From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The inability of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to give former President Goodluck Jonathan deserving recognition and appreciation has been cited as reason for his speculated plan to dump the opposition party for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
A chieftain of the ruling party and Director-General, APC Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Dr Salihu Moh Lukman, who made the assertion however warned that it should not be tied to only contesting the 2023 presidential election.
While describing that Jonathan’s defection to the APC as a big gamble in a statement he issued in Abuja on Sunday, he argued that he can serve well in the capacity of a member of yet to be constituted APC Board of Trustees (BoT).
“Part of the reason high-profile membership recruitments by political parties in Nigeria attract a lot of debate, attention, and controversy, is that it hardly come without any ambition to contest election by those joining the party.
“Although in the case of Fani-Kayode, no one can associate it with the ambition to contest election, which is why many questioned his electoral value, with 2023 elections less than two years away, and with the APC leadership efficiently succeeding to win so many high-profile leaders joining the party, there has been lots of speculation in terms of what all the high-profile membership recruitment into APC represent.
“Partly because President Buhari will be completing his second term and therefore ineligible to contest, the question of who will emerge as the Presidential candidate of the APC for 2023 is quite open.
“Two of the governors that recently joined the APC from the PDP are speculated to have done so because of ambition for 2023. And since the 2019 Bayelsa State governorship election, when APC leaders met former President Jonathan to lobby support for APC candidate, Dr. David Lyon, there have speculations that he will also be joining the APC.
“Some have even alleged that as part of the negotiation, former President Jonathan has already been offered the APC Presidential ticket for 2023. Amid the controversy around Fani-Kayode, the Secretary of the APC Caretaker Committee, Sen. Akpan Udoedehe, is reported to have confirmed that anyone who join the party will be free to contest.
“However, it is important that the issue of high-profile membership recruitment by APC are clarified beyond the narrow expectations of electoral contest. Why should the objective of recruiting high-profile members be reduced to the issue of contesting election?
“Assuming someone like former President Jonathan agree to join the APC and he fail to emerge as the presidential candidate of the party for 2023 election, what will happen to him?
“As Nigerians, we must begin to take steps to protect our leaders. As APC members, we have campaigned against former President Jonathan in 2015. As President, former President Jonathan made every effort to block the emergence of APC in 2013. But those should not be the reference point. The reference point should be the historic decision of former President Jonathan to concede defeat in 2015 even before the final votes were counted.
“With that, former President Jonathan ranked himself as one of those who fought and defended Nigeria’s democracy. On no account therefore, any political party should be allowed to push former President Jonathan to diminish his stature, either as an aspirant or a candidate for any office. Doing so will mean that we want him to gamble away all his legendary achievements.
On why he may dump the opposition party, Lukman wrote: “It is sad enough that PDP leaders, being who they are, don’t recognise and respect former President Jonathan’s deservedly political stature. No doubt, every speculation about the possibility of former President Jonathan joining the APC has to do with the reality of being unappreciated by PDP leadership.
“Negotiating to bring him into APC should not be based on aspiring for any office. It must be recognised that former President Jonathan, and indeed every former President, is beyond holding any office in the land. Bringing former Presidents to that level will amount to diminishing their political stature. Already, President Buhari is doing excellently well by delegating some high-profile diplomatic responsibilities to former President Jonathan.
“One of the failures of PDP is the inability to create responsibilities that can match the statures of former Presidents. Inability to create responsibilities for former Presidents is perhaps what accounts for the overbearing restlessness of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“With President Buhari scheduled to end his tenure in 2023, less than two years away, negotiation to recruit former President Jonathan into APC must be used to settle the question of the roles of former Presidents within the APC. APC must not allow the situation to emerge whereby party leaders and members only respect elected and appointed functionaries,” he wrote.
Suggesting a role in the party’s BoT, he said: “Part of the lessons from the challenges created under the last National Working Committee led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole had to do with the absence of BoTs.
“Is it possible therefore to organise the APC BoTs’ and get former Presidents to provide the needed moral leadership that can serve as a check to both party leaders and elected functionaries of the party?
“The question of providing needed moral leadership to check party leadership and elected functionaries can be debated. But its desirability can hardly be contested. Part of the need for checks also has to do with the issue of implementing campaign promises and provisions of party manifesto.
“Having former Presidents discharging persuasive moral responsibilities as leaders of Board of Trustees would strengthen the capacity of party leaders and members to influence decisions of elected functionaries.
“Just emerging two former serving Presidents of the standings of President Buhari and former President Jonathan working in harmony towards a common political goal. It will take a rascally elected functionary at whatever level to ignore their recommendations. On the other hand, the big risk is when they are unable to work in harmony. That will tear the party apart and may potentially destroy the party.
“There is the need therefore to broaden consultations and agree on everything required to ensure that the framework of operations of the APC Board of Trustees guarantees that former serving Presidents can work in harmony,” the statement read.