2023 power intrigues: Will Jonathan bite the northern bait?, Louis Achi

In order to simultaneously neutralise the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party and reclaim power for the North in 2027, the ruling All Progressives Congress is allegedly wooing former President Goodluck Jonathan, to defect from the PDP and fly its 2023 presidential flag. Will the Bayelsa-born statesman bite the bait?

Nigeria has entered a transition period – a crucial leadership changeover phase. This is understandably sparking a frenzy which cannot be decoupled from the nation’s peculiar political history. With the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) scheduling of February 18, 2023, as the presidential Election Day, multi-partisan jostling – both overt and covert – on who succeeds President Muhammadu Buhari is gaining momentum.

Watched carefully by Northern political hawks, Southern governors rising from their recent Lagos meeting, proclaimed a resolve that Southern Nigeria should produce the President in 2023. Perhaps with some circumspection, they did not finger any particular political party that would produce such candidate – heightening both expectancy and some tension.

The strong perception that for Northern Nigeria, lack of political power represents a potent existential threat sits pretty nicely within the unswerving logic of the alleged new proactive calculations of enlisting former President Goodluck Joanthan for the big job come 2023.

This cagey political project is also seen by many as essentially satisfying the Southern symphony for power shift and the installation of a ‘safe stooge’ to succeed President Buhari who concludes his second term in 2023.

Certain fundamental considerations are speculated to qualify the soft-spoken former president as the North’s beautiful bride: he will do only a constitution-circumscribed single term and then the region can reclaim power. According to a source privy to the incubating plot – “Yes we are looking at the Jonathan option, he is a safe bet and of course a very amiable gentleman, who is not likely to rock the boat.” The third is that he is from the South and should satisfy the region’s shrill clamour for power shift.

The fourth dimension is that a Jonathan ticket paired with a Northern running mate will neutralise South-east’s strident clamour for a president of the region’s extraction as the Bayelsa-born politician has morphed into a widely and nationally acceptable force. The North curiously remains cagey about a president of Igbo extraction.

Looking at the post-war big picture, the Igbo of the South-east zone have been left holding the short end of the nation’s political stick – walled off from the office of the president. Under the Buhari presidency, the region’s sense of marginalisation has immeasurably scaled-up. His visit to Imo State some 72 hours ago has hardly diminished the negative feelings the zone nurses for him.

The fifth consideration is the reality that the North does not want or trust Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu who is currently in London for critical medicare. Many in the South also believe he is a hard-sell. This gaming is tied to the political logic that power will definitely shift to the South in 2023, given the unwritten North/South power rotation agreement. And what’s more – Buhari apparently wants to decide who will succeed him.

To be fair to the Machiavellian ruling Northern oligarchy, political gaming is a legitimate preoccupation that preserves its perceived advantages. They also believe that the extant North/South power rotation arrangement is not a constitutionalised template. Since the country returned to civil rule in 1999, political power had been rotating between the Northern and Southern regions of the country.

Not permitting grass to grow under its feet, various influential PDP stakeholders have been reportedly begging Jonathan not to join APC. When acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Yemi Akinwonmi, led a delegation to Goodluck Jonathan’s Abuja residence early this month, appealing to the ex-President not to dump the political party topped the agenda.

Among those who joined Akinwonmi to see Jonathan were Daisi Akintan, former caretaker secretary of the PDP in the South-west and the secretary of ex-officio forum; and a member of the National Executive Committee, Helen Taiwo. The PDP has been embroiled in crises lately. Its de facto National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, has been sacked, re-appointed to his position, and sacked again by courts of coordinate jurisdiction.

“We don’t want him to leave and so we asked him to give us more time to sort out the conflict in the party. We also asked him to continue to play a role in the party as we brace up to unseat the APC in 2023,” one visiting chieftains revealed.

In February, PDP top shots led by a former Senate President Bukola Saraki met with former President Jonathan over the lingering crisis rocking the party. At the end of their meeting, Saraki, who chairs the PDP National Reconciliation Committee said Jonathan was not contemplating decamping to APC, revealing the former president has assured them of his readiness to offer his experience and resources to return PDP to power in 2023.

“He gave us his views and we are very happy. He reassured all of us of his commitment to the PDP and he told us that he is still ready to offer his time, experience and resources to strengthen the party and that is very strong and important to us,” Saraki had enthused.

The meeting was attended by former governors of Katsina, Gombe and Cross River states, Ibrahim Shema, Ibrahim Dankwambo and Liyel Imoke, among others. On their part, successive APC delegations have also being reaching out to Jonathan.

Some intimation that the North may be weighing its options for the post-Buhari era came last year, when Mallam Mamman Daura, the influential nephew of President Buhari said there was no need for zoning the presidential ticket to any part of the country. He held that Nigeria’s political space should be left open for the best candidate to emerge as president.

He told the Hausa Service of the BBC that the most qualified person from any part of the country should succeed his uncle. His position shored up suspicions that some elements from the North were perfecting plans to retain the presidency after Buhari’s second tenure lapses in 2003.

Rumours have been swirling that Jonathan is mulling the idea of jumping ship and pitching tent with the governing APC. But these have not been substantiated. Even as the political drama unfolds, Jonathan has not expressed a clear position on the Northern plot. He has been more recently busy with statesmanlike and diplomatic assignments from the presidency – crisscrossing the continent. He was also at Buhari’s side at the Eagle Square, Abuja, during the recent 60th independence anniversary.

THISDAY could not elicit a specific response from Jonathan’s minders on the trending matter when it reached out to them. Will the humble biologist from Otuoke bite the bullet and take the bait as the plots thicken? Big question!



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