For some time, a story has been swirling in the nation’s public space about the likely run by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) for the Presidency in the 2023 general elections. Rising as a mere wishful thinking some weeks ago, it has however blossomed into one of the speculations that usually engage Nigerians in the build-up to any major electoral exercise, with the prospects of emerging a surefire political outcome, requiring only a few twists in the country’s political terrain to be fixed. And for this dispensation, such a twist already exists with the contention that it is actually the top level of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that is sponsoring the agenda of Jonathan’s return to office, whereby he – a Southerner, will only serve for one term as the Constitution restricts him, and handover to a successor of Northern extraction. To lend credence to the speculation is a report of a recent visit to GEJ by a top level Reconciliation Committee of his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by the former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki. According to the report the delegation visited the former President over the rumour that he was allowing himself to be pressured into decamping from the PDP to the ruling APC, ostensibly to actualise his suspected ambition to contest the office of the President on the platform of the ruling APC, come 2023.
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Even as the full details of the meeting between him and the PDP caucus is yet to grace the public domain not a few Nigerians have reacted to the development, stirred by the innate weaknesses of the Nigerian political space, which can provide the impetus for any outcome, no matter how outlandish or ordinarily unthinkable. Hence, the rumour had failed to die naturally in spite of several factors that should have dictated so. Firstly among such is the credence which the man had generated for himself primarily for conceding defeat unprecedentedly to Muhamadu Buhari in the 2015 Presidential polls and saving the country from a possible civil war. Secondly is how he had conducted himself detachedly from the runs of active politics since leaving office. Ever since he left office as President – being the highest political office in 2015, Jonathan had earned for himself the image of an elder statesman who is not swayed by the trappings of high public office, but now remains in the sidelines to avail incoming administrations the benefit of his experience, and who may not be disposed to return to active contest for another stint in power. Hence any attempt to associate him with such a venture readily attracts misgivings among not a few Nigerians.
The foregoing notwithstanding, the prospects of a Jonathan defection from PDP to APC, is not intrinsically an anathema in Nigerian politics, given the underpinnings which guide political tendencies in the country. Given the lamentable total absence of any ideological differences among the various political parties, migrating from one to the other has been an exercise over which politicians hardly bate an eyelid, before indulging in such. Hence Jonathan will hardly be the first or last to do so, (that is just in case he opts accordingly). The country’s political history is replete with instances where politicians had been guided by nothing more than crass opportunism to wade from one political party to another without compunction, simply to exploit whatever dividends they intend to earn from such venture.
In the case of Jonathan and the rumoured defection to the APC, while many skeptics see the situation as a booby trap set up by the ruling party to snare and eventually liquidate him along with the rival PDP, there are also silver linings to the venture. Among these is a likely sense of panic in the APC with the realization of the fact that its retention of political power from May 29 2023 onwards may depend on the fielding of a candidate who enjoys a broad-based nationwide support, through being trustworthy by the wider cross section of Nigerians. Specifically is the need for the party to be seen to have a candidate who has what it takes to rebuild the country after the undeniable dip in its fortunes, in the course of Muhamadu Buhari’s eight years tenure. And in Nigeria of today, only Jonathan fits such a bill by a wide margin.
While there is already a complement of Nigerians who have declared their intentions to run for the office of President, they all seem to hinge their aspirations on the ethnicity card and zoning of political offices. Jonathan seems to be the only trending name whose prospects are not based on any ethnic card. Rather considerations of his eligibility are based on his track record and benign ethnic antecedents.
The foregoing notwithstanding, calling Jonathan’s rumoured defection and successful return as President in 2023, an uphill task is understating the obvious. And progress in that direction will depend on the resolution of a complement of strategic factors. Among these is a complete make-over of the presently crisis ridden APC to condition it towards acceptance of an outsider, to clinch the top prize of President. This is the basis of the contention that the invitation to Jonathan by the APC is nothing but a ruse and even a trap. Another factor is the likely backlash from the PDP, which even as it contends with its internal challenges may easily rally together in other to bring Jonathan and all he stands for down, even if it is only to score a point.
In the light of the prevailing circumstances, the choice lies with Jonathan to make, as the situation offers him nothing better than a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. Hopefully, as an Ijaw man who is disposed to count his teeth with his tongue, he will allow time and turn of events to define his course of action.