Jonathan 2023: Poisoned Chalice or Astute Politics?

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Is the compelling political logic of a power shift to the South forcing dodgy, new calculations by the Northern oligarchy ahead of the 2023 post-Buhari era? Louis Achi looks at the salient issues

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Nigeria’s ruling Northern oligarchy have two important dates on their minds – 2021 and 2023, respectively. For the former, in February 2021, she expects Hope, the Arab world first historic space probe to Mars to touch down on the red planet – set to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s formation.

Launched on July 19, 2020, the audacious 500-million km trip attempts something only the US, Russia, Europe and India, have succeeded in doing and speaks to the Emiratis’ bold vision and developmental ambition.

Meanwhile, in a flip vision back home, the ruling Northern oligarchy is plotting what could pass for its own ‘Hope’ project – the installation of a ‘safe bet’ to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, who concludes his second term in 2023. Towards this end, its shadowy political engineers are doing pre-flight testing of former President Goodluck Jonathan before the mission launch in 2023.

Five fundamental considerations are speculated to qualify the soft-spoken former president as the North’s beautiful bride: he will do only a constitution-specified 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 Southeast’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 an Igbo president.

Looking at the post-war big picture, the Igbo of the Southeast 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.

The fifth consideration is the reality that the North does not want or trust Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. Many in the Southern zones 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.

A speculated, interesting dimension to the unfolding plot is that the extant political calculations accommodate the possibility of Jonathan running on the platform of the main opposition PDP. More, 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 unfolding calculations.

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.
But the current speculated Northern plot is rousing interest in the South, which feels that power rotation must be maintained for the purpose of political stability.

However, many believe the South-south but was cheated in 2015 with gang up of other zones against Jonathan who hails from South-south which subsequently led to his defeat in 2015 election.
Some intimation that the North may be weighing its options for the post-Buhari era came in early August, 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 further 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. Further according to Daura, since Nigerians had tried the rotational presidency about three times already, it would be better to go for the most qualified candidate in 2023, irrespective of whether he comes from the North or South.

His position, which basically skewered the informal North-South rotational presidency template shored up suspicions that some elements from the North were perfecting plans to retain the presidency after Buhari’s second tenure lapses in 2003.

Not surprisingly, Daura’s position spawned a storm, not just because of the message but the sheer clout of the messenger. Mamman Daura is an alumnus of the Trinity College, Dublin. Comparable to Oxford and Cambridge, the Trinity College is a foremost nursery for grooming top-notch world leaders. In the face of extreme reactions from a broad swathe of important stakeholders, it would appear the region has tweaked its calculations.

Significantly, as the political drama unfolds, former President Jonathan has not expressed a clear position on the Northern plot. He has been more recently busy with statesmanlike assignments to Mali, which experienced a military coup recently. He was also at Buhari’s side at the Eagle Square, Abuja, during the recent 60th independence anniversary of the country.

THISDAY could not elicit a specific response from Jonathan’s minders on the trending matter, when it reached out to them, but a close source claimed the former president was too busy with his new role as peacemaker to worry about political permutations of 2023.
But will the humble biologist from Otuoke take up the building consensus around him to wade into the presidential fray, come 2023? That’s the big question!