By Festus Owete
Mohammed Namadi Sambo (PDP)
Until May last year, Namadi Sambo was the People’s Democratic Party governor of Kaduna State, a state regarded as the political headquarters of the northern region. He had run the state sine 2007 until he transferred his services to the federal level following his nomination for the vice presidential slot by President Goodluck Jonathan after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Prior to his nomination, the media had touted several names in the media as possible nominees, some of whom were politically ahead of Mr. Sambo for the number two position. Among them was Senator Ahmed Makarfi, who handed over power to Mr. Sambo in Kaduna State; deputy governor of Sokoto State, Murktar Shagari; secretary to the government of the federation, Yayale Ahmed; former military administrator of Lagos State, Buba Marwa; Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido; and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Usman Nafada.
Born in 1954, Mr. Sambo, an architect and native of Zaria, had occupied various government positions, including membership of the Kaduna State Executive Council as commissioner. He heads some standing and ad-hoc government bodies, including the National Economic Council, where he and the 36 state governors sit to determine the economic direction of the country. He also heads a team constituted by the president to ensure the completion of power projects. That team comprises one governor from each of the geo-political zones and other technocrats.
Therefore, Mr. Sambo is coming into the presidential contest with a lot of experience in public administration — not that he has done well on all of those beats. No other vice presidential candidate has such credentials. For those who say experience counts in governance, this may be a plus for the ticket he shares with his boss, Mr. Jonathan. Today, by virtue of the position he occupies, Mr. Sambo is the political leader of the north, though this has been challenged on a few occasions by some people. But the vice president may need to work harder to deliver the votes of the north, a crucial section of the country, whose people are still angry over the dumping, by the PDP, of the zoning/rotation of presidential power between the two main political regions — north and south.
Although the results of the January 13 presidential primaries ended in favour of Mr. Sambo and his boss, it exposed the vice president as not being popular among his people. The result showed that Jonathan got 82 votes in Kaduna against Atiku Abubakar’s 41. Besides, analysts say that the zoning controversy may give sympathy votes to Muhammed Buhari, whose party, the Congress for Progressive Change, is gaining ground in the north and some other parts of the country. But others believe that Mr. Sambo does not have to worry because most of the northern votes will go to the ruling PDP.
Gbolahan Babatunde Bakare (CPC)
When on Monday, the fiery Lagos-based preacher was announced by the Congress for Progressive Change as running mate to Muhammadu Buhari via a press statement, many were surprised. He heads the popular Latter Rain Assembly, which he founded several years ago.
Although a lawyer by profession, Mr. Bakare went into activism when last year, he and a few other Nigerians started the Save Nigeria Group. The group played a major role in the successful demand for the transfer of power from ailing President Yar’Adua to his deputy, Mr. Jonathan. Since then, Mr. . Bakare has been in the news. But Mr. Bakare’s nomination did not come easy. A NEXT source said that Mr. Buhari had a hard time convincing his associates to agree to the idea of the preacher as his running mate. First, the pastor is not a card-carrying member of the CPC, neither is he a politician.
It was learnt that at several meetings in previous weeks in his suite at Transcorp Hotel, Abuja, Mr. Buhari who had realized that the alliance talks with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) was headed nowhere, insisted that he needed a man of integrity and character from the southwest geo-political zone to pair with. Soon the name of the preacher began to feature in the media in the last three weeks. Before then there were speculations that the former military strongman would run with former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu if the alliance worked. Others whose names featured at that time as possible running mates were former Anambra State governor, Chris Ngige; his Ekiti State counterpart, Niyi Adebayo; former Lagos State attorney general, Femi Osibajo and Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole.
“He (Buhari) reckons that Bakare fits into this bill,” said our source last Thursday. “That doesn’t mean that no other Nigerian came into his purview. It was essentially that some of them are not affiliated to the CPC or our alliance partners.”
But Osita Okechukwu, an ally of Mr. Buhari, however, told NEXT last week that Mr. Buhari knew Mr. Bakare through his activism.
“The general (Buhari) came to know about Bakare through his activities in SNC. He was impressed that he was able to convene the SNC at that time to save Nigeria’s democracy,” Mr. Okechukwu said.
“Secondly, he was also impressed that Bakare did not align with Jonathan for having helped Jonathan to come to power. He didn’t see him as IOU. So Bakare demonstrated the principle of integrity and transparency.”
On why Mr. Buhari chose a running mate from the southwest and not southeast as was the case when he ran on the ANPP platform, Mr. Okechukwu explained that the former head of state perceived that, “the southeast governors, especially Peter Obi of Anambra State, were found to be too deep in PDP as if the PDP is their grandfather.”
But choosing Mr. Bakare may not translate to electoral fortunes for Mr. Buhari, who is making his third and perhaps last outing as a presidential candidate. First, Mr. Bakare is an activist and a preacher. He has no track record as a politician and therefore has no political structure like his boss. The SNC structure and his flock may not bring enough electoral value needed for a presidential contest. Again, some Nigerians still see the preacher as a man not to be trusted. Reference is easily made to his famous prediction about the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who he said would die before taking office. That was shortly after Mr. Obasanjo was elected president in 1999. Mr. Obasanjo went on to be in power for the next eight years.
Although Mr. Buhari chose the preacher to kill the belief that he is an Islamic fundamentalist, some still mischievously regard the Buhari-Bakare ticket as a somewhat Muslim-Muslim ticket. Mr. Bakare, an Egba man from Ogun State, was a Muslim but he converted to Christianity. Yet, others say both Messrs Buhari and Bakare are two strong characters who may not work together. Even so, Mr. Bakare is coming into the race with strong credentials. He is influential in the civil society and the Christian community and all this is certain to attract some votes to the CPC. Mr. Bakare is also of the progressive bent and has a lot in common with ACN.
Sunny Ugochukwu (ACN)
Of all the running mates that emerged last Monday, that of Sunny Ugochukwu came as the greatest surprise. His name was forwarded by the Action Congress of Nigerian as the running mate to Nuhu Ribadu, the party’s presidential standard bearer. He was Mr. Ribadu’s campaign manager before his choice. Mr. Ugochukwu, an indigene of Anambra State is a US-based education consultant and businessman.
His choice is believed to be merely a stop-gap one. His name was reportedly forwarded because of the difficulty in shopping for a reputable character for the vice presidential slot of the ACN. It was learnt that Mr. Ribadu wanted Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister and currently managing director of the World Bank, but the ACN leadership allegedly kicked against it. Therefore, there is the possibility that Mr. Ugochukwu will be replaced. But if he is not replaced, Mr. Ugochukwu will hardly be an electoral asset for the ACN. Although a successful businessman, he is not known politically.
He has neither the home base nor political structure to enhance the chances of the former EFCC boss, who himself is a political neophyte. However, he comes along with integrity and character, which are strong assets in today’s politics. Besides, Nigerians in Diaspora may also have a sense of belonging, believing that one of their own has finally made it to the top political contest back home. This may be an advantage.
John Odigie-Oyegun (ANPP)
Against all political calculations, John Odigie-Oyegun emerged as the running mate of Ibrahim Shekarau, the presidential flagbearer of the opposition All Nigeria People’s Party, last Monday. He is the oldest of the group having been born in 1939. He studied economics at the University of Ibadan. His choice shows that the ANPP has not broken the pattern of choosing one of their executive members as running mates. Mr. Odigie-Oyegun is the deputy chairman of the party, south. In 2007, Mr. Buhari, while in ANPP, ran with Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, the then party chairman. The retired general had run with former senate president, Chuba Okadigbo in 2003.
ANPP spokesman, Emma Eneukwu, explained to NEXT last Thursday that Mr. Odigie-Oyegun’s choice was meant to balance the old and the young. Mr. Shekarau is in his 50s. According to him, the Kano State governor was looking in the direction of the ANPP chairman, Ogbonnaya Onu as running mate, but that the party’s leadership decided against it for two reasons. First, it did not want a repeat of what happened in 2007 when Messrs Ume-Ezeoke and Buhari disagreed on issues although they were running on the same ticket. Secondly, since Mr. Onu hails from the southeast geo-political zone, it would be politically wise to look at the direction of another zone in the south.
But a NEXT source said the party was desperate to find a way into the south-south region, where Mr. Jonathan is from. The calculation was that that would not only split the votes in the region, it would also give the people of the region a sense of belonging, that if ANPP formed a government, they would have one of their own in government to address the problems of the oil-producing region.
How well the ANPP’s calculation will work remains to be seen. Analysts say Mr. Shekarau’s choice of running mate was a mistake on the part of a party that is desperate to take over power. Mr. Odigie-Oyegun is believed to be a politician without a strong political structure as was the case in 1993 when he beat the famous Igbinedion family to win the Edo State gubernatorial race on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party. That may be true to some extent because the ANPP is practically non-existent in Edo and the south-south region.
But Mr. Odigie-Oyegun comes to the contest with experience. He ran a state government for about 20 months between 1992 and 1993. He is a retired permanent secretary and a party man. This may be an advantage for the ANPP and also for its government if Mr. Shekarau wins. As Mr. Odigie-Oyegun told NEXT in a telephone chat last Tuesday, “I am coming with integrity and principle, and I assure you my ticket with Shekarau is the best you can find today.”
Yunusa Tanko (NCP)
Until his nomination as running mate to the National Conscience Party’s presidential hopeful Dele Momodu, Yunusa Tanko was an contestant to the House of Representatives to represent the AMAC/Bwari federal constituency of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Thus, the announcement of his emergence a vice presidential candidate came to many as a shock. The 45-year-old Mr. Tanko from Kano State is not new to the position. He was running mate to Osagie Obayuwana who ran for the presidency in 2007 on NCP’s platform. Mr. Tanko, a chartered accountant and an MBA holder, is the national secretary of the NCP as well as the secretary of the Coalition for New Nigeria (CNN), a group of 23 opposition parties, floated to oust the PDP from power. He is also a secretariat member of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) led by Tunde Bakare. He also served as assistant national secretary of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP). Before he went into politics, Mr. Tanko worked as head of accounts, National Population Commission, Kaduna; and as head of revenue, Nigeria Immigration Service, Kano. He is currently head of finance, Team Nigeria Trust Fund Limited, FCT, Abuja. The politician is coming into the race with a rich background in activism and politics and experience. He may likely attract some northern votes for the NCP during the election.
Besides, he is viewed as a ‘detribalized’ Nigerian. As somebody who gained his early education (primary and secondary) in Lagos, the southwest people may also see him as one of their own. Also, having been in politics for long, Mr. Tanko has a structure and may also have the sympathy of the civil society community.
Originally published on 234Next.com
© 2011 NEXT