By Saawua Terzungwe*
Dr Jonathan is probably the lone ex-Nigerian president who the PDP now counts on, with a view to finding its lost ground. Indeed, he is arguably the only ex-president that still holds a political party membership card, looking strong for another opportunity to seek popular mandate.
Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, had torn his PDP membership card in a dramatic fashion, and thereafter announced his exit from active politicking, saying he preferred to be seen as an elder statesman.
Former civilian and military rulers such as Yakubu Gowon, Shehu Shagari, Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar and Ernest Shonekan are only being consulted by newer politicians to tap from their wisdom and political experience.
Jonathan’s recent roles look different, considering the fact that he is the first Nigerian president to be defeated by an opposition candidate. His status as president with ample constitutional backing to serve a second term was altered abruptly after the change of baton on May 29, 2015, which saw Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) clinching the presidential seat.
Shortly after his exit from power, Daily Trust reported that he made a few appearances in Nigeria and abroad including his reported arrival at the Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom on June 7, 2015 and the August 6, 2015 secret visit to the Presidential Villa in Abuja, a day after former president Olusegun Obasanjo visited President Buhari.
A few days after, he was reported to have jetted out to Kenya’s Maasai Mara Games Reserve where he declined to speak with journalists.
The former president also made a public appearance in his home state of Bayelsa during the formal declaration by Governor Seriake Dickson for a second term in office. In all the appearances, Jonathan maintained an extremely low profile.
But the story has now changed, as sources within the PDP told Daily Trust that the former Nigerian leader had returned to public view in order to make effort at healing the wounds in the PDP.
Observers say Jonathan, a potent factor and force to reckon with, had resolved not to detach himself from serious political activities in order to remain relevant.
Similarly, pundits view his return to public glare and his positive pronouncements about the PDP as a bid to cure the party’s ailments in order to play a crucial role in the emergence of its presidential candidate in 2019. Insinuations were ripe in the social media that Jonathan was scheming to take another shot at the presidency despite the ticket being zoned to the North, but his media aide, Ikechukwu Eze, dispelled the claim. Pundits believe that even if Jonathan does not make an attempt in 2019, there is the tendency for him to do so in 2023, considering the fact that age, energy and resources are still on his side.
The party’s BoT member and former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, also told our correspondent that Jonathan is only interested in resolving the internal brawl and re-focusing the party for victory in future elections, hence his series of meeting with various stakeholders.
PDP BoT and the ex-president
Jonathan had on the night of August 4, 2016, held a meeting with members of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) led by Senator Walid Jibrin, at his (Jonathan) residence in Abuja, where he accepted to broker peace in the party. Jonathan, however, declined to speak specifically on the outcome of the meeting after stepping out with the BoT members. The only thing he told journalists was: “It is not the type of meeting that requires briefing, so….”
However, one of the PDP BoT members from the South, Chief Bode George, told newsmen that “the meeting was perfect” and that Jonathan had agreed to wade into the crisis for peace to reign.
The BoT chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, added that since the PDP was a family, it would resolve its internal squabbles amicably.
Sheriff meets Jonathan
The ex-president received the national chairman of the PDP, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, with members of his National Working Committee (NWC) at his Abuja residence on February 21, where they held a closed-door meeting on the soul of the party.
Speaking with newsmen after the meeting, Jonathan said; “We are solving our problems. There are bound to be differences in politics. It is the way we resolve these differences that makes us human beings and that is what makes us leaders.”
“We are not factionalised, we are one. I have met with Sheriff and I have met with others. I will meet with others again so that we will be able to do what is expected of us as a political party.”
Jonathan, PDP governors opt for political solution
The governors were led by the Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum.
Briefing newsmen at the end of the meeting, Fayose said it was held at the instance of the former president.
“He is genuinely concerned about what is going on in the party, and he thought that an interactive session with the governors would go a long way to douse the tension. We should make complimentary statements that can enhance the party the more. Again, we know that there are so many matters before the court. But we believe that a political solution will go a long way to solve this matter,” Fayose said.
Jonathan receives report from Dickson
Jonathan on March 26, 2017 received the report of the Governor Seriake Dickson-led PDP National Reconciliation Committee in his country home, Otuoke, Bayelsa State.
He urged the contending parties to embrace reconciliation as a way out of the logjam. One of the key recommendations in the report was that the party’s national convention be held not later than June 30 this year.
Losing presidency a temporary setback
The Prof. Jerry Gana-led Strategy Review and Inter-Party Affairs Committee had on February 13, 2017 met with Jonathan behind closed-doors at his residence in Abuja, where it submitted its report.
Addressing the committee members, Jonathan said losing the presidency was a temporary setback.