First, it started like rumour weeks back, when news filtered in that former President Goodluck Jonathan was considering a return to Aso Rock. The rumour mill went agog as his posters began appearing in some cities across the country and later assumed a life of its own at the weekend when some youths staged a protest at his Abuja office, urging him to run and he told them to ‘watch out.
But yesterday, the yet-to-be-declared ambition of the former president got a huge boost when Governor Benedict Ayade of Cross River State pledged to support Jonathan if the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) presents him as the party’s flagbearer for the 2023 election.
Ayade stated this while briefing State House correspondents after he met behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. He announced that he had secured the President’s nod to hold consultations over his own presidential ambition.
Ayade said he has respect for the former president, adding that if it is the decision of the APC to field Jonathan, he will drop his ambition to support him.
“I have great respect for former President Jonathan. So, I have no challenges whatsoever. I believe that the party leadership will decide the appropriate candidate that will take our party to victory and so if you heard me well, I am just part of the family, absolutely loyal to the President, seeking to run for president and I’m running.
“At any point, the political leadership of my party feels that ex-President Jonathan is the appropriate candidate that will take us to victory, I will turn my support for him. I am never ever going to fight the establishment, the institution, the aristocracy, the spiritual vortex in which God has placed a leader in the country. I will never question the powers of the leader of the country.
“I have never played the politics of antagonism or fights. If you know how I became governor, I became governor by offering to support whoever the governor wants. By a stroke of luck, I became the candidate. By the same token, I am only here to support the President’s candidate and by a stroke of luck, he said, you too go there and join the race and let me see,” Ayade said.
The governor explained that he was at the Presidential Villa to seek direction from President Buhari on how to align in the run-up to the 2023 poll, noting that he would do whatever the President directs.
He pointed out that he did not tell President Buhari that he wanted to join the presidential race as he observed that it was not decent to tell an officeholder that one was interested in taking over his office.
He, however, said, the President expressed delight that he did not speak of his desire to succeed him in office but gave him the go-ahead to hold consultations on the matter while he (Buhari) watches him.
Ayade went on to spell out his programme of action for the country if he becomes the president next year, stressing that his administration would concentrate on three key areas, security, employment, and economy.
Jonathan, who was elected President in the 2011 election lost to President Buhari in 2015 and literally turned his back against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the past seven and a half years. He has avoided all gatherings of the party, including the 2017 national elective convention, 2018 Presidential convention and the 2021 national convention that brought the current National Working Committee (NWC) members to power, among others.
With his campaign posters pasted in designated places in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Jonathan is reportedly on the verge of joining APC after he was credited with an interest in the Office of the President, should President Buhari endorse him.
While the rumoured defection of Jonathan from PDP to APC is yet to abate, some leaders of the main opposition party, yesterday, reacted to the development.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said the party will not react to speculations on whether the former President will defect or not.
“We are not going to say anything for now. As far as we know, the former President has not defected. He has not said he would defect. Until he defects, the PDP won’t react because we don’t treat rumours or insinuations. We deal with facts,” he said.
Former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said political choices are freely made as people at one time or the other go right or left. “It is his (Jonathan’s) life,” Makarfi said. (Guardian)