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Emirs Lobby Jonathan for 2023 Amid Zoning Controversy



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I doubt if he’s still in PDP – Ex-gov Lamido

Some northern traditional rulers have reportedly begun lobbying former President Goodluck Jonathan to defect to the All Progressives Congress and run for President in view of the raging debate of zoning between northern and southern elements, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.

“Jonathan has spoken with Buhari on the matter and he is considering joining the APC,” an associate of the former President authoritatively confirmed this to Sunday PUNCH on Saturday.

It was learnt that two top traditional rulers in the North-West and one in the North-East had encouraged the former President to give the Presidency another shot.

“The deal is for Jonathan to join the APC, then get a waiver to contest. Currently, Jonathan can only be in office for another four years, then return power to the north. They also believe he could be a stabilising force in the country, especially now that the country is deeply divided,” another source said.

Currently, several northern elements – especially those in the Peoples Democratic Party – are insisting that there should not be zoning ahead of the 2023 poll. Some of those opposed to zoning include a former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso; former Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State; Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed; and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal.

However, many southern elements believe that since Buhari would have spent eight years by 2023, it would only be fair for the next President to be from the South. Already, former Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State; ex-Governor Orji Kalu of Abia State and Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, have declared their intentions to contest.

In the South-West, the national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, has revealed his intention to contest the presidency, while Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State are rumoured to be eyeing the same seat.

“Former President Atiku Abubakar’s camp is selling the idea of Atiku doing just one term and returning power to the south. However, only Jonathan can promise to do one term and abide by it because he is limited by the Constitution,” said an APC chieftain.

“Also, the South-East and South-South see Jonathan as one of their own. The South-West, through Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, had been in power for eight years while the current Vice President is also from there. The north also feels there should not be zoning. Jonathan is a safe option at this point,” he added.

Jonathan had visited the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), several times in the last couple of months, more than any other former head of state. On all occasions, Jonathan had refused to speak to State House reporters while the Presidency claimed he came to brief Buhari over happenings in troubled African countries.

Also, Jonathan had not been seen at any event organised by the PDP in the last one year. He also refused to attend the party’s national convention last year, several months after the PDP reconciliation committee led by a former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, visited him and pleaded with him not to defect.

Meanwhile, a former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, told BBC Hausa on Saturday that he was not sure if Jonathan was still a member of the PDP.

When Lamido was asked if Jonathan was still a member of the PDP, the former governor said, “I doubt it. He has not been attending recent activities of our party.”

Attempts to get a response from Jonathan’s spokesman, Ikechukwu Eze, proved abortive as he neither responded to repeated calls nor replied a text message sent to him on Saturday.

Eze had earlier told Saturday PUNCH that the insinuations that Jonathan would defect and run for president in 2023 were mere rumours.

Although many claimed that Jonathan’s frequent visit to the President at the Presidential Villa lent credence to the overtones, Eze had said the meetings had nothing to do with defection or presidential ambition.

He insisted that Jonathan’s regular presence at the Villa was to brief his successor on his assignments as a special envoy, Economic Community of West African States; adding that the ex-President met with Buhari to brief him on the political developments in the Republic of Mali.

Eze said, “Defection issue and presidential ambition are all rumours. It has no foundation. We do not want to be reacting to such (things) again. We have issued statements on this before.

“Former President Jonathan went to the Villa to brief the President on the forthcoming ECOWAS meeting in Ghana. The meeting will discuss the political happenings in Mali. As a special envoy, he was at the Presidential Villa to brief President Buhari.

“There are issues in Mali and at the forthcoming meeting, ECOWAS leaders are to look at the transition timetable proposed by the Malian rulers and take a position on it. It is also at this meeting that a decision would be taken on whether to sanction the Malian military ruler or not. This is the issue that took oga (Jonathan) to the villa.”

Asked about the political meeting the former Bayelsa State governor reportedly held with members of his defunct political co-ordinators, Eze said there was no iota of truth on the alleged agenda of the meeting.

He noted that there was no way Jonathan’s friends would not visit him in his home state in Bayelsa during the Yuletide.

Since Buhari assumed office, the APC regime had waged a war against some aides of the former President considered to be corrupt, with many of them tried for alleged corruption.

Credit: PUNCH.

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