Nigerian leader picks relative newcomer as deputy


Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has nominated Kaduna state governor Namadi Sambo to be vice president of Africa’s most populous nation, a presidency source says.

As a relative newcomer to national politics, Sambo is not seen as an obvious contender for next year’s presidential elections and his appointment could clear the way for a run by Jonathan himself.

Jonathan, who was sworn in last week after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, surprised many by not choosing as his deputy a political heavyweight who would be well positioned to go on and contest the presidency in 2011.
“It is true. Sambo has been chosen by the president to be the vice president,” the source said.

The 58-year-old northern governor, elected to his first term in 2007, must now be approved by both houses of parliament. A spokesperson for Sambo declined to comment.

A Senate spokesperson said parliament had yet to receive a letter from the presidency officially nominating Sambo. This could delay his confirmation to next week.
“Sambo is a dark horse and relatively unknown figure in politics,” said Ayodele Thompson, director of the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis.
“He was not so active in politics before he became governor in 2007. I don’t see him contesting for 2011 (presidential elections).”

Balance of power

Under a power-sharing agreement within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the presidency should rotate every two terms between the Muslim north and Christian south to avoid an imbalance of power.

Yar’Adua, a northerner, died during his first term and many expected Jonathan to appoint a powerful northern vice president, who would then become the ruling party’s presidential nominee.
“The selection of vice president is not simply a question of who is best equipped for the job, but who will not upset the most number of factions,” said Antony Goldman, head of London-based PM Consulting.

Jonathan himself has not ruled out running for president although he said in April he wanted at least three months to see how reforms enacted so far took hold.

An aide to Jonathan said earlier this week there was general consensus in support of his seeking re-election and that he would likely do so with the PDP.

Cairo Ojuogboh, Jonathan’s assistant on National Assembly matters, said he personally believed Jonathan would stand in presidential elections next year.

But Jonathan’s spokesperson, Ima Niboro, said Ojuogboh was in no position to make any declaration on the president’s plans.

A bid by Jonathan could be controversial because he is from the south of the country and would be seen as upsetting the balance of power.
“It is difficult to say who the PDP will choose. The decision on who will be their presidential candidate depends on many factors, not just who is vice president,” said Mansur Ahmed, senior member of the think-tank Nigerian Economic Summit Group.

Pic: Newly sworn in Nigerian President- Jonathan Goodluck