After spending years castigating him as a corrupt, alcoholic politician, the ruling APC said it would gladly welcome former President Goodluck Jonathan from the opposition PDP, marking what could be the most high-profile defection in the country’s political history.
Asked by Channels TV to confirm if Mr Jonathan would defect to the party, John James Akpanudoedehe, the APC national secretary, said, “I am hearing that for the first time that we are expecting the former president. That will be great news. We will welcome him; that will also strengthen the party.”
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, there are speculations that the ex-president would leave the PDP for the ruling APC, particularly after some governors of the APC paid him a courtesy visit in November 2020.
He, however, did not confirm if Mr Jonathan, a PDP member, would be its presidential candidate should he join the APC.
“The last National Executive Council (NEC) of the party actually gave a blanket approval to any individual that if you join APC today, it is as if you are a founding member of the party,” explained Mr Akpanudoedehe. “So, anyone who joins today has the same opportunity to run for any office in this party. It has always been so, so I am not speculating.”
Similarly, APC’s deputy national publicity secretary, Yekini Nabena, said on Wednesday that the party would have a celebration should Mr Jonathan defect from PDP.
“As at this moment, there is nothing like that. If the former President Jonathan decides to join the APC, it can’t be a hidden event. We will naturally celebrate it,” The Guardian quoted Mr Nabena as saying.
Mr Jonathan, also a former Bayelsa governor, served as Nigeria’s president between 2010 and 2015 when he lost his reelection bid to President Muhammadu Buhari.
During and after his tenure as the president, Mr Jonathan was widely criticised by the APC for alleged corruption and inability to curb insecurity. APC, then an opposition party, had described Mr Jonathan in colourful terms, including running a “kindergarten” presidency.
The ex-president has been accused of being an alcoholic and called many other names by the opposition, especially in the build-up to the 2015 presidential election.
During the 52nd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in 2012, the former president had also declared that he was the most criticised president in the world.
“I think I am the most criticised president in the whole world,” he had said. Nonetheless, Mr Jonathan said. “I tell this noble audience that before I leave, I will also be the most praised president.”