Ahead of the 2023 presidential election, some kinsmen and political allies of former President Goodluck Jonathan have intensified their moves to woo the former Nigerian leader into the race.
According to Jonathan’s political allies both in Bayelsa and outside the state, Nigerians still need the former president’s quality leadership and would overwhelmingly support him if he eventually indicates interest to contest on any political platform.
Jonathan who took over power as the President of Nigeria in May 2010 after the death of then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, contested the 2011 presidential election on the platform of the PDP and won, but lost the 2015 presidential election to the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC.
Jonathan’s kinsman from Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and pro-democracy advocate, Comrade Wisdom Ikuli, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the former president was very eligible to contest the 2023 presidential election and that most Nigerians are yearning for his return.
He said though the agitation is subject to Jonathan’s acceptance to run in 2023 or not; but Nigerians needed him back as president due to his achievements during his days in office.
He said: “Former President Goodluck Jonathan is very eligible to contest the forthcoming 2023 presidential election constitutionally; he is very eligible to contest. However, it is subject to his acceptance; it’s his personal decision to contest or not.
“For some years now, Nigerians have been clamouring for Goodluck Jonathan to come back, perhaps due to some challenges facing the current government; President Buhari has done very well and he meant well for Nigerians. When you look at his policies, he meant very well for Nigerians and he had taken some strategic steps to better the lives of the people; but some members of the political class who did want good things for Nigerians, sabotaged the government.
“So, because of all these happenings in Buhari’s government, Nigerians have now realized that Jonathan did better in terms of welfare for all Nigerians; in terms of respect for human rights and freedom Nigerians enjoyed, which they feel are not there as of today. So, that is the reason they want Jonathan back as president.
“Look at the leading role he is playing in the African continent, even out of office; his leadership role is still being recognized in Africa. This is the first time somebody who is not even a country’s president is given the role of a father in Africa.
“So, because of these values, Nigerians feel there is need for him to come back for the progress of Nigeria, because at the moment, the nation is on the verge of disintegration; sectional groups, secessionist groups like IPOB and others are rising up; all these agitations were not there during Jonathan’s presidency.
“Nigerians want Jonathan to come and reposition the country on the path of unity and prosperity once again. And as an individual, I will equally join other Nigerians at the appropriate time to prevail on former President Jonathan to come back; leadership is all about service; you have to displease yourself to please others.
“This is not the time to talk about political parties; let’s talk about progress and unity in Nigeria.There is nothing wrong in PDP, APC and other political parties to come together for the interest of the country and adopt Jonathan as the sole candidate in 2023, “ he said.
A PDP chieftain in Bayelsa State and a close ally of the former president, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said if President Buhari was ready to collapse the APC structures with PDP in 2023 to return Jonathan back to power, it would be the best gift to the people of Nigeria.
He, however, denied knowledge of any plan by former President Jonathan to join the APC in order to run for 2023 election, saying, as the leader of PDP in Nigeria and somebody who has benefited from the party’s platform, Jonathan cannot leave the party.
“I knew Jonathan even before he became the deputy governor of Bayelsa State in 1999; he is a very contented person. He is not ambitious, if not, he would have not been able to serve faithfully as deputy governor to then Governor Diepreye Alamieyesigha.
“Even if he wants to contest the 2023 presidential election, I can vouch for him that he will do so under PDP; he is a loyal party man and he still has a lot to do for Nigeria if given the opportunity.
“Look at his strides in those five years in power; the country still needs him, people of the country have compared two regimes and can assess Jonathan’s performance properly now. So, we in Bayelsa will support him; the Niger Delta will support and the whole country is yearning for him.
“Let not the disparity between the North and South becloud our sense of judging good leaders; a good leader can come from any part of the country. Yar’Adua was from the North and he did well; people from the South liked and supported him,” he said.
Jonathan and dilemma of platform
For President Jonathan, it is too early for him to speak on whether he would contest the 2023 presidential election or not.
Speaking with reporters after attending an event organised by the Commonwealth Community Choir in Abuja early January, Jonathan said there are still other issues to focus on ahead of the next general election.
When asked if he would be joining the presidential race in 2023 he said: “It is too early to talk about that.”
However, political observers said that President Jonathan from all indications would most likely contest the 2023 presidential election but the major hurdle before him would be that of political platform.
Jonathan, as a former president and chieftain of the main opposition party, PDP, no doubt has great influence on the party.
However, unlike in the previous elections where he got the presidential tickets of his party virtually on a platter of gold, it might not be an easy ride for him to clinch the party’s ticket in 2023 as there are other political forces who are very interested in the contest.
The likes of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike, Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, former Governor Sule Lamido and Attahiru Bafarawa, among others are also eyeing the Aso Rock seat.
Some power brokers within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are also said to be wooing President Jonathan to the party’s fold ahead of the 2023 election.
Sometimes in November 2020, the governor of Yobe State and Chairman of the Caretaker/ Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee of the All Progressives Congress, Mai Mala Buni, and some APC governors paid a visit to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on the occasion of his 63rd birthday.
But the visit elicited reactions from across the country’s political space as they believe that the visit could have more political undertones.
However, leaders from the ruling APC and President Jonathan denied any political undertone in the visit.
Buni’s media adviser, Mamman Mohammed, while responding to inquiries about the visit, said, “His Excellency, the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, and some of his colleagues in the APC were at the residence of former President Goodluck Jonathan to congratulate him on his 63rd birthday, nothing more.”
In the same vein, spokesman for former President Jonathan, Ikechukwu Eze, explained that the APC leaders’ visit had no political undertone.
“He opened his doors to everyone to felicitate with him. People came from the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party. Will he use his birthday to be discussing 2023?
“People came from everywhere to give him a goodwill message. There were people from the APC and there were people from the PDP who visited him. The visit has no political undertone,” he said.
But political observers said that even if Jonathan were to have the ambition of crossing over to the APC to seek the presidential ticket ahead of 2023, he would equally not find it an easy sail as there are bigwigs who are also jostling for the nation’s number one seat.
The likes of the APC National Leader, Ahmed Bola Tinubu; Rotimi Amaechi, Governor Kayode Fayemi, former Zamfara Governor Sani Yerima, Kogi Governor Yahaya Bello and host of other bigwigs are already warming up for the party’s ticket.
Politics is dynamic and a lot of alliances and re-alliances are bound to happen before the 2023 general election,” an APC chieftain said.
“In the same vein, a number of intervening factors would come to play in determining those that would eventually emerge as the presidential flag bearers for the 2023 election,” he added.