From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
All eyes are on President Goodluck Jonathan, ahead of the 2023 general elections. Speculations have been rife that the former president would contest the 2023 presidential poll on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
When news first filtered in that the APC was wooing Jonathan, the former president through his Media team had dismissed it. However, on Monday, a group of nomadic pastoralists from the North paid N100 million to obtain the APC presidential nomination forms for the former president. The leader of the group,
Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim, said they want the former president back to continue the “good work”, he had started before he was removed in 2015.
He said: “I represent two of the most vulnerable communities in our country. The nomadic pastoralists and the Almajari communities who have decided to purchase this form for our former president, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, to come back and rule this country and continue with the good work he has started.
“You may recall that during Goodluck Jonathan’s era, he was the first president since independence of Nigeria who had found it expedient, who was magnanimous enough to remember the Almajari community…”
Surprisingly, Jonathan, in a statement by his spokesman, Ikechukwu Eze, described the gesture as an insult. Eze, in a statement, on Monday night, said “it has come to our notice that a group has purportedly purchased Presidential Nomination and Expression of Interest forms, of the All Progressives Congress APC, in the name of former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
We wish to categorically state that Dr. Jonathan was not aware of this bid and did not authorize it.
“We want to state that if the former President wanted to contest an election, he would make his intentions clear to the public and will not enter through the back door.
“While we appreciate the overwhelming request by a cross-section of Nigerians, for Dr. Jonathan to make himself available for the 2023 Presidential election, we wish to state, that he has not in anyway, committed himself to this request. Buying a presidential aspiration form in the name of Dr. Jonathan without his consent, knowing the position he had held in this country, is considered an insult to his person. The general public is therefore advised to disregard it.”
Nevertheless, Eze did not say categorically whether or not the former president is interested in the 2023 presidential poll. Moreover, there were indications on Tuesday, that Jonathan allegedly met with the APC National chairman, in Abuja, on Monday night.
Analysts said the purchase of the nomination forms for Jonathan may just be the climax in the quest by some interest groups to draft him into the 2023 presidential contest. Pundits say there are strong indications that the former president might eventually throw his hat into the presidential contest.
Recall that recently a group of youths had besieged the former president’s private office in Abuja, to urge him to declare for the 2023 presidential contest.
Jonathan, while addressing the youths had stated: “Yes you are calling me to come and declare for the next election, I cannot tell you I’m declaring, the political process is ongoing just watch out . The key role you must play is that Nigeria must get somebody that will carry young people along.” He added“I cannot declare or not some process are still ongoing.”
The declaration by the former president that “some processes are still ongoing” gave room to several conjectures in the political space. One of the conjectures was that the Ijaw-born politician was probably engaged in high level consultations to smoothen the ground for his formal declaration.
Jonathan was president from May 2010, after the death of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, to May 2015 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP). He lost the 2015 presidential poll, as an incumbent to President Muhammadu Buhari, who was the candidate of the APC.
Nevertheless, his decision to concede victory to the opposition before the formal declaration of results, made him the toast of many.
The genesis/ calculations
Talks about Jonathan contesting the 2023 polls on the platform of the APC started in 2020 after former APC interim chairman and Governor of Yobe State, Mala Mai Buni led some governors elected on the platform of the ruling party to visit him during his birthday.
The visit fuelled speculations that the APC was wooing the former President to join its fold, ahead of the 2023 polls. However, both the PDP and Jonathan’s media team dismissed the insinuations, describing the visit of the APC leaders as an innocuous one. Ironically, while Jonathan’s visits to the presidential villa, has been frequent, he has been conspicuously absent at PDP functions.
Jonathan by virtue of his position, as a former president, is supposedly the national leader of the major opposition party. However, since the conclusion of the 2019 general elections, he has not been participating in PDP functions, especially at the national levels.
The denial of Jonathan’s media team, not withstanding, the former president’s 2023 campaign posters had continued to flood online, as well as the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT) Abuja from time to time.
Daily Sun gathered that the move to draft Jonathan into the 2023 presidential contest is spear-headed by a power bloc in the ruling party. The power bloc is said to consist of a North west governor, a serving minister also from the zone among others.
The move which is believed to have bipartisan support among northern politicians is premised on the fact that Jonathan, having initially served as president, is only eligible for a single term, after which power would return to the North.
Analysts say the calculation is that a Jonathan presidency in 2023 would assuage the quest of the South for power shift after the tenure of President Buhari, on the one hand, as well as satisfy the hunger of the North to hold power longer.
The burden/ hurdle
Nevertheless, the move to draft the former president into the 2023 contest has raised both moral and legal issues. On the moral side, many have questioned the priority of a former PDP president, who is supposedly the national leader of the party defecting to the APC to contest the 2023 polls.
President Jonathan’s candidacy, in the event that he decides to contest, will raise legal issues and also serve as an opportunity to test the constitution.
Section 137 (3) of the 1999 Constitution ( as amended) stipulates that “a person who was sworn-in to complete the term for which another person was elected as president, shall not be elected to such office for more than a single term”. The former president, who was elected as vice president to late Umaru Yar’Adua in the 2007, assumed the presidency after the death of former President Yar’Adua in 2010.
Already, there is a controversy among lawyers, on whether or not Jonathan is eligible to re-contest for the presidential seat, owing to Section 137(3) of the constitution, which was signed into law by by President, Muhammadu Buhari on June 11, 2018.
Therefore, analysts say that in the event that Jonathan decides to contest the 2023 polls, his eligibility or otherwise will be determined by the court.
Pundits say Jonathan’s candidacy on the platform of the APC, apart from imposing a huge moral burden on the former president and the ruling party, is likely to cause some disruption in the PDP. Analysts say it will be a moral burden for the ruling party, which has demonised the PDP as a corrupt party, which is allegedly responsible for all the problems of the country, to mount the soap box to market Jonathan to the electorate in 2023.
For the former president, pundits say his contesting the 2023 polls on the platform of APC will be much more of a moral burden. For instance, a school of thought says his 2023 ambition, if it turns out to be true, will be a betrayal of the people of the South East, which is earnestly asking for the presidency in 2023. This is a result of the massive support the zone gave him, during his five-year tenure as president.
Though the PDP has pretended to be unperturbed by the former president’s alleged romance with the APC, inside sources say his eventual candidacy will cause an upset in the opposition party, ahead of the next general elections.
Already, Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, who is also a presidential aspirant, has repeatedly said, he would not work against Jonathan’s ambition, if he declares for the presidency. And there are indications that there are other top shots in the PDP, who are loyal to the former president.
Mohammed had noted recently that, “He(Jonathan) is one of those persons I respect most in this country. He is the most respected person I have because I emerged and came to national limelight through him. Certainly, I have come to establish a family relationship with him and to me, he cannot be in the race and I will be in the race, out of respect and modesty.”
However, the critical question is whether or not President Jonathan will ditch the PDP, which launched him into limelight, and whose platform he led the country for five years, for the ruling APC? The days ahead will tell.