2023: The odds favour Goodluck Jonathan
BY MAHMOOD JIBRIL
In the next few weeks, the two main political parties in our country– the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP)– will bring out their presidential candidates for the 2023 election. In the game of wits necessary in party politics, it will be the ruling party that will be expected to first unveil its flag bearer before its rival shows its sagacity or the lack of it by bringing out a person who will, in their strategic calculations, gain upper hand in the election.
Who, in the wisdom of the APC leaders and other stakeholders who have a right to determine who the party will throw up, will they choose for the forthcoming contest? Going by the rumours going the rounds, the political horse trading taking place right now in the APC and the political realities on ground, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan may emerge as the not- too -surprising consensus candidate of the party.
The weaknesses of the APC candidates jostling for the position in the party, who the rival PDP is likely to pick as its candidate and the geo-political calculations of Nigerian politics are some of the factors that will swing the contest in favour of the gentleman politician from Otuoke.
For instance, it is getting increasingly clear that at the end of the day, it is former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar who will clinch the ticket of the PDP. Should that happen, as looks certain, a Tinubu cannot stand the political firepower of Atiku. With Tinubu’s many enemies everywhere now in the country, including his base, Atiku will trump him in his very South West. The Waziri of Adamawa will also rout him in the South East and South South and defeat him utterly in the whole North.
The only person who may have a fighting chance against Atiku is incumbent Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo but his good chances are being blunted by his erstwhile mentor, the Jagaban of Borgu who feels betrayed by his mentee. Right now the bitterness Tinubu has against Osinbajo is greater than any that he feels towards a rival candidate of another party. The way things are, Tinubu can even command his loyal followers in the South West to vote for an Atiku in the presidential election than express a South West solidarity with Osinbajo if he misses being candidate and it is he who Osinbajo gets it at his expense.
Talks that Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, has a secret covenant with President Muhammadu Buhari to succeed him cannot make Amaechi, who is loathed in the South South as a betrayer, to emerge as APC candidate and if he by any wee chance emerges, he will capitulate easily to any other opposition candidate even if it is not the formidable Atiku, in the real presidential election. The calculation of Amaechi and the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who recently launched his presidential bid as persons of ‘’Igbo Descent’’ from the South South does not wash with the mainstream Igbo in the South East. The emergence of any of these two on the platform of any of the two main parties will further frustrate and infuriate the Igbo across the Niger who will see them as great spoilers used to scuttle the long-held ambition of the Igbo to take their place in Nigerian politics as the other missing leg of the tripod.
Another man that may emerge as the dark horse in the APC is the least talked about Pastor Tunde Bakare who has styled himself as ‘’Number 16’’, saying that he has been ordained by heaven to be Nigeria’s sixteenth president after Muhammadu Buhari. Bakare was the running mate to Buhari in his third futile run for the presidency and his relation with Buhari has remained warm if not chummy so his chances of springing a surprise with the full backing of Buhari and party elders of the APC, especially in the North, are quite high. But should he emerge as candidate on the APC platform, he, like others already analysed, will be made mincemeat of by Atiku.
The best bet for the APC, it would seem, is, therefore, none other than President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. As a former president, his reach is wider than any of the politicians seeking to be president in both parties. He is by far the easiest, the cheapest and the least controversial of all the candidates to sell to the Nigerian electorate.
It is a fact to say that Jonathan is the hottest political property to sell across Nigeria right now. He will need no feverish pitch to sell him in the South South. He can be easily sold to voters in the South East in whose time the Igbo had the fairest deal they have ever had in post-colonial Nigeria. Even if an Atiku emerges as candidate of the PDP, he cannot have the North whole sale to himself as would be the case with any other southern candidates. Jonathan will easily divide the North as some of his loyalists are entrenched across the core north and the Middle Belt states.
Ordinary northerners now collectively realise that it was during Jonathan’s time that education was given a great push in northern Nigeria to take care of the region’s millions of out-of-school children.
All points considered, Jonathan towers heads and heels over all other candidates seeking to emerge as APC candidate for president in 2023. With him against Atiku, Nigeria will have an excited contest next year.
I foresee that he will eventually emerge a consensus candidate on the platform of the APC. This will not be surprising at all to some of us keen watchers who know that in politics most candidates for political offices emerge based on what is called the non-denominational factor in politics in which the least objectionable character is the one that usually triumphs.
As a genial, easy-going and non-controversial figure in Nigerian politics, Jonathan has wide acceptability. He is not tarred by the brush of ethnicity, regionalism and religion. His credentials as a democrat beats many in Nigerian politics. He voluntarily conceded defeat to Buhari when his party lost and he did so as a sitting president who had many chances to manipulate things to his favour. But he refused to do so. That is a man of honour and integrity.
Jonathan’s electoral value is now sky high. Any party, especially my own party, the APC, that has the good sense to pick him as its presidential candidate has gained over 50 per cent of the votes even before the contest starts. In Nigeria’s political parlance, Jonathan is the beautiful bride of presidential election come next year 2023.
But it is now left in the hands of the political operators in the ruling party to see how they play the game. That party is obviously at the crossroads of political history. The circumstances of our country now call upon that party to make very difficult decisions which will not only ensure its very survival, but more importantly, help the nation navigate its way through its most turbulent times.
As the clock ticks faster towards 2023, many of us hold our breath as we await the outcome of a crucial decision to be taken in the next few days.
Jibril writes from Sokoto.