An article with the above title is currently making the rounds in the media, and I consider it my obligation to give a measured response to it.
My reasons for this are two-fold. One, to counter what I consider a tepid attempt by Dr Ugoji Egbujo to deconstruct the fine, gentlemanly personality of former president Goodluck Jonathan.
Two, to call the attention of Nigerians away from deep-seated emotionalism and toward clear-headed logic.
First, from the legal point of view, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has the constitutional right to contest the 2023 presidential election.
Not only can the provision of Section 137 (3) of the Constitution (as amended) not be retrospectively applied to him, but there is also a subsisting court declaration that affirms his right to contest for the exalted office.
In the case of Cyriacus Njoku vs Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (2015), in a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeal declared that Jonathan has only spent one term of 4 years in office as president, and was eligible to contest the then March 28, 2015, presidential election.
On the authority of that judgement, he contested that election and he lost gracefully to the current President Muhammadu Buhari. That decision subsists and has not been vacated.
Having established the legal basis of his eligibility, I now contend that the postulations of Egbujo unduly dwelt on assumptions and sentiment, geared at bringing the good person of President Jonathan into public odium.
Pray, what confidential information is he privy to that made him cast Jonathan in the mould of a stooge to some invisible Northerners? Could anyone objectively say that a 64-year-old man, a PhD, and former president of Africa’s largest economy has no mind of his own?
The label of an effete and indecisive person that this Egbujo aimed to put on the person of President Jonathan cannot stay.
In the most precarious of times, when national and personal interests were on a collision course, could an indecisive person have made the selfless choice of Jonathan in 2015? Could a man with no mind of his own have willingly conceded defeat when he had all the resources of state at hand to frustrate the democratic process for his personal gain? Today, Dr Goodluck Jonathan is feted by the international community because of that foresighted and statesmanlike decision which aided the smooth continuation of our democratic experience.
Now, let’s get to the logic of this matter. In the charged political atmosphere that we currently have, the subject of presidential zoning is at the centre of national discourse; and the feeling of uncertainty that pervades the land calls for a calm and deliberate approach. What does the idea of a Jonathan presidency contribute to this national conversation?
Would a Jonathan presidency not give the country the rare opportunity to press the reset button?
As the clamour for the presidency to return South reaches its crescendo, a Jonathan candidacy perfectly answers that call.
When you look at it, even from the angle that the South-South geo-political zone from where he comes has a term of 4 years left to complete, you will agree with me that a Jonathan candidacy is a sellable one.
If the figures of the 2015 presidential election are anything to go by, a man who garnered over 12 million votes from across the country has national appeal.
Even the northern candidate that contested against President Buhari in 2019 could not reach that mark. Only a President Buhari, with his cult-like following, could out-do the Jonathan outing of 2015.
Therefore, if the ruling APC decides to adopt former President Jonathan as its consensus candidate, it would only be acting in its enlightened self-interest.
Today, many Nigerians are nostalgic. They have a longing for the Jonathan years when a bag of rice was N8,000 and a liter of petrol sold for N87. Compared to what is currently obtainable, Nigerians fared better during her Jonathan presidency.
His second coming could be the Balm of Gilead that Nigerians, in their hundreds of millions, have been waiting for to come soothe their pain.
Opinions from several quarters, such as the one echoed by the writer under discussion, criticize the idea of a Jonathan presidency as self-serving of a northern cabal, and as injurious to the collective interest of the South.
But do you not think that, with the benefit of experience on his side, a re-elected Goodluck Jonathan would get straight to work to fix the many fundamental ailments that trouble our country?
For example, the report of the Constitutional Conference that his government organised had been left to gather dust since his departure from power.
Would a GEJ Presidency not dust the report up and set at implementing its many. recommendations that have been hailed by many as very progressive? With the benefit of hindsight, which is 20/20, a re-elected President Jonathan can help to return Nigeria to the path of unity and purposeful nationhood.
He would be a president on a mission because it would always be at the back of my mind that he only has one term to leave a legacy. Is that not the sense of urgency we want to see in our leaders?
As I conclude, I quickly call your attention to the role of history and the invisible hand of the Divine in this whole matter.
Goodluck Jonathan made history as the first Nigerian president to peacefully hand over power to an opposition candidate, after conceding defeat at the ballot.
He could very well be on the way to making history again as the first Nigerian leader, in our 4th Republic, to return to Ask Villa to serve non-consecutive terms, albeit on the platform of a different political party. That would be a first.
In its 245 years of nationhood, the United States of America only has one man, President Grover Cleveland, to have pulled off such rare feat.
He was elected the 24th President of the United States in 1884, lost to his re-election bid in 1888 to the 25th President, General Benjamin Harrison, and came back in 1892 as the 26th President of the United States of America. That record stands unmatched as at today.
Therefore, there is a precedence in presidential history that Goodluck Jonathan can possibly ride on to enrich the narrative of leadership in Nigeria, and it behooves on all well-meaning Nigerians to do their best for its actualisation.
A Goodluck Jonathan presidency could be the turning point that the country sorely needs now.
The likes of Dr Ugoji Egbujo should jettison their sentiments and join hands with other patriots to make it happen.