By Dr Dons Eze
In 2015, he was "the most criticized President". He was "clueless", "weak", "incompetent", and presided over the "most corrupt" administration in the country. But in 2020, he becomes the darling of the people. He is "humane", "humble", "gentle", "detribalised", "a democrat par excellence", etc.
Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, is a Nigerian academic turned politician, who, within a short space of ten years, rose meteorically from a classroom teacher, to State Deputy Governor, to Governor, to Acting President, and to President of Nigeria.
Goodluck Jonathan left the classroom in 1999 and joined the murky waters of Nigerian politics. He was elected Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, five years later, he became Governor of the state following the impeachment of his principal, DSP Alameghasia, by members of the the State House of Assembly.
In 2007, Goodluck Jonathan was elected Vice President of Nigeria. But following the sickness of his principal, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, he became Acting President. When Yar'Adua later died in 2010, he became substantive President of Nigeria.
Goodluck Jonathan contested the 2011 Presidential election and won. He served out his first tenure in 2015, and contested for a second term, but lost to the present incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari. Now, they want him back. They want Jonathan to contest for President in 2023.
According to a recent newspaper report, "loyalists of President Muhammadu Buhari are rooting" for former President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2023 Presidential Election, if political power is to shift to the South. The report did not indicate the political party platform on which the Buhari loyalists would want Jonathan to contest the 2023 Presidential election. Jonathan, presently, belongs to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, while Muhammadu Buhari is of the All Progressive Congress, APC.
The Buhari loyalists, who perhaps, are mainly Northerners, according to the report, now see Jonathan as "a good man", "trustworthy and dependable", "who is not likely to rock their boat". Moreover, they see Jonathan "as the shortest route for the North to regain power" after the man must have served out his remaining one term tenure in 2027, since the 1999 Constitution, as amended, limits an individual from serving only two tenures.
We do not know how authentic this report is, whether it is true or false. But in Nigeria, nothing is impossible. Anything can happen. We however observe that Nigeria has developed the culture of recycling past leaders, recall them from retirement and impose them on the people.
To be specific, at the onset of the present democratic dispensation, in 1999, we brought out from prison, Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, who was military Head of State, from 1976 to 1979, and imposed him as President. In 2015, we went for Retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari, who equally served as military Head of State, from 1984 and 1985, and made him President.
So, if we now decide to bring back Goodluck Jonathan in 2023 as President, it is nothing unusual. We are following the normal trend. Perhaps, those who are behind the report of "Jonathan must back in 2023", are testing the ground. They want to know people's reactions to the proposal.
We know that the North has never been comfortable with the demand for political power shifting to the South in 2023, and so may be looking for an easy way out. Goodluck Jonathan, perhaps, may be their best bet. They see him as pliable, or as a good bridge between the South and the North. They have seen him perform in office, and thus, believe him to be harmless.
We do not know the reaction of Goodluck Jonathan himself to this news report, whether the man is part of the scheme or not, or whether the story is a fabrication, a fake news. We have not yet heard from him, either to affirm, or to deny the report. We are still waiting.
Whichever way, we however observe the increasing rapport, or closer relationship between Goodluck Jonathan and the Presidency. The man is becoming a constant and familiar face in Aso Rock, Nigeria's seat of power. The former President is also President Buhari's special envoy to the crisis-torn Mali.
Recently, during the celebration of Nigeria's 60th independence anniversary, Jonathan was seen, comfortably seated with his wife, Patience, at the Eagle Square, Abuja, venue of the event, along with President Buhari and his wife, Aisha, together with other dignatries.
Be that as it may, if Goodluck Jonathan comes back in 2023, will he be able to satisfy the yearnings of millions of Nigerians, by making the country work and functional? That is to say, will Jonathan be able to do what he failed to do during his first outing, in other words, rejig Nigeria, or will he still be beating about the bush until his time is up?
For the South generally, and for the Igbo in particular, who are agitating for a southern or an Igbo President in 2023, what does the rumuoured return of Goodluck Jonathan portend? Will the South accept to do only a four-year tenure, as being planned by those who are pushing for Jonathan's return? And for the Igbo, will they accept Goodluck Jonathan as fulfilment of their desire for an Igbo President, or will they continue to push for a core Igbo President of Nigeria in 2023?
These are hypothetical questions whose answers will emerge as events begin to unfold.
...Dons Eze is a Public Affairs analyst. NNL.