Just two years to the general elections, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is finding a formidable challenger in the same individual it evicted from the Aso Rock in 2015. Former President Goodluck Jonathan, this time around, is strategizing to bring his party, not necessarily himself, back to power.
In the PDP, former President Jonathan is no longer regarded as the cause of the party’s problems occasioned by his defeat at the election in 2015. He is now regarded as the silver bullet that is capable of restoring the party’s lost glory and the pride of being the biggest political party in Africa that is capable of ruling for 60 years.
The former president seems to accept the new role that the party has now conferred on him. His actions and pronouncements contrast the image he cut at the Port Hacourt International Airport, shortly after handing over power to President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2015. He does not look unsure about his future political role anymore.
This new posture has just been bolstered by the PDP’s victory at the Supreme Court over leadership tussle between the Senator Ali Modu Sherrif and the Ahmed Makarfi factions as well as the victory in Osun Senatorial by-election.
Immediately after the Apex Court ruling, Jonathan took to his Twitter handle calling on former members of the party that defected to other parties because of the leadership crisis to return “home.”
“I thank God for this day of Justice and may God bless Nigeria,” he said in one of the tweets. “The party that gave Nigeria the largest economy in Africa is a party whose heart is large enough to find a place for all Nigerians and a free market economy that provides a level playing ground for all,” he added in another.
The two developments did not all send a clear message to members of the party about the possibility of regaining their lost strength, they also speak to the APC, especially in the case of Osun, political party analysts say.
While the little cohesion that survived its fall from power was being threatened by the Sherrif-Makarfi crisis, most of the party’s leaders remained indifferent. For instance, Jonathan who was still smarting from election defeat, initially failed to take a stand and played host to both parties in the crisis.
One PDP leader who argues that Jonathan’s aloofness did not help matters, is the National Legal Adviser of the PDP, Barrister Bashir Maidugu.
“Sadly, the party could not manage itself simply because those who were supposed to take charge of putting things together absconded. I would blame ex-President (Goodluck) Jonathan for that,” he said.
He observed that the former president could have put a “mechanism” in place to keep the party together, instead he said, “he disappeared.”
“It was the absence of personalities like Jonathan that led to what happened in the party. Assuming before he handed over he had asked the national leadership to resign and set up a caretaker committee, nobody would have argued with him. That would’ve led us to a convention. It would have led us to the production of another set of leaders who would have been ruling without any issues like the ones we had.
“But that was not done by Jonathan; he just left. That was what led to the situation we found ourselves in. It’s very good that he is coming in now because as a former president, people respect him and people listen to him and he is expected to continue with that role until a new leadership emerges,” he explained.
But the supporters of the former leader dismissed the charges against him, insisting that even though he could not be isolated from the factors that led to the crisis in the PDP, he had little to do at the time.
They said Jonathan felt betrayed by many people in the PDP who he had trusted and provided enough resources to ensure his victory at the poll.
They also held that the ex-president had quietly carried out important assignments that have national significance at the time he was seen to be indifferent to the happenings in his party. They said, as part of the assignment, he met with President Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar at different times.
A source close to Jonathan also debunked the allegations, saying he had been in support of Makarfi to pull the party together even while the case was still in court. “He was all along with the Makarfi faction, supporting it to reunite the party and put it back on its feet ahead of 2019.
“My understanding of his efforts is that he is not doing all these for any impending presidential ambition. No. He is only bothered about the party, cognizant of his status as a former president commanding a lot of respect from its supporters and many Nigerians,” he said.
He further disclosed that the thinking around the PDP is that Nigerians are disenchanted with the level of performance of the APC so far and will be ready to give the PDP another chance. “The selling point of the PDP will be the inability of the APC to fulfill any of its campaign promises and Nigerians know it is the fact of the situation because they have seen the failure of the current government in nearly every sector. Our party’s victory in Osun is enough to tell everyone what Nigerians are ready to do with the APC,” he added.
Jonathan, Sambo, PDP ex-ministers, others meet Monday
Former Minister of Education, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, said the former president had been playing a fatherly role and most of the party’s stakeholders would continue to recognize him as a father.
He said, “Even the Sheriff-led faction did not technically refuse to recognize Jonathan as a former president and as a leader of the party. Probably, they were so angered and desperate to have the leadership of the party and that is all, but they recognized Jonathan as leader of the party and I am sure they will continue to give him that respect.
“So, as far as PDP is concerned, Jonathan being the only living president of the party now is technically the leader of the party. We still see him as leader and he will remain the leader and he is still playing a very active role. He has been on this matter behind the scene for almost a year now. And many of us have been with him on this matter. So, the former president was not alone in the struggle to bring peace in the PDP.
Shekarau said most of the PDP stakeholders had talked with both sides and appealed to various organs of the party in order to arrive at a political solution, adding that the intervention led to the decision of the former president to call for a reconciliation meeting.
“Our decision then was to reconcile the two aggrieved parties and ask our lawyers to write to the court so that the case will be dismissed. All we are after at that time was to dodge the court judgement because we don’t want to have winners and losers in the matter. Now that it is over, we will not give up in the resolution of the matter,” he said.
On his part, the former Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador Aminu Wali, said the former president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, played a positive role in ensuring unity in the party and would continue to play same role until the party comes out stronger from its internal crisis.
He said, “The roles he has played to bring unity in the party prior to the recent judgment by the Supreme Court that ended the leadership tussle were very positive. He never took any sides from the beginning to the end.
“Not only that after Sherrif walked out on the former president at the meeting, Jonathan being so humble, led some former governors to another room where they met Sheriff for one hour all in an effort to reconcile him with Makarfi and bring unity to the party.”
He said now that the Supreme Court had brought to an end the leadership crisis in the party, the stakeholders had now embarked on rigorous move to bring unity in the party.
“We are going to hold series of meetings from Monday to Wednesday. I can assure you’re the former President, Goodluck Jonathan will be in attendance unless if he travels out of the country. On Monday, we are going to meet with the expanded caucus of the party, who are the major stakeholders and we are expecting the Makarfi-led caretaker committee to present a paper at the meeting.
“The following day, the Board of Trustees will meet and on Wednesday, the National Executive Working Committee will meet. We are expecting the former president to attend these meetings,” he said.
Also, a statement by the party yesterday said the former, former vice president, Namadi Sambo and various organs of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are expected to meet tomorrow, in Abuja.
The statement by the national secretary of the PDP national caretaker committee, Senator Ben Obi, said the Board of Trustees (BoT), National Executive Committee (NEC), National Assembly Caucus as well as PDP governors, ex-minister and former governors are expected to attend.
According to the statement, the INEC and the BoT members will meet on Tuesday, while others will meet Monday.
While the essence of the meeting is not stated, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the meeting which will be held at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, is meant to dicuss how and when the national convention would be held.
A BoT source who craved anonymity told our correspondent last night that the meetings would also deliberate on how to bring back the sacked national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and his team back to the mainstream.
“Two major issues will be discussed. The issue of reconciling with the Sheriff group and the convention, “ he said.
Daily Trust on Sunday also gathered that the issue of zoning would be discussed ahead of the convention.
Set to unite PDP
Jonathan’s campaign to salvage the PDP started drawing public attention when he held a meeting in August last year with the BoT members, led by Senator Walid Jibrin, at his residence in Abuja, where he accepted to broker peace in the party.
After the meeting, declined to brief journalists, saying “It is not the type of meeting that requires briefing”
On his part, Jibrin said since the PDP was a family, it would resolve its internal squabbles amicably.
Later, the ex-president received Sheriff with members of his National Working Committee (NWC) and held a closed-door meeting with them.
Speaking with newsmen after the meeting, Jonathan assured that the crisis would be resolved. The crisis, however, persisted.
The former president also met with the PDP governors in Abuja on February 28, 2017 and opted for a political solution to the crisis in the party.
The governors were led by the Governor of Ekiti State and chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Ayodele Fayose.
Fayose, who addressed the press, said the meeting was at Jonathan’s instance.
“He is genuinely concerned about what is going on in the party, and he thought that an interactive session with the governors would go a long way to douse the tension,” Fayose said.
On March 26, 2017, the ex-president received the report of the Governor Seriake Dickson-led PDP National Reconciliation Committee in his country home, Otuoke, Bayelsa State where he urged the contending parties to embrace reconciliation as a way out of the logjam.
One of the key recommendations in the report was that the party’s national convention be held not later than June 30 this year.
Similarly, the Prof. Jerry Gana-led Strategy Review and Inter-Party Affairs Committee had on February 13, 2017 met with Jonathan behind closed-doors at his residence in Abuja and submitted its report.
Addressing the committee members, Jonathan said losing the presidency was a temporary setback.
“We should be able to get that position back as long as we are able to get our acts together. I am happy that you people are working towards that,” he said.
The PDP Women’s Forum, which also visited Jonathan in his Abuja office, said the former president remained the leading light for the party.
They commended the role played by the former president towards resolving the party’s crisis.
The former president had on April 6, 2017, organised PDP stakeholders’ meeting which took place at Yar’ Adua Centre, Abuja, to unite the factionalised party.
The meeting was the first gathering that had the the two factions and nearly all the party bigwigs sit under one roof in nearly a year but it did not yield the desired result, as Sheriff stormed out of it in anger.
He attributed his action to the organizers’ refusal to allow him to preside over the meeting.
But the act was interpreted as an insult on the sensibilities of the PDP leaders by Sheriff, a development that was said to have united them against him.
After the Eid el Fitr in June, Jonathan also received former ministers on the PDP platform who paid him a Sallah visit at his residence in Abuja. Analysts said the visit, the first of its kind since he left power, was meant to bolster Jonathan’s new status as the unifier of the party.
His condolence visit to Kano over the death of the Danmasanin Kano, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, in the company of his former ministers was also seen as part of the move to prove that the party is united under him.
Those that accompanied Jonathan on the visit include the former ministers of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Bala Mohammed, Internal Affairs, Abba Moro, Water Resources, Prof Sulaiman Ibrahim, Special Duties, Kabir Turaki, Foriegn Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali, and Education, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau.
Also on the entourage were former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Senator Aminu Inuwa, former member of House of Representatives, Farouk Lawal, Hajiya Baraka Sani and former Speaker, Kano State House of Assembly, Gambo Sallah.
‘Why Days of APC are Numbered’
A PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) member and former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, who has remained very close to Jonathan, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the ex-president is interested in re-focusing the party for victory in future elections.
“He is still a young man who loves the party. As a man of peace and with the information and experience at his disposal, he should be actively involved in an advisory capacity.
“He should be concerned about making sure those in charge of the party’s affairs are diligent and focused on the values, vision and mission of the party while PDP-controlled states enjoy good governance,” he said.
A former chairman of the Senate Commitee on Rules and Business in the 5th Assembly, Senator Umaru Tsauri(PDP, Katsina) said attention has shifted to the former president because he has now woken up to his responsibility of strengthening and promoting unity in the party.
In a phone interview, Tsauri said with the resolution of the internal wrangling of the party, facilitated by the Supreme Court judgement, Jonathan displayed high maturity with his statement of “no Victor, no vanquished”
He said Jonathan was reluctant initially because of the two camps in the party and the fear of being attacked by the APC led administration.
“The reluctance of Jonathan, initially was because he doesn’t want to be seen supporting any of the camps in the party and he doesn’t want to be embarrassed by the government of the APC, if he plays the role of a strong opposition leader, “he said.
He said with the judgement of the apex Court, a new fiesta of opposition has been opened, the one he said will lead to the ousting of the APC government.
“Jonathan has now taken his rightful position in the party and that was why he made the statement of no Victor, no vanquished immediately the judgement was delivered. If you recall he was in Kano to condole the people of the State over demise of DanMasanin.
“Aside the visit, he has been meeting with necessary stakeholders in our party to promote unity. As far as we are concerned, the former president is doing the right thing and we are very comfortable with him. With his new commitment to the party and the maturity of Makarfi, the days of the APC government are numbered. We are saying bye bye to the APC government,” he said.
This article first appeared on Dailytrust Newspaper, Sunday edition
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