Analysis: Goodluck Jonathan and the 2023 Presidency *By Kazeem Ugbodaga

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Can former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan be thrice lucky? In the last few months, the former president is being linked with the 2023 presidency and he has not come out openly to debunk the idea and he has not also made his intention know officially that he is seeking a return to Aso Rock he vacated in 2015.
Jonathan, who profited from the downfall of late former Governor of Bayelsa State, Depreye Alamieyesiegba to become governor after the he was impeached for bringing the nation to ridicule in London by jumping bail, was also lucky when former President Olusegun Obasanjo picked him to be late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s running mate. He profited from the corruption charges leveled against former Governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili by the EFCC to pick the slot.
His luck was stretched further when Yar’Adua died in office. He became the president and ended Yar’Adua’s tenure. He found love among Nigerians who overwhelmingly retain him as the president in 2011. He disappointed Nigerians after four years of infamous reign as president. Nigerians pushed him out and elected President Muhammadu Buhari who is now serving his second term in office.
With the dismal performance of Buhari in office in the last six years, many Nigerians regretted casting their votes for him, especially with wanton insecurity in the land. The nation is more than ever divided toward ethnic line. Fulani herdsmen are on the loose killing and maiming innocent Nigerians. Many are now describing Buhari’s government as worse than that of Jonathan.
With the role being played by Jonathan in Africa, leading ECOWAS team in several peace mediations, he has been endeared to Nigerians. He led ECOWAS Special Envoy to broker peace in Mali and others. These had made him to be in constant touch with Buhari in Abuja. After each of those trips, Jonathan would always hit Aso Rock to brief the president. That made him the only Nigeria’s ex-president to have visited Aso Rock several times in a year.
With his closeness to Buhari, tongues have begun to wag that there is something fishing between them, which is more than just reporting what transpired in his series of trips across Africa to the president.
Former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode first flew a kite on Jonathan’s 2023 presidency last year. Having witnessed the several successes of the former president in missions across Africa, Fani-Kayode said “what about bring back Jonathan in 2023?” He received bashings on social media for that. But Fani-Kayode added on December 5, 2020 that “GEJ is a blessing to Nigeria. He has been before and he will be again. Mark it down today.”
With several rumours rife about Jonathan’s 2023 presidential ambition, a public analyst and special adviser to the Peoples Democratic Party Chairman, Ike Abonyi, in his write up in New Telegraph rubbished move by Jonathan to stage a comeback. He wrote: “Many have expected former President Goodluck Jonathan to be forthright and unqualified in reacting to his name being dropped in some quarters as a hopeful for the Aso Rock in 2023. Instead, he has given open-ended answers that leave room for speculation.
“By Dr. Jonathan’s answers in the public domain, the Otuoke-born politician might be dreaming of returning to high office. In Nigeria, even the bizarre is possible in politics because political players tend to reason selfishly when it comes to domiciling political power. Jonathan’s reputation soared since 2015 when he enabled a peaceful transfer of power to the opposition, having lost the presidency to General Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressives Congress (APC). His famous quote – “my political ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian” – became a mantra and gave him a pride of place on a continent where sit-tight rules the waves and was once a credo.”
According to Abonyi, Jonathan’s international statesmanship could better be harnessed if he remained in the glory of relinquishing power to an opposition. “If I were Jonathan, I would resist anything that would lure me out of the current enviable status as a champion of democracy. Greed is a heart issue and like lust, it is more gullible than innocence. God help Nigeria,” he advised.
After Abonyi’s write up, a former Jonathan’s aide, Reno Omokri attacked him in his article: “No One Should Be Afraid of Jonathan.” According to Omokri, “Because if anybody should accuse former President Jonathan of selfishness, it should not be Ike, for obvious reasons. And it cuts to the bone when Ike says “political players tend to reason selfishly when it comes to domiciling political power.”
“As I write this, former President Jonathan is probably the most selfless person, not just in Nigeria, but in West Africa, and possibly Africa. Dr Jonathan and the word selfish do not belong in the same sentence. And I find it very disturbing that no less a person, than the special adviser to the Peoples Democratic Party Chairman, Ike Abonyi, would write this. Why? What type of gaslighting is this?”
Omokri added: “What the PDP needs now is unity, not a witch-hunt against Dr Jonathan. We ‘lost’ the 2019 Presidential election because we could not afford to put at least one man (or woman) as an agent in each of the 120,000 polling units in Nigeria on Election Day. We need to come together to make sure that that mistake is not repeated in 2023. And to do that, we need cohesion, internal unity, a pooling of our resources, and a network of committed party loyalists nationwide.
“Sowing seeds of discord, like Ike has done, will not help our cause. Not at all. In his New Year message, the Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, in a statement ironically released by Ike, urged Nigerians to use 2021 to save Nigeria. How does Ike and those he represents intend to do that by attacking the man who is the face of democracy in Africa?
“I mean, considering the effort former President Jonathan has put into advancing democracy in Africa, it almost amounts to sheer madness that someone who is a spokesman to his party chairman will write about him the way Ike has done. Look at what he has achieved in Mali as Special Envoy of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Nobody thought it was possible to bring peace to Mali, including some of those who applauded when GEJ was appointed.
“Yet, at significant risks to his life, Dr Jonathan went to Mali seven times, even visiting the troubled regions in the hinterland, and meeting the influential Islamic clerics who inspired fighters amongst the protesters. He finally persuaded the military junta to release ousted President Keïta on August 27, 2020. He got them to agree to a transitional government, sworn in on Friday, September 25, 2020, with Mr Jonathan in attendance.
“The PDP should be so proud of this effort, as well as Dr Jonathan’s role in advancing democracy in Tanzania, South Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mozambique. I am beside myself, trying to understand why Ike did what he did. What is the motive? It is not helpful to him or those he represents.” Jonathan retweeted Omokri’s article on his twitter handle, approving of it.
But whose interest is Abonyi trying to protect by writing such article? It is certain that Jonathan’s profile is causing ripples among the ranks and files of the PDP as there are many vested interests for the 2023 presidency.
While Omokri’s ranting has ended, four All Progressives Governors, were said to be rooting for Jonathan’s 2023 presidency under the banner of APC. Sources told the Nation that the group, led by a chieftain of the APC from Bayelsa and Jonathan’s political ally, was said to have met on two occasions to discuss the modalities of rolling out the campaign. A source, who spoke in confidence, said the Northern Governors, wanted the South-South to start the campaign while they play a supportive role in convincing the APC to give its ticket to the former President.
The source said the plot was to first begin a campaign for the South-South to complete its tenure in 2023.
The game plan is that the northern oligarchy knows that Jonathan will only spend one term in office instead of eight years, meaning that power will move back to the north quickly after the end of his tenure, which is more preferable for another southerner to remain in office for eight years. The APC has already agreed that power should to back to the south according to its internal arrangement.
If the plan goes well, Jonathan will defect to the APC and significant number of politicians in PDP across the South-South including Bayelsa will join him, paving way for his victory.
A kinsman of Jonathan and public analyst, Wisdom Ikuli, had earlier said there was nothing wrong in the move to bring Jonathan back to Aso Rock. He said: “If we say we are fighting for equity and we believe in justice and fairness then it demands that the people of South-South should be given the remaining one term because they have done one term. When they complete that one term it will now rotate to another geopolitical zone.”
Be that as it may, Jonathan, as a Nigeria is qualified to seek a second term in office, but slugging it out with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar for the PDP’s ticket will be very interesting. Atiku is desperate to be president and will do anything to get the ticket. If he goes to the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who is also desperate to become president is there waiting.
But Jonathan has not made his interest for 2023 presidency known, but he refused to rule out his interest for position. When asked late last year on the matter, he said: “It is too early to talk about that.”

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