominate Nigeria's first female Vice President. Onyeka Onwenu is a legendary musician and Nollywood actress who is a well known and respected celebrity in the country. While speaking at an event for Nigerian youth, Onwenu said,
“Nigerian women are strong, brilliant, committed... It is about time that we get women into the political process...Such an argument is not inconceivable given that Jonathan has several women in his cabinet and made Diezani Alison Madueke the first female Minister of the very important Ministry of Petroleum. Unfortunately, the nomination of a woman as Vice President is a long shot as most of the country's key political figures are male. Nevertheless, a female Vice President would be a welcome surprise as long as the individual is qualified for the position.
THE PDP'S AGENDA
The ruling PDP party asserted that the Vice President must be a member of the party. This proclamation is interpreted as a stand against Yayale Ahmed, who was suggested by some for the deputy position. Yayale is not a member of the PDP but is a career civil servant, once considered for the Secretary for the Government of the Federation (SGF) position by late President Yar'Adua. Despite this, the PDP's position might be respected by Jonathan who is not known for making waves.
This stance by the PDP must also be seen as a direct message discouraging any thought by the Jonathan camp to leave the PDP in order to take on a Vice President from a different party. Nigeria's electoral laws require both President and Vice President to belong to the same party. That being the case, if Jonathan was considering leaving the party, he could always assert that he left not simply to run as a non-Northern Presidential candidate but to have the deputy of his choice who would then not be a PDP member. The PDP's announcement, therefore, is possibly a 'preemptive strike' against any potential bait and switch tactics by the President.
Despite all the speculation and the jostling, Nigerians will have to sit tight and wait to see who emerges as Vice President and what that might mean for the country.
From the Archives:
- Nigeria's New President & A New VP?
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- Nigeria's President Yar'Adua Returns?
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- Goodluck Jonathan Is Nigeria's Acting President