A recent revelation by former President Goodluck Jonathan that he was giving a thought to the pressure being mounted on him to throw his hat into the ring for 2023 presidential election may be his last gamble that could make or mar his political career, which has just recovered from the vicious campaigns of the All Progressives Congress, Ejiofor Alike reports
It is no longer news that the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) deployed all forms of propaganda, half-truths and outright lies to stampede former President Goodluck Jonathan and the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) out of power in the 2015 general election. Following PDP’s years of perceived arrogance on the corridors of power, those described as disgruntled opposition elements and other strange bedfellows, who had suffered real and perceived injustice in the hands of the then ruling party, found a common enemy in Jonathan and hurriedly formed a coalition to oust him. To dismantle PDP’s 16-year-old formidable political structure, APC wooed Nigerians with fake promises and lied against Jonathan and his party.
APC’s alleged penchant for deploying outright lies in its campaign of calumny against Jonathan’s administration even many years after it had won the election, made Nigerians to attach ‘Liar’ to the name of a top official of the party.
The promoters of APC used all kinds of derogatory words such as ‘clueless,’ ‘dumb,’ and ‘drunkard’ to describe Jonathan’s administration. Jonathan, at a stage, had to point out that he was the most insulted sitting president. His administration was portrayed by the APC as the most corrupt government in Nigeria’s history.
All kinds of lies on how officials of his administration stole ‘mind-boggling’ sums of money were peddled by the leaders of the APC. A serving governor who was part of the then newly inaugurated President Muhammadu Buhari’s entourage to the United States lied to Nigerians that a US official told him that one of Jonathan’s ministers was found with $6 billion in the United States. He, however, hid his head in shame when the US reacted to his false claim. Unfortunately, most of the Jonathan’s aides, who could have countered all the lies of APC were too arrogant to meet the press or respond to enquiries and were only jolted to the reality when Jonathan had lost his position.
When it eventually sacked PDP, the APC-led administration displayed the worst form of cluelessness when it spent almost six months without forming a cabinet. Within those months, the country was merely ruled by what became known as ‘Buhari’s body language.’
Many analysts have described the period as the early warning sign, which exposed APC’s cluelessness. Strong indications that the party would throw Nigerians under the bus emerged when top officials of the party claimed that they no longer understood the meaning of restructuring, which was one of the party’s campaign promises.
It took sustained pressure by Nigerians for the party to set up a committee headed by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State. However, the setting up of the committee only served to hoodwink Nigerians as its major recommendations such as the devolution of powers, resource control, and the creation of state police were swept into the dustbin. All other promises about strengthening the Naira against the dollar, crashing the price of petrol by making Nigeria a refining hub, ending the subsidy regime, eradicating corruption, creating jobs and fighting insecurity all turned out to be a ruse.
Insecurity, for instance, which was restricted to the North-east when APC took over, has spread like wildfire as no part of Nigeria is safe today. Bandits, which have since joined the list of terrorists ravaging the country, now collect ransom, impose taxes and levies. These terrorists recently released the picture of a baby delivered by a woman in their custody, who was one of the passengers abducted during their attack on Abuja- Kaduna train.
When fuel subsidy jumped from the budgeted N286 billion to nearly N1 trillion in 2011, the chief promoters of APC went to the streets in protest, describing fuel subsidy as non-existent fraudulent scheme. The same party has funded the same fraudulent scheme under different nomenclatures for the past seven years. Petrol subsidy jumped to N672 billion between January and March this year alone and the APC-led administration recently earmarked N4 trillion for the scheme.
A party, which stigmatised the PDP and its members in 2015, using anti-corruption war as a ploy, is now being led by former chieftains of the PDP. It was not surprising when it was reported that the leaders of the APC visited Jonathan in 2020 to woo him with an offer of the party’s 2023 presidential ticket.
Among APC leaders, who visited the former president on his 63rd birthday in November 2020 included the then Chairman of APC Caretaker Committee and Yobe State Governor, Mallam Mala Buni; Kebbi State Governor, Mr. Atiku Bagudu, Jigawa State Governor, Abubakar Badaru, and the Ebonyi State Governor, Mr. Dave Umahi.
Though it was claimed that the visit was just to felicitate with him on that occasion, the fact that it was the first time the leaders of APC accorded him such respect since he lost power in 2015 made it suspicious.
Before the visit, tongues were already beginning to wag over sudden visits of Jonathan’s wife, Patience, to the First lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari at the Villa. Despite all the corruption allegations against Jonathan’s administration, no assets were traced to him in the orchestrated war against corruption by the APC-led administration. The new-found love between the First Lady and her predecessor had already unsettled some forces in the APC when Buni and his team made the surprise visit to Jonathan.
Nigerians have concluded that the approach to Jonathan by the ruling party was a validation of the claim by his supporters that he was unjustly removed from power despite his excellent performance. It also confirmed the claim by the PDP that all the accusations against Jonathan’s administration were false.
The question is: Will Jonathan accept this offer, which many have also described as a poisoned chalice?
Many analysts had expected the former president to quickly dissociate himself from the 2023 presidential election and the APC’s alleged offer. Strong indications that he was giving APC’s offer a deep thought emerged when he boycotted the activities of the PDP, including its last national convention.
As many Nigerians were still confused over his next political move, the former president last week gave a stronger indication that he was considering the offer when he hosted a large crowd of supporters, mostly youths and women that stormed his office in Abuja on a solidarity march to request his declaration, and persuading him to declare for the 2023 presidential poll.
Responding, Jonathan pleaded that they should give him more time to finalise his consultations. While Jonathan is considering the offer, the leader of the Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, had declared that he had allowed himself to be disgraced by coming out to say that he was even considering whether or not to enter the contest.
“The unfortunate thing is that President Goodluck Jonathan allowed himself to be disgraced by mentioning the fact that ‘I am considering whether to be president or not. For what?” Adebanjo queried.
Jonathan has three choices. If he succumbs to the pressure and loses the election, he will face the worst humiliation in his political life. If he throws his hat into the ring and wins the election, it will be the most glorious moment of his political career.
Finally, if he rejects the offer, his reputation will continue to recover from APC’s vicious attacks but his political career remains unfulfilled due to his failed bid to be re-elected in 2015.
Perhaps what Jonathan does not realise, is that being a statesman is by far more valuable to him. Since he left office, he has more stately respect than former military President General Ibrahim Babangida that every presidential aspirant is today going to meet for his blessings, and now he is set to put it to risk.