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GEJ, APC, and the Presidency in 2023

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GEJ, APC, and the Presidency in 2023

 

Daily Reports Nigeria released what its editors jokingly dubbed an April Fool’s essay about the 2023 presidency on the first day of April this year. Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was the subject of the joke, but he was not the intended target. It was aimed at Nigerians, particularly politicians who have their eyes on the upcoming presidential elections in 2023.

To give their ‘scoop’ a sense of urgency, the editors said it was breaking news, which meant it had happened recently, perhaps within the last several hours. And what was this breaking news that DRN had access to and others didn’t? It was the fact that the former president had joined the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, in order to run for president in 2023.

What? Is it ever going to happen? After serving as deputy governor, governor, vice president, and ultimately president of the People’s Democratic Party since its founding in1999, is he now defecting to a party that routed him in the polls six years ago?

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It was nearly unbelievable. However, everything is conceivable in Nigerian politics. Former comrades can turn into enemies overnight, and non-speaking political gladiators can become dinner partners and lifelong friends.

Thousands of people read and shared the story, despite the fact that the online newspaper acknowledged in the last phrase that it was an April Fools’ joke.

While stories like this are what some Nigerians crave, the editors said, “This is just Daily Report Nigeria’s way of commemorating April 1st.”

According to online reports, GEJ will not be running under the umbrella party with which he has long been linked, but instead would be holding a broom from the All Progressives Congress (APC).

It was an April Fool’s hoax, according to the editors of DRN. However, for many Nigerians and the political elite, the likelihood of a GEJ president in 2023 is becoming increasingly apparent, to the point where PDP party stalwarts have expressed alarm. It’s easy to understand why.

In comparison to its adversary, the APC, the PDP has lost a lot of political ground in the last few years. Unexpected defections from the opposition to the ruling APC have occurred. PDP has lost at least three governors and a handful of senators.

It’s bad enough that the PDP has lost some notable members. The political ramifications of losing a strong cornerstone like GEJ to a competing party would be severe. Party leaders got to work nearly as quickly as they could spell PDP.

The first was former Senate President Bukola Saraki, who met and chatted with Jonathan in his Abuja house in February. Despite the fact that the meeting was secret, it was immediately evident why Saraki went on the trip in the first place: GEJ’s planned defection from the PDP to the APC.

The rumors persisted even after that august visit. Other PDP supporters followed Saraki’s footsteps to Jonathan’s house in the Federal Capital Territory when they reappeared. What was their goal? They went to Jonathan “with the sole purpose of persuading him not to join the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, which has been attempting to persuade him to do so.”

Five months after the DRN fake, Premium Times, a Nigerian online journal clearly more upmarket than the first and plainly with a larger readership among Nigeria’s policy wonks, produced a news item proclaiming how great it would be if ex-president Jonathan ran for president in 2023.

It’ll be “wonderful news” if Jonathan joins the APC–Official” was the headline. According to the allegation, which was written by Samson Adenekan, an official of the All Progressives Congress (APC) seemed upbeat about the potential of GEJ defecting to the rival APC. Not content with the transfer, the official anticipated that the former president would be granted the party’s presidential ticket in the upcoming presidential elections in 2023.

Premium Times has been watching a Channels TV interview with John Akpanudoedehe, a big-foot party member of the APC from the Niger Delta. It was released in mid-September by PT. In response to a question about GEJ’s rumoured impending switch from the PDP to the APC, Akpanudoedehe expressed optimism about the possibility of Jonathan switching parties.

“That will be excellent news,” Akpanudoedehe added, insisting that he was hearing the rumour for the first time. “We will gladly accept him. This will help the celebration as well.”

Jonathan will be accorded founding member status if he decides to join the ruling party and compete for the 2023 presidential ticket, according to the former senator, former Minister of State in the Federal Capital Territory, and current APC interim national secretary.

The ruling party had previously granted “a blanket approval to any individual that if you join APC today, it is as if you are a founding member of the party,” according to the interim secretary of the ruling party.

According to this argument, Jonathan has a chance to become the APC’s flag bearer if he leaves the PDP. Furthermore, there has been talk of zoning the APC presidential ticket to the south in 2023. To be sure, there are a slew of individuals vying for the APC’s presidential nomination.

When the primaries begin in the South East, scores of party members will be in line. Politicians from the South West are equally optimistic about securing the party’s 2023 ticket. Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a king maker who now wants to be king, is the most prominent of these.

Tinubu has legions of supporters in the north, in addition to the tremendous support he is sure to receive from voters in the south west.

Many in the north recall Tinubu’s role in the 2015 APC primaries, which his favoured candidate, Muhammdu Buhari, won, as well as the subsequent presidential election. He also has the financial means to mount a major campaign blitz. According to them, if any politician has ever merited retribution, Tinubu is the one, and now is the perfect time to repay him for his political investment in a presidential candidate who has a history of losing elections in Nigeria.

So, against heavyweight politicians like Jagaban, what are GEJ’s chances of even obtaining the APC ticket?

According to certain observers, the political calculus favours a Jonathan ticket for the ruling party in 2023. If he becomes the standard bearer and subsequently wins, he will only serve for one term because he has already served as president for five years. As a result, power is likely to return to the north.

“There is a general consensus that power should return to the south in 2023,” one pundit recently said, “but some northern groups believe it should be thrown open.”

“Because Jonathan has already served a first term, a Jonathan presidency will assure that the south keeps power for only four years before returning control to the north.”

Jonathan’s replacement believes that he “can be trusted with power,” which is a benefit. Jonathan is a welcome visitor in Aso Villa, more than five years after leaving power. In the last few years, he has met with PMB multiple times behind closed doors. Nothing about what they talked about has ever been made public. However, there are rumours that PMB himself may give the go-ahead when the time comes.

For one thing, he doesn’t think Jonathan is a “vengeful politician who can be trusted with authority.” He should be aware of the situation.

When Jonathan acknowledged defeat and welcomed the incoming president, the presidential election results were still being counted.

Post-election relations between presidential candidates are notoriously tense. In 1983, for example, President Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria declined to shake hands with Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Unity Party of Nigeria. Awolowo’s right hand was in a plaster cast.

There does not appear to be any animosity between Jonathan and his replacement. GEJ, for example, visited PMB five times in Aso Villa between 2020 and 2021.

“Buhari feels Jonathan can be trusted with power…he understands Jonathan is not spiteful,” as one Jonathan aide described it. Jonathan will also be unable to be dismissed as a political opponent by the PDP. Some PDP members would back him up, and his presence in the APC will encourage other PDP members to join.”

Despite these high hopes for the former president, some prominent APC members, notably those pulling for a Tinubu ticket and his hard-line adherents are not pleased with the move. Jonathan’s rumoured conversion to the APC and the likelihood of being the party’s flag bearer in 2023 enraged one of them recently.

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“We’ve heard about Jonathan joining the APC,” stated a Tinubu fan.

“He is welcome, but the attempt to give him the presidential nomination will fail miserably.” He shouldn’t expect to reap what he hasn’t sown. If Jonathan is given the ticket, it will be a slap in the face to those of us who have worked so hard for the party.”

Jonathan’s relationship with the APC predates today. Although a leading member of the PDP, Bayelsa discreetly canvassed for the APC candidate, David Lyon, who subsequently defeated his PDP opponent, Diri Buoye, during the governorship election in his own home state in 2019. An entourage of APC chieftains and members trooped to Jonathan’s rural residence in Otuoke to express their thanks shortly after Lyon’s victory, which was made possible by Jonathan.

(Buoye was disqualified and his victory was overturned due to a legal technicality in his running mate.) APC, on the other hand, recognized and appreciated Jonathan’s capable hand.

At the time, and afterward, overtures may or may not have been made. Jonathan’s numerous visits to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, added fuel to the fire of his reported defection. Then one of his aides came in.

 

GEJ, APC, and the Presidency in 2023

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