In a major political development fuelled by power intrigues and permutations, Buhari supporters are considering backing former President Goodluck Jonathan for 2023 presidential run.
The thinking is that it will satisfy the increasing clamour for power shift to the South. Buhari’s close loyalists believed that Jonathan would be harmless to their group interest and as such the right person to take over if power were to shift to the South, “he handed over power peacefully and nursed no bitterness against anyone and therefore will not be a threat to the interest of the north,” according to a top source in Buhari’s camp who didn’t want to be identified.
The attraction to Jonathan’s possible candidacy is that he will serve just one term of four years.
In a related development yesterday, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), disclosed that it would not discriminate against any person in the build-up to the next presidential election on its platform, including a former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who the party said was free to take another shot in 2023.
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According to multiple sources within the northern establishment spoken to by THISDAY, the idea of having Jonathan succeed Buhari is a very attractive preposition, “the former president is a good man, he did well in his first term and we believe he has learnt his lessons and where he failed and is unlikely to repeat those mistakes that cost him the presidency in 2015. He did alot for the North, so why not?” Another source privy to the development also told THISDAY last night “yes we are looking at the Jonathan option, he is a safe bet and of course a very amiable gentleman, who is not likely to rock the boat.”
Thus, within the northern establishment, the consensus is beginning to gain momentum, with Buhari’s loyalists pushing the button to have Jonathan succeed their boss.
THISDAY checks also showed a growing number of influential northern leaders of thought are favourably disposed to the idea of Jonathan’s second coming.
This is particularly because a majority of those, who have bought into this idea, were of the view that the former president represented the shortest route for the north to regain power.
By virtue of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended, one can only be sworn in as president for two terms of four years, although Jonathan too had also taken the oath of office twice.
Those supporting Jonathan reason that if another southerner emerges, more so a young candidate, he is likely to spend eight years in office before power returns to the north.
The north, and Buhari in particular are said to be impressed with the way Jonathan conceded defeat and proceeded to hand over power, when he lost the 2015 election and the way he has since conducted himself out of power.
Multiple sources told THISDAY that Buhari and his loyalists have over the years come to see Jonathan as someone, who is trustworthy and dependable, and to whom he could hand over power in 2023.
For instance, they also point at the growing friendship and bond between both men, as Buhari on many occasions, had expressed his astonishment at the way Jonathan conceded defeat and praised him as a statesman.
One of such occasions was in January 2018, Buhari at a dinner for top members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) at the presidential villa in Abuja had said he went temporarily into a coma when former President Goodluck Jonathan called him to concede defeat in the 2015 presidential election.
He had said then he felt Jonathan had stayed long enough in office to have caused problems when he lost the election. He described the former President’s decision to accept defeat as a “great” one.
“When the former president rang me, I went temporarily into a coma,” the president said.
“I will never forget the time. It was quarter past 5 p.m. and he said he called to congratulate me and that he had conceded.
“He asked if I heard him, and I said yes. I thanked him for his statesmanship,” he said.
“The truth is after being a deputy governor, a governor, vice president and president for six years, and he took that decision is great. He could have caused some problems. He had stayed long enough to cause problems.”
In 2015 after losing the election, in an unprecedented step, Jonathan had called Buhari to concede defeat and issued a statement the following after conceding, urging his supporters to accept the result. He urged his supporters to follow “due process” in channeling their frustrations at losing the election amid fear of violence. He re-echoed his now famous statement during the 2015 campaign that his his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian.
“Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian,” Jonathan said in a statement issued after his election defeat. “The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else.”
These loyalists of the president have further cited the fact that Jonathan was the only former head of state with Buhari during the 60th independence anniversary celebration of the country at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
In what is certain to put more pressure on the President Muhammadu Buhari government, the highly respected General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye, yesterday, said there was an urgent need to restructure Nigeria, warning of a heightened danger of breakup if the country’s leaders fail to reform.
Adeboye, who added his voice to the growing clamour for restructuring of the country, spoke at the 60th Independence Day Celebration Symposium organised by RCCG and the Nehemiah Leadership Institute. The General Overseer spoke on the theme, “Where will Nigeria be in 2060.” He, however, suggested a merger of the British and American systems of government for Nigeria, stressing that the country should develop a system peculiar and unique to it.
The cleric, who had always been reluctant to criticise the president, said the Buhari administration must carry out the restructuring of the country “as soon as possible” to avoid a breakup of the various social and ethnic components.
The 78-year-old stated, “Why can’t we have a system of government that will create what I will call the United States of Nigeria? Let me explain. We all know that we must restructure. It’s either we restructure or we break, you don’t have to be a prophet to know that one. That is certain – restructure or we break up.
“Now, we don’t want to break up, God forbid. In restructuring, why don’t we have a Nigerian kind of democracy? At the federal level, why don’t we have a President and a Prime Minister?
“If we have a President and a Prime Minister and we share responsibilities between these two so that one is not an appendage to the other. For example, if the President controls the Army and the Prime Minister controls the Police. If the President controls resources like oil and mining and the Prime Minister controls finance and inland revenue, taxes, customs etc. You just divide responsibilities between the two.
“At the state level, you have the governor and the premier, and the same way, you distribute responsibilities to these people in such a manner that one cannot really go without the other. Maybe we might begin to tackle the problems.
“If we are going to adopt the model, then we need to urgently restore the House of Chiefs. I have a feeling that one of our major problems is that we have pushed the traditional rulers to the background and I believe that is a grave error.
“Without any doubt, we must restructure and do it as soon as possible. A United States of Nigeria is more likely to survive than our present structure.”
The GO, as Adeboye is fondly called, seemed to echo the sentiment expressed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo recently. Osinbajo had at a recent church service to commemorate Nigeria’s independence anniversary, said, “Fortunately for us, our walls are not yet broken. But there are obvious cracks that could lead to a break if not properly addressed.”
Before the vice president gave this submission, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had last month declared, “Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state; economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.”
Adding his voice to the raging clamour for restructuring, Adeboye insisted that the place of traditional rulers should not be expunged from the leadership of the country.
He said, “Go to any town in Nigeria, everybody in the town knows the paramount ruler in the town and they respect him (but) many of them don’t even know the name of the chairman of their local government.
“The traditional rulers are the actual landlords. They command the respect of their people. Their people will listen to them much more, I am sorry to say, than they will listen to some politicians.”