A visit by a team of All Progressives Congress chieftains to the Abuja residence of former President Goodluck Jonathan late on Friday has raised the stakes in permutations for the 2023 general elections.
The visit by the APC team, led by the Chairman Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee, Governor Mai Mala Buni, has sparked political debate.
The party chieftains were at the ex-President’s residence to facilitate with him on his 63rd birthday. They, however, had a closed-door meeting, details of which have yet to be made public.
A top-ranking member of the Peoples Democratic Party, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said, “There is more to that meeting than meets the eye, because President Jonathan was neither at our last caucus meeting held on Thursday nor was he at the National Executive Council meeting on Friday, even though he is a member of both. Whatever it is, it will soon come out in the open.”
Also, a top-ranking member of the APC, who equally spoke on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said, “It’s just that in our country, every visit by our party leaders to any leader who is not in our party is given a political meaning. It would, however, not be out of place if political discussions held.”
When contacted, the Media Adviser to the Yobe State Governor, Mamman Mohammed, said, “His Excellency, the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, and some of his colleagues in the APC were at the residence of former President Goodluck Jonathan to congratulate him on his 63rd birthday. Nothing more!
“The visit was out of respect for the former president, who is a statesman. It had nothing to do with politics.”
Speaking in a similar vein, the media aide to Jonathan, Mr Ikechukwu Eze, stated that the visit by some APC governors to the former president had no political undertone.
Eze said it was ridiculous that people could read political meaning to the visit, saying there was no way the former president could have turned people back on his birthday.
Aside from Mala Buni, other APC governors who were at Jonathan’s residence included David Umahi (Ebonyi), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), and Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa).
Also, a former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani, visited Jonathan.
There had been insinuations in political circles that some unnamed loyalists of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), had been mounting pressure on the former president to defect from the PDP to the APC.
But Eze said the governors and other unnamed members of the PDP only visited Jonathan to wish him well on his birthday
He said, “I know that you know yesterday (Friday) was his (Jonathan’s) birthday. He opened his doors to everyone to greet him. People came from the APC and the PDP. Would he use his birthday occasion to discuss 2023?”
Meanwhile, in a statement by Eze titled ‘63rd birthday: Jonathan thanks governors, aides, others for honouring him,’ the former president appreciated those who visited him on his birthday.
Jonathan had played host to the Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Abubakar Bagudu and the Jigawa State Governor, Mohammed Badaru, at his home country in Otuoke, Bayelsa State, after the 2019 governorship election in the state.
They had visited the ex-president to thank him for his support in the initial victory of David Lyon, the APC candidate in the election.
However, Lyon was sacked by the Supreme Court due to certificate forgery. Thereafter, the first runner-up in the election, Douye Diri of the PDP, was declared the winner.
Meanwhile, Jonathan was elected President in 2011 but lost to Buhari in 2015 while seeking a second term. His concession call to Buhari, which was said to be the first of its kind in the country, has endeared him to many within and outside Nigeria.
Some argue that he is still eligible to run for another single term of four years in office.