Former President Goodluck Jonathan will only be joining the All Progressives Congress presidential race on the condition that he is endorsed by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), Saturday PUNCH has learnt.
Anything short of this would not be acceptable to Jonathan who served as deputy governor, governor, Vice-President and President on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party from 1999 and 2015.
Saturday PUNCH had reported in February that some northern emirs had reached out to the former President, asking him to contest. Jonathan had also stayed away from activities of the PDP, including the last national convention.
Former Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State had also stated that it was unlikely that Jonathan was still a member of the PDP as he was no longer involved in the party’s activities.
On Thursday, however, posters of the ex-President flooded the national secretariat of the APC on Blantyre Street, Wuse 2.
On Friday, youth and women groups demonstrated outside of Jonathan’s office in the Maitama area of Abuja.
The demonstrators, who arrived in five large buses, held up placards some of which read, ‘Jonathan, Please Run’, ‘Jonathan, do the needful’, ‘Jonathan for 2023’, ‘Jonathan Declare Now’ and ‘Goodluck Please Come Back, We Love You’.
A spokesman for the group, Mayor Samuel, who is also the Convener of the Youth Compatriots of Nigeria, said, “We were deceived and brainwashed by those who claimed they could do it in 2015.
“Now, we know better, under Jonathan the minimum wage could buy one or two bags of rice. What do we have today? We are begging President Jonathan to forgive us, we have realised our mistakes; we want him back to complete what he started.”
Jonathan subsequently invited the leaders of the protesters for a private meeting. After the brief meeting, the ex-President addressed the demonstrators outside, advising the youths to run for office instead, adding that the constitution had been amended as far back as 2018 in order to give youths a chance to contest.
The ex-President said he was not sure if he would run. He, however, asked them to ‘watch out’.
“Yes you are calling me to come and declare for the next election, I cannot tell if I’m declaring. The political process is ongoing just watch out. The key role you must play is that Nigeria must get somebody that will carry young people along,” the former President added.
However, a top source in the APC told Saturday PUNCH that the former President was seeking an assurance that he would be handed the party’s Presidential ticket.
The APC chieftain, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “Jonathan has already been President before. So, the APC cannot offer him anything except the Presidential ticket. Imagine him contesting against Osinbajo and Tinubu and losing? Wouldn’t that be disgraceful?
“So, he has made his position clear. If he is to come to the APC, he must be given the assurance that he will be given the party’s ticket. That is his demand.”
The source added that the former President may be sold as a “compromise candidate” amid the raging zoning debate in the country.
“Jonathan is the only Nigerian alive that can promise to serve only one Presidential term and abide by it because he is limited by the constitution. If he serves one term, then power returns to the North. It is also not an easy decision but I can assure you that President Buhari will have no qualms with a Jonathan Presidency,” he added.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that the APC National Working Committee would give special waivers to select aspirants based on the powers conferred on it by the National Executive Committee.
Section 31.3 of the new APC constitution titled ‘waiver’, reads in part, “Subject to the approval of the National Executive Committee, the National Working Committee may, in special circumstances, grant a waiver to a person seeking a national party office, who is otherwise not qualified under this constitution if, in its opinion, such a waiver is in the best interest of the party.
“Subject to the approval of the National Executive Committee, the National Working Committee may, in special circumstances, grant a waiver to a person seeking the office of President, Vice President, governor, deputy governor, senator, member of the House Representatives, who is otherwise not qualified under this constitution if, in its opinion, such a waiver is in the best interest of the party.”
The Nigerian constitution and the Electoral Act state that anyone contesting a presidential election must be a member of a political party which will sponsor him as a candidate. However, both the constitution and the Electoral Act do not prohibit non-party members from participating in a primary.
However, a member of the party’s NEC told Saturday PUNCH that waivers would be on a case-by-case basis.
Jonathan’s Spokesman, Ikechukwu Eze, did not respond to calls.