Will former President Goodluck Jonathan succumb to pressure and take his chances in 2023? Chuks Okocha asks
What started as a whispering campaign about the muted bid to push a former Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, into the 2023 presidential race, is gradually becoming more and more deafening.
The two major political parties – the opposition PDP and the ruling APC – have both openly wooed the immediate past President under various guises. But political watchers understand the veiled and the unveiled meanings of these consultative shuttles.
The most recent of these curious visits took place days ago and it was by the APC governors. The PDP reaction showed the party was rattled, because though the reason for the meeting was not disclosed, everyone could see it wouldn’t be unconnected to the forthcoming 2023 presidential election.
The PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, recently told those who still doubt it that the former President was eminently qualified to run and that the PDP ticket was open to him and all Nigerians.
It was the second time the APC chieftains paid the former President a visit, with each one interpreted as a drafting move. The former President, during his ill-fated 2015 re-election campaign, predicted that Nigerians would wish for him if they allowed the APC propaganda to succeed.
Then, the man was believed to be the nation’s problem and that his main challenger, Muhammadu Buhari was capable of leading Nigeria to the Eldorado.
Radical reforms and changes promised by the APC were a whopping failure in total but standing out are the fight against corruption, insecurity and economy. Six years after taking over, things have grown from bad to worse in all those challenges that made Nigerians to look in the direction of the retired general and his APC.
Jonathan didn’t perform badly after all and his administration is now being considered in the realm of a golden age following the underwhelming performance of the ruling party.
If indeed his whispering campaign to come back holds out, his campaign is already going on by the incumbent’s poor performance. It is already clear that Jonathan is basking in the euphoric atmosphere of his being courted as the beautiful bride by both the opposition and ruling party.
Who wouldn’t be? Nigerian politicians actually have no scruples and are not interested in adhering to noble principles and patriotic politics that can help national cohesion and consensus.
They are not statesmen otherwise they will be thinking of the next generation. Unfortunately, power merchants and influence peddlers are already thinking about the next election and how to either retain power or grab it.
However, Jonathan’s pathway to 2023 presidential election is dogged and shackled by many obstacles – some moral, and some legal. In terms of paper qualification, Jonathan holds a PhD of the Rivers State University in Zoology and therefore holds the ultimate degree, which no country in the world has demanded from its presidential aspirants.
Talk of experience – Jonathan has been Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President, Acting President and ultimately President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, in terms of experience, Jonathan could be the most experienced Nigerian where it comes to politics and governance.
There are however two factors besieging Jonathan and they are legal and moral issues.
According to Dr. Law Mefor, a Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist, there is a law debarring the former President from contesting in 2023. The law in question is: “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (4th Alteration No 16) Act, 2017)”.
“This new constitutional amendment may have been contemplated following the rancor occasioned by the same Jonathan contesting the 2015 Presidential Election. Recall that the Northern segment of the country believed Jonathan was not qualified based on rotation of presidential power between North and South Nigeria and power ought to have shifted to the North in that season.
“There was also a gentlemanly agreement, which was reached with him (Jonathan) to go for only one term before he contested the 2011 Presidential Election. He reneged on it,” he said.
He explained that, “In law, express mention of one thing is said to be an express exclusion of another. The constitutional amendment assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari on 4th June, 2018, does not permit former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to contest in 2023 unless repealed.
“The extant section barring Jonathan states in its explanatory note… “The act alters the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to disqualify a person who was sworn in as President or Governor to complete the term of an elected President or Governor from being elected to the same office for more than a single term.”
According to him, “To give effect to the disqualification of any person, who has been sworn-in to complete the term of a President or a governor from contesting more than one term, sections 137 and 182 of the 1999 Constitution were amended to ensure the same.
“Then the question: is Dr. Goodluck Jonathan qualified to contest the 2023 Presidential Election? Where does this leave off Jonathan in view of his speculated return in 2023? Going by the express provisions of the said amendment on tenure, Jonathan is disqualified unless this extant law, which is now deemed a constitutional provision, is not repealed and set aside”, he exposed
He did not stop there, Mefor, further said, “Perhaps the real issue is the moral burden. Many would say that morality is inconsequential and a miniscule issue but it is the main plank where other ancillary issues can stand. One good turn they say deserves another.
“The South East supported the Goodluck Presidency to the end and got dubbed 5% voters by President Muhammadu Buhari and have continued to suffer marginalisation and exclusion as a consequence since Buhari was sworn in on May 29, 2015. It is due the zone has paid and now is pay back time”, he explained
Further, he said, “The most important support the South East zone needs now in their question to produce the nation’s President in 2023 is that of Goodluck Jonathan. That is why the simmering moves to draft the former President may spell doom for the push and the only one who can stop it is Goodluck Jonathan himself.
“As a Jonathanian myself, I once again call on the former President, a beneficiary of the presidential zoning arrangement of the PDP, to repudiate the moves to drag him into the ring. Even if he wins the race, it will still be a mortal blow to the zone that gave him their all and stood solidly with him even when most of the PDP chieftains deserted and betrayed him in 2015.
“The implication will be the South East waiting for 12 years since power will logically return to the North after his 4 years spell.
“As the patriot we know him to be, Dr. Jonathan has to openly denounce this unfortunate whispering campaign before it becomes a loud distracting noise. These dark political forces want to sever the fraternal bond between the South East and South-south for their selfish purpose, as well as unnecessarily overheat an already chaotic polity.”
Unfortunately, Mefor did not address the fact that a law cannot be retroactive in enforcement. Jonathan left office in 2015 and the law was passed in 2018, even if he was had in mind when amending it, it could not have affected him.
Thus, if Mefor’s admonition was predicated only on morality and sentiments, perhaps, his argument would have been considered in some quarters, even though debatable. But from the point of view of the law, others, who are knowledgeable in law disagree with him.
Apart from above, how would he navigate his 2023 presidential ambitions, if it were to be true? Would he get the support of the Southwest? What of the South-south? There are hawks in the two zones waiting to devour Jonathan, should he venture.
For in the APC, it is a no go area. How would he manage the Tinubus and the Osinbajos as well the Kayode Fayemis? Then, what of the South-south? For both the APC and the PDP. It is a no go area. The body language of the Rivers State Governor, Nysom Wike is clear. Then, what of the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, how would Jonathan navigate these sharks infested political terrain? Again, everything is possible in politics and only time will tell.
Pix: Jonathan…all eyes on him