Associates of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in the south are tinkering with the idea of pushing his candidacy in the 2023 presidential race.
Their calculation is that the presidency can return to the North in 2027 since Jonathan, if he wins in 2023, will be ineligible to contest again.
Jonathan, who remains a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), lost his bid for a second term in 2015 when he was defeated by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Political allies and former aides of the Bayelsa-born politician, The Nation gathered, recently met in Abuja to discuss the possibility of his contesting the 2023 presidential election.
Sources knowledgeable about the development said some prominent chieftains of the PDP have bought into the idea on account of the zoning principle.
Although the former president himself is yet to openly signify interest in the race, some of his allies, who do not want to be named, said discussions are ongoing following growing appeal from some prominent Nigerians and groups to him.
One of the sources said: “especially with the growing concern about zoning, we are discussing all possibilities. Political leaders and other stakeholders from the North and the South are talking about it.”
Sources also said the Abuja meeting was convened by two chieftains of the Southern Nigerian Consultative Forum (SNCF) possibly after discussions with the former president and his associates.
It was gathered that the plot to draft Jonathan into the race may not be unconnected with fears that the North plans to field candidates for the next presidential election contrary to the principle of rotating the presidency between the North and the South.
Said a source: “At the meeting were known supporters of the former president within and outside the PDP; including former governors, ministers, serving and former National Assembly members, among many others. They gathered to discuss the possibility and modalities of supporting Jonathan to run for the PDP ticket in 2023.
“From the discussion, it was obvious that PDP leaders, especially from the south, are determined to field a candidate that can win the next presidential election for the zone,” a former governor from the Southwest said while confirming moves by allies of the ex-president to position him for the race.
A former principal officer of the House of Representatives from the South confirmed moves to draft Jonathan into the race and said associates of the former president, realising the need for very wide consultation on the matter, recently met with some leaders of the Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Niger Delta on the matter.
According to him, some young northern members of the PDP are also interested in the Jonathan candidacy for certain reasons.
His words: “It was after our meeting with the elder statesmen that the Abuja meeting you talked about was convened. As I speak with you now, I can say consultation is ongoing.
“Also, there is this group of young northern PDP chieftains who are concerned about how perceived inequalities in the implementation of the zoning principle since 1999 can be corrected.
“These are the people pushing that Jonathan should come and do just one term in office and allow the North take another shot so the imbalance would be corrected.”
It was gathered that the Abuja meeting resolved to build a wider network of supporters for the project across the country within and outside the PDP with a view to convincing the leadership of the opposition party about the viability of the Jonathan candidacy.
“The first step towards the project has been taken. The crucial issues to address have been identified. What we are now to do is bring in more people into the movement and prepare the minds of as many of our leaders as possible for the project.”
Another source, a former principal officer of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, confirmed that some allies and associates of the former President have met with him to discuss the 2023 presidential race amidst growing concern over the zoning principle. “He is constitutionally qualified to run and that much we have told him,” he said.
Continuing, the source said: “that much he knows too. On whether he has decided to run or not, I cannot say specifically. But what I can tell you is that his supporters and others who believe in him are not leaving anything to chances as 2023 come nearer.
“Like every other groups interested in politics and governance across the country, we are strategising now more than ever before. I have met many northern politicians who are ready to support a Jonathan presidential ambition should he decide to run. I can tell you he is immensely popular here in the south. So, his candidacy will not come to anybody as a surprise. It is just that for now, nobody is allowed to say anything authoritatively on it,” he said.