There is a storm in the polity over subterranean plots by some political hawks in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to woo ex-President Goodluck Jonathan to the party and get him fielded as the party’s 2023 presidential standard-bearer.
The move is facing stiff resistance from some presidential aspirants of the party, who described it as insensitive to the feelings of those who had been labouring to make APC a household name.
Their position nonetheless, the Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, Professor Ango Abdullahi, described the move as ironic and self-indicting, saying it is an admission of failure by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
According to Professor Abdullahi, it is ironic that those who drove out Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 will now turn back to beg him to join them.
“What an irony! These are people, who kicked out a president for various reasons and here they are now admitting that they have failed and that they were wrong in kicking Goodluck Jonathan out of office in 2015 and so, they are now asking him to come and help them.
“Isn’t that the irony of the whole thing? Here I am saying, ‘you have failed and I kicked you out,’ and then after some time I say, ‘I beg you, come back and take over, I am sorry for kicking you out in the first place.’ That is the meaning of the whole thing,” he stated.
The plot also drew cautious reactions from Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leaders, including Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, former Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, and former National Chairman of the PDP and Kaduna State Governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
They spoke as details of how some APC stakeholders convinced President Buhari to buy into the Goodluck Jonathan project emerged last night.
Sources said if the plan sails through, Jonathan will serve for one term and hand over to his vice, a northerner from the North-East geopolitical zone.
Presidential aspirants, others kick
One of the presidential aspirants of the party from Benue State, Chief Moses Ayom, advised the former president not to bow to the pressure to join APC and seek its presidential ticket.
According to him, those putting pressure on Jonathan to do so are heartless and insensitive to the plight of others.
“I advise him not to cave into the pressure of the wicked, who are heartless and insensitive to people’s plight,” he stated.
Another presidential aspirant, Ihechukwu Dallas Chima, said the APC was on its way to extinction.
“I see the APC is on the pathway to extinction and as such, little effort can be made to call the leaders of the party to order.
“If after seven years of APC’s existence as a party, persons who don’t mean well for the party will decide to bring a former president that Nigerians rejected at the polls to come back after seven years to fly the party’s flag, then this is really a negative development.
“As an APC chieftain and presidential aspirant for the 2023 presidential election, I use this opportunity to tell the leaders of our party to rescind that negative step,” he cautioned.
Tinubu Support Group weighs in
On its part, the Tinubu Support Group, TSG, said everyone was welcome to the race because the more the merrier, but noted that it is not enough to drop the name of the president in order to win the ticket.
Head of Media of TSG, Tosin Adeyanju, said the APC could not afford to pick a candidate who is not popular.
Asked to respond to Jonathan’s planned move to the APC, Adeyanju said: “The more the merrier. We welcome everyone to the race. Alhaji Ahmed Bola Tinubu is a democrat, who believes in a democratic contest.
We are focused on the primaries, which is what the party constitution stipulates. We equally are reaching out to all delegates coming for the primaries. Other aspirants before him (Jonathan) had equally dropped the president’s name as the anointed one.
“The party must choose the most popular aspirant at the primaries in order for APC to be able to win the general election and our principal fits into this.
“Goodluck Jonathan will have to submit his credentials and records to the party delegates for scrutiny. Asiwaju’s records speak for him and that is why he is running on his records and democratic credentials.”
Timing doesn’t favour Jonathan — Ayo Arise
Also, a chieftain of the APC in Ekiti State, Senator Ayo Arise, said the timing does not favour Goodluck Jonathan, adding that winning the APC ticket and going ahead to win the general election was not just about money but also selling his ideas to the people.
According to the senator: “The problems that existed during Goodluck Jonathan’s time are still with us in Nigeria. We are still facing them as a political party.”
He added: “Goodluck Jonathan knew what he went through and I believe that decision will be for him to take, based on his experience on that seat. If he thinks he has the magic solutions, there is no president coming in that will still not face many of these.
“But we are expecting that as we grow politically, and in terms of our exposure to development outside the country, there are issues that may require new hands to resolve.
“But for me, as a person, I don’t know how he is going to get the votes. Unless we now believe that it is the president who will select his successor. If that is the case, then it is risky.
“But I believe the way things are on the ground, those who are ready for this post are already canvassing, spending money, and they are talking to delegates and everyone has his strategy different from the other.
“It is that same poll that he is expected to come in and say, ‘yes I want to be president now under APC.’ There will be a lot more than money. I want to believe that he will have more information than expected about what he wants to be.
“As far as I am concerned, if the party says that is what they want, and that is who they want, for me, there are several ways that a person can be packaged. It is left for his handlers asked him to do that to know what he has in stock and how he intends to win the primary.”
I’ll support Jonathan if APC presents him as flagbearer — Ayade
Meanwhile, Governor Benedict Ayade of Cross River State pledged to support former President Goodluck Jonathan if the APC presents him as the party’s flagbearer for the 2023 election.
Governor Ayade stated this while briefing State House correspondents after a meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He announced that he had secured the President’s nod to hold consultations over his own presidential ambition.
Fielding questions on whether he would contest the APC presidential primaries against Dr. Goodluck Jonathan if the latter decides to run, Ayade said he had respect for the former president, adding that if it was the decision of the APC to field Goodluck Jonathan, he would support him.
The governor explained that he was at the Presidential Villa to seek direction from Buhari on how to align in the run-up to the 2023 polls, noting that he would do whatever the President directs.
He pointed out that he did not tell President Buhari that he wanted to join the presidential race as he observed that it was not decent to tell an officeholder that one was interested in taking over his office.
He, however, said, the President expressed delight that he did not speak of his desire to succeed him in office but gave him the go-ahead to hold consultations on the matter while he (Buhari) watches him.
Ayade went on to spell out his programme of action for the country if he becomes the president next year, stressing that his administration would concentrate on three key areas, security, employment, and economy.
The governor reiterated his position that the next governor of Cross River State will come from the Southern Senatorial District, adding that he would not play God by anointing his successor, declaring that whoever will emerge would come through the democratic process.
PDP leaders, Ortom, Makarfi, Fayose, others speak with caution
Against the backdrop of Goodluck Jonathan’s rumoured defection to the APC, some PDP top shots spoke on the issue, yesterday.
Goodluck Jonathan, who was elected President of Nigeria in the 2011 election but lost to Buhari in 2015, literally turned his back against the PDP over the past seven years.
He has avoided all gatherings of the party, including the 2017 national elective convention, 2018 Presidential convention and the 2021 national convention that brought the current National Working Committee, NWC, members to power, among others.
With his campaign posters pasted in designated places in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Jonathan is reportedly on the verge of joining APC after he was credited with an interest in the office of the President, should President Buhari endorse him.
In a chat with Vanguard, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said the party will not react to speculations on whether or not Goodluck Jonathan is defecting.
“We are not going to say anything for now. As far as we know, the former President has not defected. He has not said he would defect. Until he defects, the PDP won’t react because we don’t treat rumours or insinuations. We deal with facts,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of his principal, Nathaniel Ikyur, Chief Press Secretary to Benue State Governor, Dr Samuel Ortom, said “politics is all about interest,” noting that should Goodluck Jonathan go ahead to defect to the APC, “I will still not make a comment.”
On his part, former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, came short of saying that political choices are freely made as people at one time or the other, go right or left.
“It is his (Goodluck Jonathan’s) life,” Makarfi said in his brief response.
Former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, said it was impossible for him to confirm or deny the possibility of Goodluck Jonathan’s imminent defection to APC because “I am not in his mind.”
On her part, Tari Iberia Oliver, the only female presidential aspirant of the PDP, expressed doubts about Jonathan quitting PDP for APC.
Having been a member of the PDP for 19 years, the presidential hopeful noted that the PDP would not get unnecessarily worried over what has been reported of Jonathan because “the man has not said he is leaving.”
She continued: “I don’t want to believe this will happen. So, let’s not talk about this because at the end, the rumour is likely to just disappear the same way it came. Don’t forget, we are in the era of politics and a lot get thrown up that are not true.”
How APC stakeholders sold Jonathan to Buhari— Sources
Indications emerged, last night, on how some APC top shots sold the idea of a Goodluck Jonathan candidacy to President Buhari.
Multiple sources told Vanguard that the stakeholders, including governors, had approached the former president and sold the idea of Jonathan serving one term before handing it over to his would-be Vice.
It was also reliably gathered that, as part of the deal with Jonathan, the stakeholders may have settled for a running mate from the North-East.
Multiple sources told Vanguard that both President Buhari and Jonathan have agreed on the deal.
One of the sources said: “Jonathan has agreed in a way to serve only one term but not on the platform of the PDP. I am aware of what is going on and the deal thrown at Jonathan.
“Some APC governors, also known are the ones asking Jonathan to throw his hat in the ring. From what I know and the meeting I attended, they sold the idea to Buhari. Jonathan has already met Buhari in the villa and the deal has been sealed. The game is that he will only serve one term (because he cannot do two terms having been elected for the first term earlier) and hand over to his vice, who will come from the North-East.
“They know that the former president is obedient and will do their bidding, they have seen it in the past. As you know, the North still wants to retain power and that is why they are throwing the offer at him.”
Another source told Vanguard that the presidency is not looking in the direction of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo or Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in 2023. “They do not want Tinubu or Osinbajo. In fact, what worked against Osinbajo is that they see him as an extension of Bola Tinubu, who still defers to Tinubu.”
However, the source concluded by expressing caution, saying, “things are still in a state of flux and last-minute jostling may still upturn the arrangement.”
Southern group moves to draft Jonathan into the presidential race
Nevertheless, a political pressure group called the Southern Frontiers, yesterday threw its weight behind Jonathan’s candidature as the next president, saying he is the only person among the aspirants so far, who has the wherewithal to rescue the country from the mess it was currently enmeshed in.
The group rose from an emergency meeting held in a popular hotel in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, and called on the former president not to ignore the calls coming from different quarters that he should come back to take the front seat and liberate Nigeria.
In a seven-page communique signed by its scribe, Mr Bamitale the group said: “We have holistically placed the aspirant’s side by side with the former president and we have tried to separate the wheat from the chaff like a proverbial winnowing grain farmer and we have come out with a stark fact that in order to put APC on a deserving pedestal in the coming poll, no other aspirant stands next to GEJ in terms of what we call “CEC”, character, experience and competence.”