Home Opinion Ehichioya Ezomon: 2023 – APC baits Jonathan for North’s 2027 calculus

Ehichioya Ezomon: 2023 – APC baits Jonathan for North’s 2027 calculus

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

While Southern politicians are scrambling for the presidency in 2023 – that’s all things being equal, and the position is zoned to the South – Northern politicians are planning for both 2023 and 2027.

Northern politicians’ calculation is simple: If they can’t retain power after the eight-year tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023, they’ll ensure that power shift to the South for only four years.

To achieve the scheme is also very simple: Draft former President Goodluck Jonathan into the 2023 fray, and win or lose, he would’ve been given the opportunity to vie to complete his eight-year tenure that’s abridged in 2015 with the election of Buhari.

The ruling All Progressives Congress is floating this idea amid the agitation by Southern Nigeria for power to shift to the area, and for the South-East to have a shot at the presidency since 1999.

The North’s spinning: If the region can’t retain power in 2023, it could put a spanner in the works of the South to enjoy power for straight eight years, from 2023 to 2031, given that applying rotation, power would reside in the South within that span.

Let’s see the metric of this plot for a single four-year term – 2023 to 2027 – for the South. To the North, Jonathan’s election in 2011 distorted the rotation formula after Dr Olusegun Obasanjo, from Ogun State, exhausted the South’s eight-year tenure in 2007.

With the formula running smoothly, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, from Katsina State, was elected in 2007, to commence the eight-year tenure that any Nigerian shall be elected president or governor.

But Mr Yar’Adua died in office barely three years after, and Dr Jonathan, from Bayelsa State, stepped in to complete the four-year term mandated by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

If the principle of rotation of the presidency were adhered to, the North ought to produce the candidate in 2011, to complete the eight-year tenure that Yar’Adua began in 2007.
But Jonathan, graduating from Vice President to Acting President to President, couldn’t be persuaded to allow the North to complete the Yar’Adua eight-year tenure that’s shortchanged in 2010.

In 2011, Jonathan won the presidency, and thus began the distortion of rotation between the North and South. Retired General Buhari, from Katsina State, defeated Jonathan in the 2015 poll.

So, both Jonathan and Buhari distorted the rotation of power in 2011 and 2015, respectively. Had Jonathan allowed a Northerner to fill the Yar’Adua void in 2011, the North would’ve completed its eight-year tenure in 2015, for power to revert to the South.
Similarly, had Buhari given Jonathan the opportunity to complete the remaining four years of South’s eight-year tenure (2011-2019), power would’ve rotated to the North in 2019, to terminate in 2027.

However, despite Buhari’s eight-year tenure ending in 2023, the North feels it’d be “cheated” out of power by the South by 13 years to 11 years: Obasanjo’s eight years plus Jonathan’s five years and Yar’Adua’s three years plus Buhari’s eight years.

This is the anomaly the North wants to remedy in 2023: Either retain power in the region after Buhari’s tenure or “limit” the South to a single term of four years if power is zoned to the region in 2023.

The first option – retaining power – is not impossible, as politics is a game of possibilities. Besides its numbers, the North hopes, as usual, to play on “the disunity” among Southern politicians to “speak with one voice,” as regards the presidency.

With nothing in the bag yet, a fierce tussle for power is raging among the three zones of South-East, South-South and South-West, as to which area to produce the president in 2023.
The North can capitalise on the absence of a common front among the Southern zones to fight for the rotation of the presidency to the South before deciding on micro-zoning of the position.

As for the North’s second option to “offer” power to the South for only four years, between 2023 and 2027, the North knows the right time to press the right button when the right “material” is available.

In this case, the North’s calculation is that Jonathan could make himself available, to “compensate” for the North’s thwarting of his second-term ambition in 2015 with the election of Buhari.

The yet-to-be-confirmed bait, especially coming from the APC, as speculated in the polity, has gained currency due to Jonathan’s alleged “romance” with President Buhari, and the APC.
But polity watchers wonder if Jonathan, in consideration of the 2018 amendment to the 1999 Constitution signed into law by President Buhari, is qualified to contest for the presidency in 2023!

That amendment states that a vice president or deputy governor, who completes the (first or second) term of a president or governor is thereafter entitled to be elected for only one term to the position.

In addition to completing the first term of office of Yar’Adua, Jonathan ran, and was elected president in 2011, but failed in his second-term bid in 2015. On that premise, Jonathan seems to’ve exhausted his tenure, as stated in the amended constitution.

But that amendment was signed into law in 2018, three years after the expiry of Jonathan’s first term in 2015. Barring him from vying for another term would be visiting Jonathan with a retroactive law that wasn’t operational before he ran for re-election in 2015.

Yet, the snag: Should Jonathan accept such a Greek gift from the APC, he’d further upend the rotation of the presidency, which the North remedied with the election of Buhari in 2015, and in 2019.

Jonathan’s followers would be over the moon if he’s given a chance to run and complete an eight-year tenure in office. But that’d unsettle the calculation of the South to produce the president for an eight-year period, between 2023 and 2031.

It’d particularly be a sabotage of South-East’s aspiration to produce a president of Igbo extraction, and also a stab on the back of the zone that “put all its eggs in one basket” of the Peoples Democratic Party to vote for Jonathan in 2011 and in 2015.

The South-West will also take Jonathan’s second coming as in bad faith, having voted overwhelmingly for him in 2011 against Buhari, who the power wielders in the zone were initially amenable to.

Think of the Southern politicians that Jonathan would put their ambition in disarray: Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; APC’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio; Senate Chief Whip, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu; and Ebonyi State Governor, Mr Dave Umahi.

On PDP’s platform, Jonathan’s action will impact the ambition of Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Seyi Makinde (Oyo) and former Governor Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti State).

If speculations turned into reality, and Jonathan accepted the red herring dangled by the APC, he may pay dearly at the 2023 general election. It’d be an all out war to defeat him in the South.
The South-East will “take its pound of flesh” by giving its “block votes” to the PDP, which may not give its ticket to the zone, and the South-West will also rally behind the PDP, having lost its chance to present an APC candidate.

On a good day, Jonathan is guaranteed winnable votes in the South-South. But derailing his allies’ ambition would stack the odds against him in 2023. He should reject the APC’s “bitter” honey.

Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos