Amid the speculations of the APC wooing former President Goodluck Jonathan with its 2023 presidential ticket, this piece explores what the Bayelsa-born politician stands to gain or lose if he joins the ruling party.
"President Jonathan, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, must take responsibility for the monumental cost, whether of his incompetence or his political strategy-gone-awry or both, apologize to the nation and immediately back down from seeking re-election.
“The President must not be allowed to profit from an error of judgement that has cost 15,000 lives, forced over 3 million out of their homes and cost the taxpayers 32.88 billion US dollars.” - Lai Mohammed, February 2015
“I am hearing that for the first time that we are expecting the former President. That will be great news. We will welcome him; that will also strengthen the party.” - John James Akpanudoedehe, 2021
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The two quotes above were made by the spokesmen of the All Progressives Congress (APC) about former President Goodluck Jonathan.
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In the first quote, information minister Lai Mohammed, who was then the APC’s national publicity secretary, in 2015 accused ex-President Jonathan of allowing Boko Haram to fester and asked him not to seek re-election.
In the second quote which came six years after, Wednesday, September 15, 2021, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, the current APC spokesperson, said it will be “great news” if Jonathan defects to the ruling party, adding that the former president will be welcomed.
A former deputy spokesman of the APC, Yekini Nabena, even said the ruling party will celebrate if Jonathan defects.
While debunking the rumour that the former president had joined the APC, Nabena said:
“If the former President decides to join the APC, it can’t be a hidden event. We will naturally celebrate it.”
Within the space of six years, Jonathan went from being described as an “incompetent” president by the APC to the one whose defection the ruling party considers will “strengthen” its structure.
Jonathan’s “romance” with the APC was first prominently noticed during the 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa state.
The former president was then rumoured to be backing the candidate of the APC, David Lyon, against his party’s flagbearer, Douye Diri.
Though the PDP dismissed the rumour, an unusual visit by some APC governors to Jonathan after Lyon was declared the winner (his victory was eventually overturned by Supreme Court) lent some credence to it.
As the nation moves closer to the 2023 elections, there have been strong speculations that some stakeholders in the APC are now wooing ex-President Jonathan with the party’s presidential ticket.
A recent report by The Nation claimed four APC governors were making moves to drag Jonathan into the presidential race.
Similarly, Daily Trust reported that an APC chieftain, Barrister Abdullahi Jalo, confirmed that party leaders were working hard to move key political actors from the PDP including Jonathan.
He was quoted to have said:
“I left PDP for APC and he (Jonathan) is my leader, so I will be very glad to see him join the APC. I was working with him."
Even Akpanudoedehe, the APC spokesman, said Jonathan will be given a founding member status if he decides to join the party and jostle for the 2023 presidential ticket of the ruling party like others.
What does Jonathan stand to gain if he joins APC?
If ex-President Jonathan yields to the speculated pressure and joins the APC, he indeed may get the party’s presidential ticket, being a southerner, and return to the presidency to complete his second and final term guaranteed by the constitution.
Jonathan’s first term was characterised by a “litany of failed promises”, including failure to fight corruption and insecurity. This, among other factors, led to his unprecedented defeat in 2015 by the APC.
Thus, returning to the presidency in 2023 will afford him a second chance to right his previous wrongs.
It will also president him a chance to fix the country’s current multifaceted challenges and become a “hero”.
What does Jonathan stand to lose?
Ex-President Jonathan stands the risk of losing the political popularity and goodwill he is currently enjoying if he joins the APC.
Despite his administration’s failures, his selfless decision to concede defeat in 2019 and prevent political crisis endeared him to many Nigerians, including his successor, President Muhammadu Buhari.
To join the APC at the moment when the party appears to have lost most of its goodwill may significantly affect the former president’s popularity among Nigerians.
In his reaction to Jonathan’s rumoured plan to join the APC, a former national chairman of the PDP, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, said the defection will destroy what is left of the former president's integrity.
He added that he would be extremely disappointed if Jonathan joins the ruling party.
The former PDP chair said:
“Personally, my advice to President Goodluck Jonathan is that no matter how much he’s being wooed to join APC, whatever is left of his integrity as a former president of Nigeria will disappear the day he joins APC.”
Meanwhile, media reports have also suggested that the APC stakeholders pushing for Jonathan’s presidency were doing so to protect their own interests.
Daily Trust in a recent report stated that an APC chieftain (whose name was not revealed) claimed Jonathan was approached to defect to the ruling party so he could pick the party’s presidential ticket to win the 2023 poll and hand over power to the North in 2027.
The APC chieftain claimed some northern political stakeholders want Jonathan because he is the only southern politician who is not constitutionally allowed to do eight years again, having served his first term between 2011 and 2015.
According to him, having Jonathan as the president in 2023 is the north's strategy to return to power in 2027.
He said northern political stakeholders were feeling cheated that the south had spent more years in the State House since the return to democracy in 1999.
By the end of 2023, the north would have spent 10 years in power while the south had already spent 14 years. However, southern political stakeholders have insisted it is the turn of their region eight years of the Buhari government is completed in 2023.
Similar speculation was echoed in a report by Daily Sun.
Should this speculation be true, Jonathan might be unwittingly serving the northern interest if he decides to join the APC and return to the presidency. This will also affect his popularity in the southern region, his political base.
Another concern is the fact that should Jonathan join the APC, there is no guarantee that he will get the party’s presidential ticket.
And even if he does, there is no guarantee that he will win the election.
Should he fail to return to the presidency even after joining the APC, the former president would have lost it all; his current goodwill and popularity and the chance to right his wrongs and fix the country.
As the director-general of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salihu Mohammed Lukman, has aptly noted, former President Jonathan may "gamble away all his legendary achievements" should he allow himself to be wooed into the APC on account of the 2023 presidential contest.
PDP sources say Jonathan not thinking of joining the APC
Meanwhile, amid the speculations, a new report by the Nigerian Tribune has claimed Jonathan was not contemplating joining the APC to run on its platform as a presidential candidate in 2023.
Citing a source close to the former president, the report noted that though some APC leaders have been wooing the ex-president, the Bayelsa-born politician would stay back in the PDP.
Also, the acting national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Elder Yemi Akinwonmi, said the ex-president has assured them that he would not dump the PDP.