GOVERNORS elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, have rebuffed moves by two of their colleagues and presidency power brokers to co-opt former President Goodluck Jonathan into the 2023 presidential race with a view to ceding the party’s ticket to him.
The governors, who had before the last national convention of the party in March traded off the national chairmanship position for the presidency had met at least twice in the last 10 days but could not agree on who among them to put forward for consideration by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Four governors – Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) Dave Umahi (Ebonyi) and Ben Ayade (Cross River) are in the race alongside more than 20 other party chieftains to succeed Buhari.
However, most of the governors are said to be displeased with reported attempts to drag Jonathan into the race.
The move to draft Jonathan and the attendant misgivings, Vanguard gathered are partly responsible for the inability of the APC to raise its presidential screening committee, screen the aspirants and hold the presidential primaries. So far, the primaries have been postponed four times.
It was also part of the reasons the party pressured, and finally with the support of some political parties, got the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to extend by six days the June 3, 2022 deadline for parties to conclude their primaries.
With the extension of the deadline to June 9, the APC promptly moved its presidential primary from May 29 and 30 to June 6 and 7.
“Of course, you know that the four governors who are in the race are unyielding to any consideration regarding Jonathan’s ambition. Apart from it being a serious campaign dilemma for the party, that is, having to wash up all the dirt it threw on Jonathan in 2015, it is also an indictment on the quality of contestants in the APC.
“The governors had made that position known to the president before and I believe it will still form part of the talking points whenever they meet him again before the presidential primary.
“To them, if the president cannot support any of the governors to emerge as standard bearer of the party, then he should just stay aloof and allow the process play out naturally without endorsing anybody outside the fold. This is not to say that you don’t have those who are canvassing for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. So, as it is, the governors are divided by their various interests. All they can ask for now is just a level playing field,” said a chieftain of the party who is an ally of one of the governors.
Inside sources in the APC have given an insight into how the plot to co-opt former President Jonathan into the 2023 election race hit the brick wall following the dissolution of the Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, in March.
The plot said to have been hatched in 2020 by party strategists close to the defunct CECPC had not only advanced the now-popular reason of Jonathan serving a one term and power returning to the North, but that Buni would deputize for the Otuoke-born politician.
Sources said the move which did not have the backing of most of the governors was sponsored by two governors – a first term governor from the North-East and a second term governor from the North-West.
“The plot was hatched by a Kogi politician, who was close to the CECPC leadership. It was essentially to get Governor Buni to deputize for Jonathan who would serve for one term and then power would return to the North.
“It was principally because of that plot that its arrowheads were doing everything to frustrate the last national convention and pave the way for the Buni CECPC to remain in charge to conduct the convention alongside the ongoing primaries. That way, it would have been easier to get the delegates to vote for Jonathan. But unfortunately, Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, came in the way of that plot. He was insistent on the right thing being done. He was the first to announce that the last convention would hold and that the party had even agreed on zoning. It was like a subtle ambush but it worked.
“The plot did not however die as its promoters kept trying to recruit more supporters. With what is going on now, they appear to have secured the support of more power brokers around the president. Jonathan is essentially a candidate of a section of the North”, said a party source.
Indeed, a Federal High Court in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on Friday, held that Jonathan is eligible to contest the 2023 presidential election, and that he had been elected as president as once in 2011.
The Constitution provides for a maximum period of two terms for a president. Jonathan as vice president completed the tenure of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua when the latter died in 2010. He contested the 2011 election and won but lost his re-election quest in 2015 to President Buhari.
Recall that Andy Solomon and Idibiye Abraham (plaintiffs) asked the court to prevent Jonathan from running for the office of president by invoking Section 137, subsection 1b and 3.
The Director-General, Network for Bola Tinubu in Ondo State, Mr Tolu Babaleye alleged that the change in the convention date by the APC was suspicious.
Babaleye said: “Something is fishy about the continued changes in the date for the Convention. We are surprised at what is happening because nothing is certain again in the APC.”
“The reason they gave for this last change was that since INEC has extended the window by six days, they feel that they should still reassess themselves and organize a proper convention. That is why I want to give them the benefit of doubt.
“But if we want to think like politicians, we will be saying that something is fishy because we are reading and hearing so many rumours, though unsubstantiated.
“You know out of every rumour, there is an element of truth there. We are just waiting for the party.”