After an initial denial of rumours that he will join the ruling party, the former President, Goodluck Jonathan, has finally ditched his party. His defection to 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 the court ruled in its favour suggested Jonathan’s indifference to PDP affairs.
Does Jonathan’s defection have to do with how the party treated him during and after the 2015 general elections? While the former president might have lost the 2015 election due to the zoning arrangements of PDP, which he flouted, the betrayal and backstabbing that ensued among trusted party loyalists leading to his resounding defeat remain fresh in his mind. The emergence of new PDP split group led by Atiku Abubakar, Saraki,Tambuwal and others, who abandoned him at the tail end of the party’s convention, had wrecked great havoc to his re-election bid. With these notable politicians who deserted him returning to PDP, Jonathan would not feel comfortable staying with them.
Jonathan by virtue of his position, as former president, should be the leader of the party. However, Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor, has hijacked the party and has since been calling the shots. Wike and his surrogates are firmly controlling the party and failed to consult or engage the former president on the party’s decisions. This must have dampened his morale and forced him to change his mind. One wonders how the former president who was governor, vice president and president under PDP could suddenly ditch his benefactor.
Jonathan’s presidential ambition has raised some important questions. First, is the ruling party toeing the dangerous path of PDP by jettisoning its zoning arrangement? Moreover, 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 lifetime ambition? 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, the 2023 ticket should be exclusively reserved for them.
Secondly, who are those dragging or promoting Jonathan’s presidency and what are their motives? It was reported that the Jonathan’s presidency has the tacit support of two northern governors. If their plan works as scheduled, Jonathan has promised to pick one of them as running mate.
The legal technicalities that may await the former president will unarguably discourage APC to give him its ticket. Jonathan took an oath of office twice. If he is allowed to contest and wins he will take his third oath of office which is unconstitutional. This will open up serious court litigations.
What happens if the opposition PDP settles for Atiku Abubakar as their candidate? Will APC stick to Jonathan?
The former president should continue to keep a low profile and with his diplomatic engagements as well as offer advice to the government. If he decides to throw his hat into the ring what will be his fate during and after the 2023 general elections?
Ibrahim Mustapha Pambegua, Kaduna state