Some All Progressives Congress leaders have stepped up moves to adopt former President Goodluck Jonathan as the party’s consensus presidential candidate in 2023.
The PUNCH on Tuesday learnt the moves formed part of the discussions between the former President and the APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, in Abuja on Monday night.
It was gathered that already, the party leaders, including two northern governors, had reached out to other members of the National Working Committee to ensure the adoption of Jonathan as the consensus candidate.
But it was learnt that the moves by the former President and his supporters had generated a groundswell of anger from other contestants, who felt the plan would amount to injustice if it sailed through.
The ex-president and his backers were demanding that he should be adopted as the consensus candidate without going through indirect or direct primaries.
Sunday PUNCH on April 23 reported that Jonathan had given some conditions for his backers in the APC before he could join the party’s presidential race.
According to the report, the former President is seeking an open endorsement of his presidential ambition by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Jonathan is also insisting that he should be saved the rigour of facing founding APC members including the national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo; former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha and the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, during the party’s presidential primaries.
A source, who was privy to the meeting between Jonathan and Adamu on Monday night said the ex-President had signified interest to join the APC presidential race.
The source stated, “He fears the backlash and the opposition he will meet from members who are already in the race. He is still insisting on consensus so that he will not face the rigour of indirect primaries.
“Already, his backers, including the national chairman have started working on the consensus arrangement. They have reached out to the few presidential aspirants from the North who will readily step down for Jonathan.”
Another source said, “Jonathan’s meeting with the APC chairman went well. He sought the party leadership’s support for his candidacy and also demanded assurances that he would be exempted from the mandatory screening and other stringent conditions in the form.
“He would not be available for the screening because he won’t be in the country for two weeks as he is going to Dakar, Senegal for the ‘Dialogue on sustaining democratic principles in the ECOWAS sub-region organised by the West African Elders Forum.’
A group, the Nomadic Herders and Almajiris, had on Monday obtained the APC N100m nomination form for the ex-President.
But Jonathan, in a statement by his spokesman, Ikechukwu Eze, disowned the group, saying he did not authorise any organisation to obtain the form for him.
Commenting on the plan to draft Jonathan into the APC presidential race, the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, said it would be difficult for the ruling party to campaign with Jonathan as its presidential candidate.
Umahi, who is also vying for the APC presidential ticket, said this shortly after he met with the President at the State House, Abuja, on a “Thank you” visit following last week’s visit to Ebonyi.
According to him, it will be difficult for the party to reconcile its policies and promises with those of the main opposition which brought Jonathan into power in 2011.
He stated, “We don’t forget people who have helped us, but on the question of joining, I may not say much about that because I’ve seen a lot of write-ups, denials, but if he decides to join and to run, it will, for me, become one of the wonders in this century.
“The reason is that if you go and see the campaign programmes of the APC and you now ask President Jonathan to come and run, I don’t know what will be our campaign promises and what will be the stories we’ll be telling Nigerians.
“I strongly believe that he was not aware of the forms and I want to believe that people that are mischievous would have bought the forms to embarrass him. But from what I read, he has quickly distanced himself from that. But as I said, if that is not the case, then the Guinness Book of Records is not totally filled up,” Umahi noted.
The governor also argued that the APC presidential ticket should be zoned to the South-East as he debunked the notion that the region was employing blackmail against the North.
The Ekiti State Coordinator, South West Agenda for Asiwaju Tinubu 2023, Senator Tony Adeniyi, in an interview with The PUNCH, said at Jonathan’s age and his level of education, he should not allow people to deceive him.
He asked, “Are those prompting him saying that the APC does not have people that can contest that they are calling on Jonathan who was ousted for his non-performance by the APC? Somebody who was described as clueless, what clue has he gotten now?
“We have a robust aspirant and candidate in Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who has shown that he is a strong force. He should just respect himself and go about doing whatever he is doing? What has he left in Aso Rock that he wants to come back for? If some people are pushing him for a single term, he should not be the scapegoat,” Adeniyi said.
It will be unfair – Pro-Osinbajo group
The Ekiti State Leader, Osinbajo Grassroots Organisation, Femi Adeleye, told The PUNCH that “it will be unfair if you come at the last minute and you are given such consideration, but if you see the primary format for the APC, there are guidelines that they will fill and sign, which shows that even if he comes in, he cannot be the candidate.”
APC can’t impose Jonathan — Group
When asked if it won’t be an injustice to founding members of the APC if Jonathan was made the party’s consensus candidate, the leader of the Grassroot Network for Asiwaju Tinubu group, Abiodun Mafe, said Jonathan could not be imposed on the party.
“Someone who is not a member of the board of directors of a company, can he be the managing director of that company?” he asked.
Jonathan is welcome, he can contest on APC platform – Katsina chairman
But the Katsina State APC Chairman, Aliyu Daura, in a chat with one of our correspondents on Tuesday night said there was nothing wrong if Jonathan contested on the platform of the party.
Daura stated, “He is welcome to our party. The party is big enough to accommodate all of us and he is also free to contest the Nigerian presidency under our party.”
His Bayelsa State counter, Dr Dennis Otiotio, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria also said Jonathan was free to join the party.
He stated, “The former president is not yet a registered member of APC. He is free to join any party of his choice.“We are open and willing to receive him into our fold, as a political party desirous of winning elections, the only way to go is by admitting people into the party,” Otiotio said
Meanwhile, the group, which obtained the presidential expression of interest and nomination forms for Jonathan, vowed that the former President would not leave the country without accepting them.
The Secretary of the Fulani Group, Usman Mohammed, who stated this in a chat with The PUNCH, said the forms were meant to surprise Jonathan.
He stated, “I believe you are aware of how we blocked his office in the FCT during our rallies in Kano, Suleja, Minna and Abuja, and forced him to come out to address journalists. It is the same approach.
“If he doesn’t accept our form, we won’t let him out of Nigeria,” he said.
Jonathan jets out to Dakar for conference on credible polls
A few hours after the Fulani group issued the threat, the former President on Tuesday arrived in Dakar, Senegal to participate in a sub-regional dialogue on sustaining democratic principles in West Africa.
His Spokesperson, Ikechukwu Eze, who disclosed this, said the event was organised by the West African Elders Forum.
Eze, in a statement, titled, ‘Ex-President Jonathan arrives Dakar for sub-regional dialogue on democracy, peace”, said Jonathan who is the chair of WAEF would be declaring the event open alongside Senegalese President, Macky Sall.
He said, “The two-day programme, beginning on May 12, 2009, will provide the opportunity for former heads of state and other thought leaders in the sub-region to review recent socio-political developments, identify challenges and offer some recommendations that would enhance credible elections and peaceful transition of power in the sub-region.
“Other notable leaders from the sub-region expected at the event include former Sierra Leonean President Ernest Koroma, former United Nations Special Representative to West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambas and former President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Thomas Ouedraogo.
“Participants at the dialogue will be focusing on many issues affecting the growth of democracy in the sub-region including constitutional term limits, credible elections as well as the return of military coups and unconstitutional change of government.
“They will also examine processes of galvanizing and harnessing subregional and regional responses to the socio-political challenges affecting West Africa’s democratic progress and advancement.
“Since its inauguration last year, WAEF, an initiative of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, has continued to champion causes that promote, peace, democracy and good governance in the sub-region.
“Two months ago, the Forum made up of mainly former Presidents and prime ministers from the sub-region convened a strategy meeting where they shared their thoughts on the democratic trends in West Africa.”
A group, the Igbo Leadership Development Foundation, said that it had not dropped its plan to sue Jonathan if he joined the presidential race.
The group Chairman/Director of Public Affairs, Dr Law Mefor, said their plan to challenge the ex-president in court was still in order.
According to Mefor, the foundation’s decision is not a mere threat.
“It is a commitment to democracy and its tenets. The ILDF, which I serve as vice chairman sees challenging the candidature of the former President as a duty we owe Nigerians in our collective efforts to grow democracy.
“The reason we have not directed our lawyers to do the needful is that both Jonathan and the Miyetti Allah which was earlier said to have purchased the form for him have denied it,” he said.
Mefor disclosed that though they saw the transfers from Heritage Bank for the forms for Jonathan and his curious visit to Adamu, he believed they still didn’t amount to anything.
“We must tarry till Dr Goodluck Jonathan declares and purchases the form or accepts a nomination form from any group. He may continue to deny but we know he has to attend the APC presidential screening if he is running.
The APC spokesman, Felix Morka, could not be reached for comment on alleged plan by the party to Jonathan as its consensus presidential candidate as he did not pick calls to his phone nor responded a WhatsApp message. “
Mokelu picks presidential nomination form as 28th candidate
In a related development, a former information minister, Chief Ikeobasi Mokelu on Tuesday purchased the APC of interest and nomination forms to emerge the 28th and last candidate to buy the form.
A statement by a member of Mokelu’s campaign organisation,Timothy Amah, assured that the former minister would emerge the candidate of the party during the primary “because of his experience.”
2023: INEC insists on June 3 as 18 parties demand primaries deadline extension
The 18 registered political parties under the aegis of Inter-Party Advisory Council on Tuesday appealed to the Independent National Electoral Commission to extend the deadline for the conduct of primary elections for the 2023 elections.
But the commission insisted that the June 3 deadline for primaries to pick candidates for the 2023 elections remained sacrosanct.
The national chairman of IPAC, Yabagi Sani, made the appeal in Abuja during an interactive session between political parties and INEC.
He begged the commission to shift the deadline by 37 days.
Giving reasons for the demand, Sani said the Sallah Holiday, forthcoming Ekiti and Osun states governorship elections and screening of the unprecedented large number of aspirants were some developments that would hamper timely and strict compliance by parties to the timetable.
Earlier, INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, reminded political parties of the necessity for strict compliance with the timelines for party primaries.
According to him, there are many inter-related activities that are associated with the timelines which must be carried out.
He stressed that any review to extend the timeline for one activity “would affect other activities and put unnecessary pressure on political parties and the commission.
“This will ultimately result in more complications than what the extension seeks to achieve. Therefore, the commission will not review the timelines.”