BY ABISOGUN MARTINS
That, from all indications, former President Goodluck Jonathan is even contemplating running for President next year on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) speaks volumes about grave deficiencies in his character and moral integrity, a key factor that led to his ouster from office in 2015 by the same party he now seeks to propel him back to power. In and out of presidential office, it is unfortunate that Jonathan had not developed moral cojones. He is still as clueless as ever.
Some regional, factional interests in the APC had reportedly broached the idea of the former President flying the party’s flag in the 2023 presidential election and had approached him with this proposal. Governor of Yobe State and former National Chairman of the defunct APC National Caretaker Committee, Mallam Mai Mala Buni, early in his tenure had indeed led some prominent members of the party on a curious courtesy call on the former President in his personal residence and his guests were warmly received.
As events are evolving, it is obvious that talks between the former President and elements within the APC desirous of his flying the party’s presidential flag next year have been going on behind the shadows of secrecy. Although Jonathan had never given a straightforward answer when questioned by the media on the matter, he has distanced himself from activities of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on which platform he served as President even though it is not on record that he has formally resigned his membership of the party.
However, when a socio-political group visited him in his Abuja office recently, urging Jonathan to contest the 2023 presidential election on the platform of the APC, he indicated that he is indeed not disinclined to do so saying that processes were going and that his prompters should “watch out” for developments. Shortly after that, a shadowy association purporting to be representing northern interest groups obtained nomination and expression of interest forms at the cost of N100 million for Jonathan to enable him participate in the ruling party’s primaries as a presidential aspirant.
Although Jonathan’s spokesmen claimed that this was done without his knowledge, there is no indication that he declined the offer and it has been insinuated that the forms were indeed submitted to the party on his behalf before the expiration of the deadline. The APC’s inexplicable refusal to screen its presidential aspirants and adhere to its original timetable for its presidential primaries, an exercise which it has now postponed till next weekend following INEC’s obvious bowing to subterranean pressures to extend its stipulated schedule of events, has reinforced the impression that everything is being desperately done to accommodate Jonathan in the primaries and, if possible, manipulate his emergence as a ‘consensus’ candidate. A judgement of the Federal High Court in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, last week declared Jonathan eligible to contest the election on the platform of the ruling party. But it is obvious that it is virtually impossible for him to simply stroll in and pick the APC’s ticket as consensus candidate, despite the array of aspirants in the race, contrary to the promise he has been reportedly given, without disastrous consequences for the party’s cohesion, continued existence as well as electoral fortunes in 2023.
Those who are championing the Jonathan APC presidential candidacy are the same ones who waged a vicious and vigorous campaign against him in 2015 portraying him as clueless and incompetent and his administration as irresponsible and irredeemably corrupt. There is no indication that they have changed their minds about this or that they are acting in the interest of the country in contemplating his return to office. Rather, the prime consideration is reportedly that if he is elected in 2023, Jonathan can constitutionally serve for only one more term of four years as President before power again shifts to the north in 2027. This is thus only a reluctant concession to the principle of zoning and power rotation in the interest of federal balance, political stability and national unity.
If Jonathan cannot see that those urging him to run are doing so not because they love him but in pursuit of a selfish, regional agenda, then those who claim that his doctoral degree is not a true measure of his intellect and mental capacity are right. This means that he still remains intellectually incapable of providing the leadership that can help address the country’s critical challenges, most of which were compounded under his lackluster presidency, which was devoid of vision and direction. On the other hand, if he does realize that he is only a tool for such a self-seeking agenda against the interest of his own region but plays along, he lacks moral scruples, principles or integrity. Such a person cannot be entrusted with power. Once it is firmly in his grip, he will ruthlessly utilize it to promote his selfish interest and agenda especially having learnt appropriate lessons from his past naivety and errors.
The enviable heights Jonathan has attained in politics rising from Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President and ultimately President was courtesy of the PDP, which provided him its platform. If he can so readily ditch the party and swallow the bait to return to power on the platform of the APC that ruthlessly attacked, disparaged and did everything to destroy the PDP, then Jonathan can sacrifice anybody or principle for his personal, selfish interest. Indeed, the tiny clique plotting his return to power in the APC may be making the greatest mistake of their lives. I suspect that Jonathan may not be as unintelligent and naive as those who assume they can use him to achieve a narrow, sectional agenda think. He may end up being the one using them to their eternal regret.
Jonathan and his inner circle obviously see the APC offer as his most likely and viable route to return to the power he so ignobly lost in 2015, a most unexpected, unsolicited gift. He has tasted the presidency before and knows the immense powers of the office. Today, he may act timid, pliable and ready to abide by conditions laid down by those promoting his return to office. Once he is back in power and fully in charge, Jonathan knows no one can force him to abide by any agreement unknown to the constitution. His old friends and associates within the PDP will quickly swarm around him and constitute a new power clique. Those who occupy high office and wield enormous influence in the APC government today will have great difficulty even to have access to an elected Jonathan back in power.
It will be a God given opportunity for the PDP to repay those leading members of the ruling party who, after its loss in 2015, disgraced many of its leaders, harassed them in courts, seized their funds and property and sent them to prison among others. If the APC allows the PDP to come back to power in 2023 either indirectly through Jonathan or directly through an Atiku victory at the polls, that will be the current ruling party’s regrettable fate. The ceaseless unscrupulous schemers and manipulators within the party had better think deeply.