Goodluck Jonathan

By Samuel Oyadongha – Yenogoa

Advocacy group, the South-South 2023 Presidency Group, has explained why it visited former President Goodluck Jonathan, dismissing the report making the rounds that the erstwhile Nigerian leader has agreed to contest the forthcoming presidential poll under the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC).

But some stakeholders in the Niger Delta have cautioned against speculation, saying Jonathan should be allowed to speak on whether or not he is nursing presidential ambition.

Deputy Director Publicity, South-South Zonal Headquarters of the South-South 2023 Presidency Group, Prince Robert Kokeme, while putting the records straight on their visit to the former President and what transpired at the meeting, told Sunday Vanguard that it was to acquaint him with the aims and objectives of the group as a leader in the geo-political zone.

He said though its National Coordinator, Chief Diekivie Ikiogha, from Bayelsa is a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC), the South-South 2023 Presidency Group is a non-partisan, polyphonic outfit, whose membership cut across the states of the federation and party lines.

The spokesman spoke against the backdrop of a report that Jonathan had indicated interest in the race for the next President of Nigeria and had met with South-South leaders coordinating his planned return to the presidency in 2023 in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital.

The report came amid insinuation that the former President, whose re-election failed in 2015, was being programmed for a comeback by some northern elements.

Since he would be eligible to run for one more term, the aim is believed to be a smart way to ensure that power returns to the North after his second tenure.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, is finishing his maximum two terms in 2023 and the development has sparked a controversy on power shift to the South.

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The Jonathan return to power, according to those behind the scheme, is to hasten North’s claim to the presidency in 2027 as against a situation whereby a fresh southern President will be eligible for eight years and delay the region’s ascendancy to power till 2031. 

Kokeme said on the group’s visit to Jonathan: “Our association, the South-South 2023 Presidency Group, has been having consultative meetings with notable stake holders across the South-South and the rest part of the country. “We are an advocacy group routing for a presidential candidate of the South-South extraction to complete the tenure of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, which was abruptly terminated through political manoeuvring and betrayal in 2015.

“The group started its advocacy in 2020 but has intensified its campaigns, ostensibly because the 2023 presidential election is drawing closer. “Thus the organization is stepping up its strategies and enlightenment campaigns while advertising our intention on the choice of the next President in the country come 2023, irrespective of the political party the candidate will emerge from.

“We are a non-partisan, polyphonic group cutting across different states of Nigeria’s political parties even though the national coordinator, Chief Diekivie Ikiogha, is a chieftain of APC.

“Our simple appeal to Nigerians is to whole-heartedly accept and support the zoning of the next presidency to the South-South to enable that region complete its tenure.

“In the course of our advocacy visit, we have met a number of stakeholders from the South-South and other parts of the country, prominent among who is former President Jonathan to whom we sold our ideas and acquainted them with the aims and objectives of our organization.

“We are not contesting the fact that we met GEJ. However, during our visit to former President Jonathan, we did not make any categorical statement persuading him to contest the 2023 presidential election under any particular political party.

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“We only acquainted him with the aims and objectives of the group.

“That was the noble thing to do.

“After all, he is the political leader of the South-South region today.

“Therefore, any report relating to persuading GEJ to contest any election under the platform of APC during our advocacy visit is a figment of the writer’s imagination and we were obviously quoted out of context.

“It may be the speculation or a preconceived imagination of the writer whose intention, perhaps, is to do the biding of some western political juggernauts and business moguls who are bent on fighting the emergence of a South-South presidential candidate in order to hijack the political space and reserve it for the South-West region.

“This is the kind of reprehensible and demeaning onslaught that pervaded the political space during Jonathan’s administration, culminating in a wholesale campaign of calumny against him, eventually leading to the loss of the election in 2015. T

“The truth should be told: As we approach the 2023 presidential election, that blackmail will not thrive. What will suffice is the spirit of fairness and justice.

“The South-South will not support a presidential candidate from any other region.

“For the purpose of experience, convenience and fairness, we equally feel, and let us for the first time, call on Goodkuck Ebele Jonathan to brace himself to take the shot.

“With him, there will be a smooth and easy ride to victory because of his international recognition as the doyen of Africa’s democracy today.

“Undoubtedly, President Goodluck Jonathan has proved that he possesses the innate qualities of a servant leader which Nigeria needs in this age and time.

“He still has enormous energy to perform, the skill to manage the affairs of the nation, the linkage to connect and the will to serve to the best of his ability. “GEJ is a charismatic and cerebral leader we need to haul Nigeria out of the nadir depth of her social, economic and political malaise. More so, he is a symbol of peace and unity in Nigeria today.”

The group, therefore, urged all well-meaning Nigerians, especially political gladiators from the South-West and South-East to enable the South-South complete its pending four-year tenure at Aso Rock come 2023.

Meanwhile, stakeholders in the South-South have decided to adopt “a wait and see attitude” until the former President declares his intention.

Immediate past President, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, Eric Omare, while reacting to the report that Jonathan had agreed to actualise his presidential ambition on the platform of the APC, said: “Well, it is in the realm of speculation hence very difficult to comment.

“However, he has a constitutional right to aspire to the presidency at least for one more term.

“The party platform under which he decides to do it is his own personal decision and it is up to him to decide.

“If anything concrete happens, then one would be in a position to offer more analytical opinion. But for now I say no more!”

On his part, Iniruo Wills, a rights activist in the zone, simply said, “Let us hear from him directly.”

But the Convener of South-South Reawakening Group, Joseph Ambakederimo, cautioned the former President against allowing himself to be railroaded into the 2023 contest.

He said: “I think it is all speculation at this time but sometimes it starts with speculation like this and eventually crystallizes.

“For me, the question to ask is what would he want to do differently at this time?

“Has he built extra capacity to ensure he will deliver as expected considering the harsh economic situation around the world?

“Has he mentioned the political party he intends to run, or is he banking on the Nigerian style of waiting to be picked and imposed on the people even when he is reluctant?

“Has he checked his crystal ball very well to ensure that he will be acceptable to Nigerians looking at the myriads of issues that characterized his government? 

“With all of these, I think Jonathan needs a truckload of caustic soda to thoroughly wash himself clean if he really wants to put himself forward again.

“I learnt that those pushing are trying to make a case that the South-South must complete its two terms.

“For me, l do not see how this assumption will help or give him an edge over any other candidate that may eventually run against him.

“If this is the only reason his political associates are putting forward, then l must say they should look at other reasons to want to sell Jonathan to Nigerian voters who are becoming sophisticated by the day.

“And that other reason would be turning around the economy bedevilled by unemployment, food insecurity, insecurity, dearth of revenue and so on and so forth.

“Another issue l fear is that he shouldn’t allow himself to be thoroughly messed up by some persons.”

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