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by Wordworks2001

Yar’Adua to be PDP Candidate

Nigeria’s ruling party on Sunday chose a reclusive Muslim state governor, Umaru Yar’Adua, to be its candidate to succeed Olusegun Obasanjo as president of Africa’s most populous nation in elections next year.

Yar’Adua, the 55-year-old governor of Katsina state, beat 11 other contestants for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ticket to run in the April vote which should mark the first fully democratic transition in Nigerian history.

His closest rival received a mere ten ppercent of the primary votes, making Yar’Adua the overwhelming favorite of the PDP delegates.  The mood in the capital Abuja was glum and most delegates left, without applauding their choice or even remaining to listen to his acceptance speech.
It’s no secret that Yar’Adua is President Olusegun Obasanjo’s hand picked replacement.  One of the front runners, Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State, received a phone call from the president at 2 AM, directing him to withdraw from the race. It is believed others who had a chance to become the party’s candidate received similar calls in the dead of the night.

Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua’s entry into the presidential race has been swift and mysterious. Some say he was to bid for a senatorial seat from his native state Katsina, and the he had an agreement to hand over power to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari.

But just as he has refrained from making public his presidential ambition, Yar’Adua never confirmed that he was truly seeking the senatorial seat.
Perhaps, in displaying his A new Nigeria (1) of the famed strategic thinking noted with his late brother and former Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, the governor kept his cool and calculated wisely as to the right time to strike the cord.  The name of Yar’Adua had come into the calculation about a year ago when the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was said to have gone to Katsina to sound out the thinking of the taciturn governor.

The governor was said to have confirmed his interest in succeeding President Olusegun Obasanjo to Anenih but refused to become involved in the jockying for position that was expected. At one point, there were 40 aspirants attempting to carry the PDP standard. Politics in Nigeria can be dangerous and deadly. It is assumed the reclusive Yar’Adua didn’t want to compete with such a large group.

Obasanjo and Yar’Adua go way back and the president is said to have been impressed by the discreet and less controversial manner he portrayed.  The president was said to have told one of his closest strategists that the Katsina governor appeared a thoroughbred apostle of his late deputy, Shehu Yar’Adua, whom he had not refrained from giving the due honour at every opportunity. Obasanjo had credited Yar ‘Adua with unflinching loyalty throughout the period they worked together as the nation’s number one and number two at Dodan Barracks, Lagos.

The president currently serves as the chairman Board of Trustees of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation. Outside the much talked about endorsement of the powers that be, Yar’Adua has a lot going for him in the presidential race. He is seen by many as one who is not pushful and overtly ambitious. His colleagues-governors also believe that he could more than anyone else protect their interests.

In a country where power means everything, obviously having the president’s blessing as well as being a member of Nigeria’s biggest political party makes Yar’Adua the front runner in the race for presidency.  The other parties have yet to announce their candidates.

Yar’Adua is from Katsina State, the state where former military Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, also hails from. If Buhari picks the presidential ticket of the rival All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), it would set the stage for two Katsina sons as front-runners in the presidential race. Even if Buhari does not pick the ticket of the ANPP, he is almost certain of contesting the election on the platform of another party, but with Yar’Adua in the race, PDP stands the chance of performing better than they did in 2003 in the North West, and with a strong showing in the other zones, it could easily clinch the presidency.
Yar’Adua’s candidacy rests almost exclusively on the support of Obasanjo. He is little known even among the political elite having rarely left his remote northern state in seven years as governor.  Obasanjo persuaded influential state governors to back the former chemistry teacher, who suffers from a chronic kidney condition, with a mixture of inducements and threats of investigation by anti-corruption officials, some analysts have said.

They expect him to face stiff competition from a resurgent opposition at the polls in April.

Obasanjo’s election in 1999 marked a return to democracy after three decades of almost continuous army rule, and next year’s poll should mark the first handover from one elected president to another since independence from Britain in 1960.

Critics say Obasanjo wants to install a puppet to protect himself from possible prosecution when he loses presidential immunity.

In his acceptance speech, Yar’Adua thanked Obasanjo and praised him as the “father of democracy and good governance in Nigeria”.

“Economic reforms will be vigorously pursued and I am also determined to continue the fight against corruption and misgovernance,” Yar’Adua said.

Just before voting began on Saturday, the PDP changed its constitution to allow Obasanjo to become the “conscience of the party” as its chairman after he steps down in May, a position which will control party funds and membership.

“What we have today is not the beginning of a journey but the continuation of a journey,” Obasanjo said.

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Nigeria Tribune
Wordworks2001 is a retired US Army master sergeant. He lives in Indiana and works in Nigeria. He blogs at http://wordworks2001.blogspot.com.

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