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A Goodluck Jonathan presidential candidacy on All Progressives Congress’ platform is an uphill task, writes Ebiowei John

For some time now, there have been speculations about moves by powerful northern political forces to get Goodluck Jonathan, the immediate past president of Nigeria, to run the 2023 presidential race on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress. The permutation, it is said, is that it offers the opportunity for the North to return to power in another four years since Jonathan, having served a term between 2011 and 2015, would be constitutionally barred from serving more than one term of four years.

There were initial scepticisms about the plot as many political analysts dismissed it as idle thinking. How can the APC that did so much to demonise Jonathan to push him out of power in 2015 contemplate such a thing? Ikechukwu Eze, the former president’s media aide, and Reno Omokri, his former Social Media handler, issued several denials and soon got tired of setting the records straight.

However, the doubts began to clear a couple of weeks ago when the APC began to sell its N100million nominations forms. An innocuous group that said it represented the Almajiri and cattle breeders in the North bought the forms for the former president. As tongues began to wag, his media aide issued a strongly-worded statement denying that the purchase was with his knowledge and stated that the former president considered it a personal insult. The fog began to become clearer when a few hours later, the statement was withdrawn and a less truculent one replaced it. When in the morning after the statement a picture of Abdullahi Adamu, the national chairman of the APC, seeing off Jonathan after a visit to the former’s residence surfaced in the media, it became clearer that the former president had not been very straight on the matter.

It came to light that Jonathan was indeed in talks with the APC leaders but was insisting that he would only take up their offer if he would be the party’s consensus candidate. The negotiations have dragged, forcing a wave of postponements, first of the closure date for the submission of the nomination forms, and later the elastic postponement of the date of screening of the presidential aspirants. In between these, another picture of Jonathan being seen off, after a meeting, by Mamman Daura, President Muhammadu Buhari’s influential nephew, filled the media space.

Anyone who still has a doubt about Jonathan’s clandestine move to run on the platform of the APC ought to have had that cleared by the news on Thursday that a Federal High Court, sitting in Yenagoa had ruled that the former president was entitled to run for another term of office, adding that he could fly the ruling party’s flag if he was granted a waiver by its executive committee.

With the court ruling, the cat has literarily been let out of the bag, and the issue is no longer whether Jonathan will run but whether the move makes sound strategic political sense. There are several issues though that would have to be resolved. The former president is not known to have purchased, filled and submitted the nomination forms. What is in the public domain is his media aide’s denial that the forms were purchased on his behalf by a shadowy group with his knowledge. There has been no retraction of that denial. Meanwhile, his name is not on the long list of the 28 contestants since published in the media. If he suddenly surfaces on the list of contestants that would arouse legitimate suspicion of foul play, which is not likely to go unchallenged by those who would naturally feel unfairly treated in the nomination process. 

There is another baggage. Jonathan is not known to have either resigned his membership of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party or joined the APC. Although this may be said to be a minor thing since he could cross those huddles in a matter of minutes, this, however, would only increase his credibility deficit that has grown phenomenally since this saga began.

The more important issue is how the party leadership intends to manage the process of the nomination for him. Jonathan is said to have insisted that he would only run if he is guaranteed the ticket without a fight. Buhari is said to be receptive to this but the challenge has been how to carry it through with the weight of the people already in the race. Also in the race is Bola Tinubu, the party’s national leader who has invested heavily in its formation and sustenance to date, and has shown an uncommon commitment to the realisation of his ambition. There are also ministers, including Rotimi Amaechi, Godswill Akpabio, Ogbonnaya Onu and Emeka Nwajiuba who have forgone their ministerial careers because of their presidential ambitions. Will the leadership merely ask them to step down and return to their positions? Will they take that lightly?

If the ministers could be persuaded to halt their ambition and return to work, it is doubtful if Tinubu can be similarly persuaded because he has made it clear that he is committed to pursuing his lifelong ambition. And to be fair to him, age is no longer on his side. So, will the party leadership force him out of the race? Can that be done without the risk of an implosion in the party? If not, are the leaders willing to risk a contest with Tinubu?

Finally, even if the party leadership is able to manoeuvre the process in favour of Jonathan, how will it conduct the general electioneering campaign having regard to the massive damage they did to his reputation in 2015, which was sustained with vigour in the last seven years? What will the APC tell Nigerians? That they have brought back Jonathan to repair the damage they said he did to Nigeria?

All things considered, the idea of a Jonathan presidential run on the platform of the APC looks untidy and would take a miracle to succeed at the 2023 poll. It does not look good for either Jonathan or the APC.

John, a political activist, writes from Yenagoa

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