After an initial denial of rumours that he will join the ruling party, former President Goodluck Jonathan has finally ditched his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. His defection to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, after long speculations has continued to elicit mixed reactions in the country. Prior to his defection, many signals emerged that the former president had stopped attending activities organised by his former party. The Bayelsa state’s gubernatorial election conducted in 2020 in which his former party lost to APC before court ruled in its favour suggested Jonathan’s indifference to PDP affairs.
Does Jonathan’s defection have to do with how the party treats him during and after the 2015 general elections? While the former president lost the 2015 election due to the zoning arrangements of PDP, which he flouted and refused to abide by, the betrayal and backstabbing that ensued among trusted party loyalists leading to his resounding defeat remain fresh in his memory. The emergence of new PDP splinter group lead by Atiku Abubakar, Olusola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal and other heavyweights who abandoned Jonathan at the tail end of the party’s convention had wrecked great havoc to his re-election bid. With these notably politicians who deserted him returning to PDP, Jonathan would not feel comfortable staying with them.
Jonathan by virtue of his position as a former president should be the leader of the party. However, Governor Nyesome Wike of Rivers state has hijacked the party and since been calling the shot. Wike and his surrogates have firm control of the party and fail to consult or engage the former president on party’s decisions. The inability of PDP to respect or recognise Jonathan as their leader must have dampened his morale and forced him to change camp. One imagines how the former president who was a governor, vice president and president under PDP could suddenly ditch his benefactor.
The former APC national chairman extraordinary convention committee, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe state must take credit for Jonathan’s defection. The Yobe state governor, during his stint as protem chairman, visited and subsequently wooed Jonathan to APC. Did Buni and his committee members sign a pact that if the former president joins the party, they would throw their weight behind his presidential ambition? Jonathan did not only join the ruling party but also bought the party’s presidential nomination forms through a northern youth group.
The Jonathan presidential ambition has raised some important questions. First, is the ruling party toeing the dangerous path of PDP by jettisoning its zoning arrangement? With President Muhammadu Buhari completing his eight-year tenure, one will advice for equity and justice, there is the need for power shift to the South. Also, during its recent convention, APC opted for Abdullahi Adamu, a northerner as the national chairman. This development has further buttressed that the South will produce the next president. Howover, with Jonathan joining the presidential race, what will be the future of South-west politicians, especially Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who sees his contest as A life time ambition?
It is not an understatement to say that the electoral victories of President Buhari in 2015 and 2019 are to the credit of Tinubu and other South-west politicians. If APC fields Jonathan, the South-west politicians may unite and reject the party. To them, having played the second fiddle in the previous elections, 2023 ticket should be exclusively reserved for them. If the ticket is not given to them, there is every tendency of anti-party as these politicians will enter into alliance with either PDP or Kwankwaso’s NNPP to ensure APC loses the 2023 elections in the region.
Secondly, who are those dragging or promoting the Jonathan presidency and what are their motives? It was reported that the Jonathan presidency has a tacit support of two northern governors, one from North-west and the other one from North-east. If their plan works, Jonathan promised to pick one of them as his running mate. The legal technicalities that may await the former president will unarguably discourage APC from giving him its ticket. Jonathan took the oath of office twice. If he is allowed to contest and luckily wins the poll, Jonathan will take his third oath of office, which is unconstitutional. This will open up serious litigations.
What will happen if the opposition PDP finally settles for Atiku Abubakar as their candidate? Will APC stick to the Jonathan presidency? The former president had received accolades globally for conducting free and fair elections in 2015. Jonathan was the first African president who accepted defeat called to congratulate the winner even before the result was announced. His diplomacy since he left office has endeared him to many Nigerians. The former president should have kept a low profile, continued with his diplomatic engagement and advice the country, where necessary. With the former president throwing his hat into the ring, what will be his fate during and after the 2023 general elections?
Pambegua, Kaduna state