Since the governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) held a private meeting with former President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja sometime in November 2020, tongues have been wagging that the visit was the plot of the northern political elite to woo him to contest for the presidential seat during the forthcoming 2023 general elections in Nigeria.
The governors were led on the visit by the governor of Yobe state and APC acting national chairman, Mai Mala Buni. Those on the visit also include Ebonyi state governor, David Umahi, who dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on whose platform he became governor and defected to the APC; Atiku Bagudu, governor of Kebbi and Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum; and Abubakar Badaru, governor of Jigawa state.
Also in the team was Kashim Ibrahim-Imam, former presidential liaison officer to the National Assembly. Although the purpose of the visit was not clear, it is not unconnected with the “2023 permutations which is already taking shape. Coincidentally, Jonathan hosted the duo of Badaru and Bagudu at his Otuoke residence in Bayelsa in 2019.
In a show of solidarity and also in the bid to woo former President Jonathan to contest again in the 2023 general election, the Northern Governors Forum, NGF sent him warm felicitations on his birthday which took place within the period.
In a statement, Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Plateau state, Simon Lalong said the former president has continued to serve the country with zeal and commitment.
He described Jonathan as a true democrat whose “passion for the growth of democracy is reflected not only in his records while in office but also of his current engagements where he has travelled round the world to monitor elections and also engage with stakeholders”.
Lalong also saluted the former president’s patriotism and dedication to the unity, peace and development of Nigeria as well as offering counsel on various issues and asked him to remain focused on his life of service that has brought honour and goodwill to Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari also felicitated with Jonathan, saying he has brought honour to Nigeria.
Apparently reacting to statements that the plan of the northern political elites are to lure into contesting for president again, the All Progressives Congress, APC declared that former President Goodluck Jonathan will be allowed to contest for presidency in 2023 if he joins the party.
National Secretary of the party’s National Caretaker Committee, John Akpanudoedehe who made the declaration said the former president joining the APC “will be great news” to “strengthen the party”.
He said Jonathan will be given the opportunity to contest for the office of the president in 2023 under the auspices of the party, just like any other individual who is interested to run for office.
“I am hearing that for the first time that we are expecting the former President. That will be great news. We will welcome him; that will also strengthen the party.
“The last National Executive Council, NEC of the party actually gave blanket approval to any individual that if you join APC today, it is as if you are a founding member of the party.
“So, anyone who joins today has the same opportunity to run for any office in this party. It has always been so, so I am not speculating”, the National Caretaker Committee Secretary said.
All these moves by the All Progressives Congress, APC are to have Jonathan run in 2023 on the platform of the APC with the permutation that it will among other things satisfy the increasing clamour for power shift to the South.
Buhari’s close loyalists believe that Jonathan would be harmless to their group interest and as such the right person to take over if power were to shift to the South.
“He handed over power peacefully and nursed no bitterness against anyone and therefore will not be a threat to the interest of the north”, a source was quoted to have said.
From which angle one looks at the movies, the attraction to Jonathan’s possible candidacy from Buhari’s camp is that he will serve just one term of four years and a large number of influential northern leaders of thought are favourably disposed to the idea of Jonathan’s second coming.
In July, campaign posters littered the streets of the country bearing the caption #JonathanMalami2023 and the images of Jonathan and the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami.
The posters had the logo of the APC, further fuelling speculations that the ruling party leaders were determined to convince Jonathan to run for president.
The posters suggested that Jonathan and Malami would present a joint bid for the APC ticket for the 2023 presidential poll. The posters indicated that Jonathan would seek another round in Aso Rock as president with Malami as vice president.
Political analysts are of the opinion that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan contesting the 2023 presidential election is being revived by political strategists from Northern Nigeria who see him as a unifying force to keep the country one.
The northern political operatives see President Jonathan as a unifying force around which a government of national unity could be built after eight years of Mohammadu Buhari presidency.
The canvassing for Jonathan, it was gathered, is being driven by a Northern governor from the Northeast who served in the Jonathan cabinet and has a deep personal relationship with the Jonathan family.
Though President Jonathan had earlier this year denied any pressure on him to contest and was focused on his foundation, very reliable sources say that the momentum for him was building up irrespective of him not speaking up at the moment. However, as things are now, the plot was now being actively sold among the Northern establishments desperate to find a comfortable ally after Buhari’s eight years.
The attraction to the Northern oligarchy one source privy to the plot stated was in soothing ethnic tension through transfer of power to a man who few would contend with in the South.
“My brother, you know there is no way the North will support the agitation of the Southeast for the presidency, but we all know that if Jonathan comes out that the Southeast will not oppose him,” a source who is not directly involved but privy to the plot disclosed.
It was gathered that the proponents of the move believe that with Jonathan as president that Northern interests will not be harmed as they recall his pro North policies including appointments and the establishment of Almajari schools in several Northern states.
However, the clincher for the Northern establishment in seeing a return of Jonathan in the villa is the add-on that a second Jonathan presidency would automatically put the North in contention to win power again in 2027.
Apparently in supporting the move by the northern oligarchy to woo former president Goodluck Jonathan to contest for presidency in 2023, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) said that it regretted that it got rid of then-President Jonathan in the 2015 elections to vote in the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
The group expressed disappointment that Buhari has let down millions of Nigerians including members of the APC, who trusted in his leadership prior to the poll six years ago.
NEF, therefore, said that the next president of Nigeria should be one who would act in the “opposite direction” of Buhari, who hails from Katsina, North-west Nigeria.
NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, who spoke on the issue said, “Is there any Nigerian who is not disappointed in President Buhari including diehard APC people? Is there anybody who would not tell you he wished President Buhari had done much better?
“We raised huge expectations, we told people, ‘Get rid of Jonathan, put Buhari there, he would fix corruption, he would fix insecurity, he would fix the economy’ (but) look at where we are now.
“How can anybody say they are happy with the record of President Buhari, even the people very close to him would tell you that they wished he could have done much better and he could have done much better and he hasn’t.”
‘Next president should act in opposite direction of Buhari’
The group’s spokesman said Nigeria needs a president who would act in the “opposite direction” of Buhari in terms of economic policies, security, amongst others.
“So, what we need to do now is to get ready to elect another president who would go in the opposite direction, a president who has a vision and a clear idea of what governance involves rather than just being a president. So, I am disappointed and that is why today, I am actively involved in trying to see that a new leader emerges in getting Nigerians a new lease of life,” Baba-Ahmed noted.
Jonathan of the PDP was Nigeria’s vice-president between 2007 and 2010. The former Bayelsa state governor became president in 2010 after the death of then President Umaru Yar’adua, a two-term governor of Katsina state.
Jonathan contested the 2011 presidential election and won but lost his reelection in 2015 to Buhari, a former military head of state between 1983 and 1985.
Though out of Aso Rock, Jonathan has been seen working closely with the incumbent in his role as special envoy of the Economic Community of West African States.
With the 2023 elections fast approaching and the clamour for power shift to the South, Jonathan, who has the legal right to one more term as Nigeria’s president as the constitution permits all eligible Nigerians to be in office for two terms of eight years, has been receiving entreaties from the APC.