By Bolaji Ogundele and Jide Orintunsin (The Nation)
The Presidency has distanced President Muhammadu Buhari from a plot to foist ex-President Goodluck Jonathan as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate.
Presidency sources said at the weekend that President Buhari, who described the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as “a failure” in a recent television interview, could not be supporting any move to draft the one-time leader of a party he defeated roundly twice to come to power on the platform of the ruling party.
The source blamed the aides of the former President for putting Jonathan on the front burner and initiating the plot with photos of visits to the President and with persons close to President Buhari.
Although the President has not indicated who he is backing for the APC presidential primaries, an informed Presidency source explained: “Former President Jonathan is certainly not in the picture at all.
“The mentioning of his name has been invoking feelings of absurdity and ridicule in the Villa.”
Also yesterday, a member of the APC National Working Committee (NWC) said Jonathan was not qualified to be the ruling party’s standard-bearer in the 2023 election.
There have been speculations that Jonathan is a likely preferred candidate to replace President Buhari.
A Northern governor and some close associates of the President are linked to the plot to draft Jonathan into the race.
It was learnt that to prevent the President from being continually linked to the ex-president’s purported bid, the Presidency has taken measures to distance President Buhari from the plot.
It was learnt last night that instructions had been given that there should be no public release of photos of meetings between the former President and the incumbent at this time as the President does not want such images to be used to confer any modicum of support to the plot to get Jonathan into the race.
There are also concerns among official Presidential Villa sources that the aides of the former President are involved in actively keeping the “plot alive in the media by releasing photos of his visits to the APC Chairman and Alhaji Mamman Daura to insinuate that these two gentlemen are in support of the plot.”
While speculative reports have claimed the APC has granted Jonathan a waiver to join the presidential race even though he is not known to have properly fulfilled membership requirements, there has not been any formal confirmation that he submitted the presidential nomination forms or whether he would be included in the screening expected to happen this week, according to Villa sources.
The sources added that the former President is not being precluded from visiting the Villa at this time in line with protocol expectations, being a former President in good standing and due to his international assignments for which he has to regularly brief President Buhari.
The source recalled: “When, during a public interview earlier this year, a journalist asked the president to use one word to describe the PDP, he instantly said ‘failure’.
“How then would the same person who feels that way strongly then be contemplating supporting the same PDP candidate he roundly defeated?”
It was also added that neither the APC Chairman Senator Abdullahi Adamu nor Alhaji Mamman Daura is behind the plot to draft Jonathan as it is being suggested.
According to the source, “it’s the aides of the former president that are going to town to create such an impression.”
The source added: “All of these plots would be over in a matter of days as the APC presidential primaries are now irretrievably set and the President’s choice would be known.”
National Vice Chairman (Northwest) of the APC Salihu Lukman said: “There are clear guidelines in terms of how individual members of the party are qualified to emerge as the candidate of the party.
“First, through the sale of nomination forms. Assuming Jonathan claimed to be a member of the party, he has not bought the forms to the best of our knowledge. How do you come from the back door?
“Second, as far as our memory can recall, the party became popular based on the campaign against the bad governance of Jonathan and nothing has changed that we can now say has qualified him to emerge as the arrowhead of our campaign in 2023.
“As far as I am concerned, these two reasons disqualified Jonathan from even aspiring to become the candidate of the party. I don’t know where he is coming from.
“Unfortunately, in this country, there is the mentality that everything is possible, but it must be clearly stated that as far as the leadership of the party is concerned, the person of Jonathan can’t be under consideration.”
When reminded that Adamu last week said 28 aspirants purchased the presidential nomination forms, including the former president, whose form was bought by a group of Pastoralists and Almajiris, Lukman dismissed this claim.
He said: “I am waiting for anybody to present evidence that a form has been submitted for Jonathan before the deadline for submission. I am waiting to see such evidence.
“You know, such a form will contain all details including the membership details of Jonathan. That I have not seen. Maybe somebody is hiding his form somewhere else. I am not aware Jonathan bought the nomination form.”
On the rumoured plan to impose a candidate on the party at the presidential primary on June 6, the Vice Chairman expressed confidence that such a move would hit the rocks.
“As far the leadership of APC is concerned and I am a member of that leadership, that (imposition) is not going to be possible.
“As far as the majority, indeed all of us (NWC) are concerned, everybody that bought the nomination form will be given a level playing field, as long as such a person is qualified.
“The campaign leading to the emergence of the candidate and the eventual trend of delegates to the convention will be driven based on the aspiration of bringing out somebody that is acceptable to Nigerians on the basis of which the party can win. It is not on the basis of individual scheming.”