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2023 Presidency: Jonathan in the mix

…To douse tension

…The northern connection

–  Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura’s speech fueled fear of likely cancellation of the rotational presidency

Razaq Bamidele

Although the next election is more than two years from now, politicians are already warming up for the contest. To a political layman, 2023 is far away. But to the initiated, it is nearby. To those in the latter category, preparations for the next election always commence from the day the tenure of the previous government ended. And can anybody blame them if politics is truly about seeking for power?

While some would be consulting to contest in the next election on different political platforms for various political offices, others would be searching for sponsorship just as another set would be searching for whom to sponsor. It is more like a business venture in which gladiators invest with the sole objective of reaping bountifully later.

Nigeria is forever in the sowing and harvest seasons for ’politipreneurs’.

And it is against that background the polity is being heated up in the country lately. And the reason for tension stemmed from the debate over which part of the country should produce the next president. A school of thought is of the conviction that based on the gentleman agreement on rotational presidency and principle of power shift, the slot should automatically go to the South.

On the other hand, some hardliners are of the view that since the arrangement is not contained in the 1999 Constitution, it cannot be binding on anybody because it is unconstitutional. And since democracy is a game of numbers, the North that appears to boast of superior numerical strength believes that the onus is on the region to decide where power would reside post-Muhammadu Buhari era.

Interestingly too, there has been palpable tension in the air within the South that comprises South-east, South-south and the South-west. While the south-west is laying claim to the slot, as its right for whatever reason, the South-east is saying it is its turn based on the fact that the slot had eluded them since the commencement of the present political arrangement in 1999.

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Former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, has repeatedly advocated a Nigerian president of an Igbo origin for the sake of justice, equity and fair play.

Eminent personalities and political stakeholders outside the South-east also buy into Ezeife’s belief that his region should be allowed to produce the next president.

Former minister of works, Sen. Adeseye Ogunlewe, as well as Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) former Deputy National Chairman (South), Chief Olabode George, had also added their voices to the need for a president of Igbo extraction.

A former speaker of the House of Representatives also joined the chorus that if a competent Igbo man surfaced, he would support him. He made this clear in a recent interview.

Little wonder then that not a few contenders from that region are warming up to throw their hats into the presidential ring in 2023. Mention could be made of former Imo State governor and now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, and his Abia State counterpart, Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu, among others.

The turn of events as per the way the debate on the next zone to produce Mr. President has deflated the perceived ego of the South-west, which has been wearing the posture of the anointed heir apparent to the Aso Villa presidential throne after Buhari.

However, the belief that the South-south has also enjoyed of the coveted Aso Villa seat, according to The Nigerian Xpress findings, would still be in contention soon as another permutation is in the offing over the need for that region to come back for proper completion of its second term in office. Details of that would appear in the course of this analysis.

The palpable fear pervading the land over the likely cancellation of the rotational presidency was heightened with the recent view of Mamman Daura, a nephew to President Muhammadu Buhari, that selection of who becomes president in Nigeria should not be through rotational clauses, preferring competence and capability instead.

Having interpreted the view as hacking down the principle of power shift, not a few people shot down Daura’s viewpoint, suspecting a hidden agenda.

The Presidency had to come out with a strong defence, washing President Muhammadu Buhari’s hands clean of any association with his nephew’s remark, describing it as “his personal opinion.”

However, having observed that the hot debate over Daura’s opinion as drifting to mini anarchy in the land, another respected elder statesman and former presidential liaison officer on National Assembly matters during the late President Shehu Shagari rule in the Second Republic, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, has come out with his own view, perhaps, to douse tension occasioned by Daura’s stand.

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The elder statesman, in an interview with ThisDay on Sunday, stressed the need for rotational presidency for the purpose of unity, stability and peaceful co-existence in the country. The concerned elder, in the interview, was quoted to have even gone a step further to call on the electoral umpire in Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to include a rotational clause, as part of the prerequisites for party registration.

The Jonathan Connection    

It is believed that politics all over the world is where presumed impossibilities are possible. So, Nigeria is not an island unto itself on this. More so, when it is an established fact that in politics, there are no permanent friends and permanent foes but permanent interest.

In the build-up to 2015 general elections, the charged political atmosphere appeared as if President Buhari and his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, were sworn enemies, who would remain so till eternity.

But events in the recent times have proved the uninitiated wrong as the duo have been hobnobbing officially and on personal levels.

Jonathan has not only been paying visits to President Buhari in Aso Villa, he has been flying in the presidential jet at times with Buhari to international official engagements.

Jonathan is also a beneficiary of Buhari’s recent honours bestowed on worthy Nigerians dead and alive through the renaming of some railway stations across the country.

It is on the ground of the new romance between the two leaders that led The Nigerian Xpress correspondent to sniff around to discover through a reliable source that something close to 2023 agenda is cooking.

However, because of the sensitive nature of the issue, nobody wants his name mentioned in connection with the matter.

A reliable source told our correspondent that, power blocs in Nigeria are experiencing boosts and setbacks day in and day out.

He cited the demise of some respected known power brokers, opinion moulders and dependable technocrats such as the former Chief of Staff to Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari, saying that think-tanks have to go back to the drawing board to strategies again and again.

And in strategising, according to him, the idea of how power could quickly come back to the North came on board.

The idea, he disclosed, is to bring back Jonathan into the picture, selling the idea of the need to come back for his proper second term in office since he served only one term after the completion of his boss, the late Umaru Yar’Adua’s first term in office.

Our source was not sure of what Jonathan told those mooting the idea of his coming back, whether he agreed and whether he was ready to join the All Progressives Congress (APC).

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But he enthused that, it would not be difficult to prepare the ground for him to win reminding that, “with our numerical strength, we can decide where the presidential pendulum would swing.”

As if Nigerians are not to wait for long to know whether the agenda is real or just imaginary, a powerful voice from the South-south appeared to have belled the cat.

Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, is the respected national coordinator of the South-south Elders’ Forum and a member of the Board of Trustees of PANDEF. In a recent interview, the former spokesman of the movement stated reason for the region to have a second term at the presidency from 2023.

According to him, the region has not had its second term with the defeat of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari from the North.

“We felt that it would not be proper for the North to go again for the presidency after getting a second tenure. It will not also be proper for the West to take it when they had a second tenure. It is, therefore, proper for the South-south to complete their second tenure,” the elder statesman asserted in the interview.  

If it eventually happens, and since he would not serve more than four years, the North can then come up with, “it is now our turn again,” in 2027.

Indeed, the North’s desire to have Jonathan back in 2023 is to quicken the return of power to that region in 2027, as having any fresh candidate from the South would mean staying out of power for eight years. It is not yet clear though if those behind the idea have contacted Jonathan.

However, the former president’s spokesman, Dr. Ikechukwu Eze, has rubbished reports on some online publications insinuating such a move.

He described such insinuations and publications as old and false, saying Jonathan had been preoccupied with the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, which is currently engaged with activities directed to promoting peace, sustainable democracy and youth empowerment in Africa.

An analyst who craved anonymity confided in our correspondent that, the Jonathan angle is to serve dual purposes. One, it is to douse the tension the debate is presently generating and two, to give the North a breathing space to strategise with a view to bouncing back on a solid footing after four years of Jonathan interregnum.

By 2023, Jonathan, born in 1957, would be 67 and would still be three years less than the 70 years mark the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) insisted would be supported for the Presidency.

Whether the permutation is true or workable still remains in the realm of conjecture and only time could unfold the future.