By Mideno Bayagbon
irst, a full confession. I was one of the very few Nigerians who were let into the secret, about 18 months ago, when the idea was first mooted. Two of the proponents at different times, but within a week of each other, approached me, in Europe. The idea was to find out from me, first what I thought of the idea. Secondly, how I think the media and Nigerians will receive the idea of President Goodluck Jonathan been drafted to run for the 2023 elections. Yes, they had approached me as a friend and as an expert on the media in Nigeria.
Surprisingly, the two gentlemen, nationalist and proud Nigerians, were both of the Fulani extraction. One was a former national political player who at a time was a PDP gubernatorial aspirant. The other, a strong APC chieftain. I was told, leaders across the divide in Nigeria will find a way to manage his emerging, either as the PDP or APC candidate. They were sure, Nigerians will go for it. Jonathan, they told me, has been catapulted into a hero by the Buhari government. This, they said, is because President Buhari has disappointed almost everyone who supported him to oust the Jonathan government. Jonathan, they confessed, was more loved out of power and popular now than when he was in Aso Rock. He, they further argued, is the kind of candidate the nation needed in this turbulent time to cement her unity and knock her wobbly legs back into shape.
Apart from the above, they further schooled me. Jonathan becoming president again will help solidify the rotation arrangement in the country. It will also help to assuage the north. Given that the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua did not complete his first four year tenure, and Jonathan had to step in half way, the north feels cheated. They believe they have had an unfair deal. Unlike the South which had Obasanjo who spent eight years and Jonathan, six; by the time Buhari completes his eight year tenure next year, the north would have done only 10 years to the South’s 14 under the new democratic dispensation.
Jonathan coming back will only spend four years, constitutionally. His deputy or whoever will succeed him will come from the North. The equation, they argued, will balance out at the end of that northerner’s eight year tenure. So, to them, it is a win win solution for all.
Nothing was said of the possibility of someone waking up one day and heading to the Supreme Court for an interpretation of tenure of Presidents. Given that the constitution specifically stipulates a maximum of eight years for any Nigerian, is the constitution not violated if Jonathan comes back as President and wants to do a four year tenure? Is there not a hidden trap somewhere? Are power manipulators banking on this for possible manipulation to short circuit the system, legally? Will it be tenable before the wigs of the Supreme Court that Jonathan merely completed the tenure of Yar’Adua and is therefore entitled to a four year tenure? Forget that one, i was told. He will serve his four year. Really?
Our discussions were at the height of the public anger against the Buhari government on several fronts. First, the nation was tottering on the brink, threatened by the nepotistic appointments and policies which many saw could lead to the nation imploding. President Buhari was in full bloom as a tribal, ethnic and religions bigot. These were further compounded by the President’s perceived economic, social and governmental incompetence.
This was also at the crescendo of the rampaging Fulani herdsmen killing, and raping, and kidnapping, and destroying and annexing Nigerians farms. These went on, especially in the South, without a whimper, and the seeming nodding connivance, of the Buhari government. Regional security groups like the Amotekun were beginning to sprout all over the country. It was evident that unless something urgent was done to ameliorate the situation, Nigeria was perhaps on the road to Rwanda.
So it was understandable that in the heat of the incompetence and nepotistic rule, leaders from across the country dug deep to try and find a nationally acceptable solution, to find an ameliorating balm. Bringing back President Goodluck Jonathan, an humble, self effacing man, who some say did more to lift more northern poor out of poverty than the current government, was prominent on the card. I was told the north will easily accept him. And if the voting pattern in the South in 2015 was anything to go by, and his popularity on the public mind, the South will easily accept him.
My answer to then was simple: If I were Jonathan, I will thank them profusely. But i will say, No, thank you. I told them, Jonathan would be a fool to contemplate coming back to run for the presidency of the country. What was he still looking for? What did he forget in Aso Rock? I told them President Jonathan falling for the gimmick that he is the only one who can unite the country in these trying times, will be tantamount to a man standing up his god, to challenge him to a wrestling match. God chose him and propelled him from obscurity and made him Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President and President. The only time he bought a form and contested election was when he was already President. No Nigerian ever has been this fortunate.
Since then, I have been monitoring the body language of President Jonathan; and I have been in constant touch with his close aides and allies. There is no doubt that President Jonathan is flattered by the new interest in him. Who won’t be? I know he is, however, still of two minds. At more than two occasions he had almost succumbed and jumped into the frail. But so far better judgment has helped, in swaying him to dey his dey; to sidon look.
It is clear to some of those around him that those pursuing the agenda of having him run for the office again have their ulterior motives. What is however not clear, is that should he choose to run under the APC, which is the most serious in having him fly their flag, he should be ready for whatever comes to him. It is a possibility that he is been programmed to fail; being programmed to be rubbished by the political puppeteers, the owners of the system in the APC.
There are assumed 206 million people in the country. To say that only a Jonathan, who cannot sincerely account for how he was propelled to the pinnacle of governance, in a country like Nigeria, is capable of bringing about peace and unity, will be stretching a fair argument too far. He has had his chance. He has tried his best. To this former President who his opponent painted as incompetent and corrupt, there is a catch somewhere in the renewed call for him to run for the presidency.
Are they saying Jonathan and Rotimi Amaechi and Tinubu will now be in the same party and will line up, side by side, to canvass for the flag of the APC? Or that he will now line up with the likes of Nyesom Wike in PDP to contest in the primaries? Let’s assume, President Jonathan is more self-respecting than that; that he is wiser than those who are pushing him for eventual disgrace. Wise counsel should dictate that he should relax and enjoy the international acclaim he currently enjoys; he should remain an elder statesman.