The North’s quest for Jonathan’s return to power

There have been sustained moves by the All Progressives Congress, APC, to have former President Goodluck Jonathan contest for the presidential seat during the forthcoming 2023 general elections 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 has demonstrated loyalty to the nation and without his rare and courageous display of statesmanship,  the Buhari presidency would never have been realisable, hence, he is the right person to take over in the face of shift to the South as being increasingly demanded.

“He handed over power peacefully and nursed no bitterness against anyone and therefore will not be a threat to the interest of the north”, an inner circle source close to Aso Rock was quoted to have said.

From any angle one looks at the moves, 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 said to be favourably disposed to the idea of Jonathan’s second coming.

To lend credence to this developing intrigue, presidential campaign posters of President Jonathan are being seen in public places in recent time. It would be recalled that not too long ago, 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. They see President Jonathan as a unifying force around which a government of national unity could be built after eight years of Mohammadu Buhari presidency.

It is very obvious that the move for Jonathan 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 has not categorically come out to respond to these nuances, many Nigerians are exited about the development, especially the pressure being mounted on him to accept this critical national service once again. Understandably, the plot to bring Jonathan back to power is being  actively sold among the Northern establishments desperate to find a dependable and trustworthy North-South alliance after Buhari’s exit from the Presidential Villa.

The attraction to the Northern oligarchy is clearly hinged on soothing ethnic tension in different parts of the country through transfer of power to a man is popular with a tract record of integrity and statesmanship. Above all, he must be a person with wide public acceptance cutting across religious, ethnic and regional divides. It is obvious that from the current political firmament in the country, on President Jonathan fits this mould from 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 move disclosed recently.

It was gathered that the proponents of the move believe that with Jonathan as president, 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 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”, he further stated.

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.

It would be recalled that Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party was Nigeria’s vice-president between 2007 and 2010. The former Bayelsa state governor assumed position as the President in 2010 after the death of then President Umaru Yar’adua, a two-term governor of Katsina state.

Jonathan subsequently contested the 2011 presidential election and won but lost his reelection bid 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.

Notably, a courtesy visit of some prominent members of the APC to Jonathan in Abuja sometime in November 2020 has sparked off permutations that there is a plot by the northern political elite to woo him to contest for the presidential seat during the forthcoming 2023 general election in Nigeria.

During the former president’s 64th birthday celebration last year, apparently in a show of solidarity and what was described as a subtle way of attempting to woo him to contest in the 2023 general election, the NGF, sent him warm felicitations.

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 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 him into contesting for president again, the APC declared that Jonathan will be allowed to contest for presidency in 2023 if he joins the party.

The 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.

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.

Dan-Mallam writes from Usman DanFodio University, Sokoto.