2023: What Jonathan’s return means for Nigeria

With barely a year away, Nigeria edges closer to what is arguably, the most decisive election in its democratic history. One issue that has dominated political discussions in recent times is the choice of who succeeds the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari. Amidst these deliberations, the name “Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan” has remained a recurring decimal in the political permutations.

Within the last year, there have been growing calls for the entrance of Goodluck Jonathan into the race to occupy Aso Rock in 2023. The Otuoke-born politician is no neophyte in the scheme of things, having previously served as Deputy Governor and Governor of his native Bayelsa state, and later, Vice-President, Acting President and eventually, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His experience and sterling impact in these assignments, not only sets him apart as Nigeria’s most experienced political actor, but speaks to his strong character and capacity as a visionary leader and consummate administrator. This makes it easier to understand these agitations.

Nigeria has a rotational power arrangement between the North and the South, albeit unofficial. The current realities favour a power-shift to Southern Nigeria from the North, given that the tenure of the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, expires in 2023. What this means is that the next president is expected to be of Southern extraction, although there are contrary beliefs in some quarters, which are more likely than not, inspired by mischief.

Some of the calls for Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential bid are predicated on this power rotation. He is widely seen as the most credible, valuable and marketable export from the South. With hardly any ethnic or religious controversies to his name, Jonathan’s democratic credentials easily trounce any other aspirant, a factor which will greatly influence his acceptability and tilts voting outcomes in the North, in his favour. His large pulsating followership across the other regions in the south is also unmatched.

Although a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as at the last elections, the former president has been out of partisan politics for a long while, at least in public glare. There have been reports that he may fly the All Progressive Congress (APC) flag at the 2023 presidential elections. While this has not been confirmed by his camp, it is a testament of his high electoral value.

Since the possibility of his candidature became public, Nigerians have been envisioning what Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s eventual return holds for the polity. With his experience as a former president, there’s no gainsaying that Jonathan has a clearer understanding of the challenges bedeviling Nigeria. The last eight years must have also given him an opportunity to assess the state of the nation as a private citizen – the rare privilege of a double-angled perspective. Surely, this has built him the strong will to contend with these issues head-on. 

Dr. Jonathan has already established himself as one who has the interest of Nigerians at heart, as exemplified in 2015 when he shelved his personal ambition to avert a looming crisis, declaring that his ambition was “not worth the blood of any Nigerian.”

He also brings with him, a strong reputation as a statesman, a tested patriot and trusted nationalist who is committed to the Nigerian project. As a special envoy who has been facilitating peace in various countries across Africa, there is no doubt that Dr. Jonathan can replicate the same homewards to sooth the ethnic tensions plaguing different parts of the country.

Dr. Jonathan’s return will boost and significantly expand the scope of interventions he initiated to improve sectors of the Nigerian economy. Under his watch, Nigeria’s economy not only survived major setbacks that greatly affected most advanced nations, it actually grew in leaps and bounds to emerge as Africa’s largest economy. His re-emergence renews hope for economic recovery that could revive our now plummeted naira.

For the transportation sector, his pragmatic efforts laid the foundation for a national intermodal transport system which combined roads, railroads, waterways and aviation. It revived Nigeria’s rail system which had hitherto been moribund for over 30 years, built road infrastructure, and transformed the aviation sector.

With his unrivaled record of engendering an all-inclusive government, Jonathan’s return would provide more opportunities for women and youths. While his cabinet ranks as the youngest in Nigeria’s democracy, the 35% affirmative action is a clear indication of his commitment to creating opportunities for women in government.

Dr. Jonathan’s experience would largely prove handy in the quest to salvage Nigeria’s current struggle with insurgency and banditry. His unwavering commitment to the fight against insecurity saw an end to militancy in the Niger Delta region as well as dealt a convincing blow to the raving insurgency in the North. The purchase of Super Tucano jets amongst other military hardwares, under his watch and the training of elite corps and alliance with foreign mercenaries, proved decisive in the war till the end of his tenure.

As the days go by, it is largely clear that President Buhari’s successor could emerge from the South. However, a clearer reality is that Dr. Goodluck EbeleJonathan trumps every other aspirant, cementing his position as the most valuable and viable politician from the entire Southern region and his return as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, will usher in an era of recovery, advancement and sustainable development for the country.

Dr. Mustapha Ahmadu

Chairman, Restore Nigeria Project writes from Kano and can be reached via dr.mustapha.ahmadu@gmail.com