- Why Jonathan may bow to pressure
- Exclusive list of those who may replace Sambo
By Sonia O’Abah
For Vice President Namadi Sambo, the saying “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” is beginning to acquire special significance ahead of the 2015 presidential election. With all sorts of pressure mounting on his principal, President Goodluck Jonathan, from the left, right, and centre to dump him as running mate, the vice presidential “crown” perching on Sambo’s head is obviously not sitting pretty.
Indeed such has been the intense and seemingly unrelenting crusade to ditch Sambo that as far back as two years ago (barely one and half years into the Jonathan/Sambo four-year tenure) various groups had spoken out at different times on the need for the erstwhile Kaduna State governor to be ditched. In the views of such groups, which are believed to be sponsored by certain anti-Sambo elements, retaining him would constitute a huge political liability to the president’s re-election prospect.
Ordinarily, Sambo, an architect-turned-politician, could be regarded as the quintessential deputy. Despite his well-known baggage (including alleged graft during his stewardship in Kaduna, vindictiveness and less than desirable level of competence) he is widely acknowledge as a loyal deputy who tries, to some extent, to mask his personal ambition of succeeding his boss by all means after serving out their two terms in 2019.
Going by the unwritten code that a Northerner must reign in Aso Rock after President Jonathan’s tenure, it goes without saying that the vice president is strategically positioned to step into his boss’ shoes. Keenly aware that he is barely a heart-beat away from the nation’s ultimate political throne”, said a knowledgeable source, “Sambo has been playing it safe, largely sitting on the fence. This non-committal stance, which is largely interpreted as crass opportunism and lack of full loyalty, has been the main source of his “wahala” with both camps”.
By “both camps” that insider referred to the Jonathan camp on the one hand, and the anti-Sambo forces’ camp, on the other. The Jonathan camp reportedly feels betrayed that at times like these when Sambo was expected to play a leading role in the anti-terror crusade, he has been allegedly “lukewarm at best” According to a chieftain of the governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who talked to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, the Jonathan camp “feels that Sambo, despite his exalted position, has failed and/or refused to play a more active role in the government’s war against the Islamists (Boko Harah) for reasons best known to him”.
In the same vein, the number two citizen is said to have been “less than enthusiastic in respect of his principal’s effort to convince Northern leaders to support the president’s re-election bid. “One would have expected him (Sambo) to be in the forefront of those wooing the North’s elite to Jonathan’s side,” our source added. “Sadly, that hasn’t been the case up till now. He has been lukewarm at best in this regard, leaving what he sees at the dirty job to Mr. President and his aides. Pray, is that how to be loyal to one’s boss?”
Ironically, the main grouse of the Northern power brokers against Sambo according to credible insiders, is that he has not been a faithful representative of the region since his elevation to the to the exalted office. Rather than using his good offices to champion his people’s cause, the Vice President is apparently non-challant to such. In the event, the likes of the Sultan of Sokoto and retired military officers and their political counterparts have been left with the responsibility of championing the North’s interests.
“Even Atiku Abubakar, despite his shortcomings, way far more assertive Vis-à-vis the North’s interests during the Obasanjo/Atiku era,” a leader of the Area consultative forum who spoke off the record because he was not mandated to speak on the issue, added. “unlike Atiku, Sambo is neither here nor there when it comes to his people’s interests, with his lame excuse being that as VP he there for all Nigerians and not for Northerners alone. By contrast, Jonathan is being accused of being too Ijaw, to which his supporters would respond that he must be Ijaw before being Nigerian. The difference between the due is patently obvious.”
Little wonder, in his recent interview published in a Lagos-based daily, the ex-Emir of Gwandu, Major Jokolo, famously declared that were Jonathan to retain Sambo come the 2015 presidential poll, the ex-Kaduna helmsman would be such a liability that Jonathan, and by extension PDP, would lose the presidential poll.
Even as the controversy stoked by Jokolo’s outburst was still swirling, a women leader of the ruling party, Hayiya Binta Kuraye, weighed in. in a no-holds-bared publication in a national daily on October 20, 2014, she was quoted as saying that “…the people of the Northwest want the president to contest in 2015 but without vice president Namadi Sambo as his running mate”. Hajiya Kuraye bluntly implied that failure to heed these “words of wisdom” may cost Jonathan the votes of millions of Northerners in 2015.
Jokolo and Kuraye are, needless to say, merely two out of the multitude baying for Sambo’s political blood ahead of 2015. This is even as intense contest has reportedly started in respect of who will replace him in the event President Jonathan eventually dumps Sambo. Governor Shettima of Katsina State; National Security Adviser Sambo; and Minister of Education Shekarau are said to feature prominently on the list of those being considered as Sambo’s possible replacement.
What remains to be seen, needless to say, is whether Sambo would weather the looming storm, or whether his political foes would outwit him in this absorbing winner-takes-all game.