Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum PGF, Salihu Moh. Lukman has cautioned ex-President Goodluck Jonathan against leaving his current Peoples Democratic Party PDP for the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, saying any such move would only serve to diminish his political stature as an elder statesman.
Lukman made the caution in a statement titled, “APC’s High-Profile Membership Recruitment and Issues for 2023” issued Sunday in Abuja.
He also faulted the ‘red-carpet’ reception offered a former critic of the current administration, Chief Femi Fani Kayode, who last week defected to the APC, but advised aggrieved party members against protesting the gesture saying if President Muhammadu Buhari and party leaders have accepted Mr Kayode, then party members should not be more catholic than the Pope.
Lukman said; “Part of the reason why high-profile membership recruitments by political parties in Nigeria attracts a lot of debate, attention, and controversy, is that it hardly comes without any ambition to contest the election by those joining the party. Although in the case of Mr Fani-Kayode, no one can associate it with the ambition to contest the election, which is why many questioned his electoral value, with 2023 elections less than two years away, and with the APC leadership efficiently succeeding to win so many high-profile leaders joining the party, there has been lots of speculation in terms of what all the high-profile membership recruitment into APC represents.
“Partly because President Buhari will be completing his 2nd term and therefore ineligible to contest, the question of who will emerge as the Presidential candidate of the APC for 2023 is quite open.
“Two of the Governors who recently joined the APC from the PDP are speculated to have done so because of ambition for 2023. And since the 2019 Bayelsa State Governorship election, when APC leaders met former President Goodluck Jonathan to lobby support for APC candidate, Mr David Lyon, there have been speculations that he (former President Jonathan) will also be joining the APC.
“Some have even alleged that as part of the negotiations, former President Jonathan has already been offered the APC Presidential ticket for 2023. Amid the controversy around Mr Fani-Kayode, the Secretary of the APC Caretaker Committee, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe, is reported to have confirmed that anyone who joins the party will be free to contest.
However, it is important that the issue of high-profile membership recruitment by APC is clarified beyond the narrow expectations of the electoral contests.
Why should the objective of recruiting high-profile members be reduced to the issue of contesting elections? Assuming someone like former President Jonathan agrees to join the APC and he fails to emerge as the Presidential Candidate of the party for the 2023 election, what will happen to him?
“As Nigerians, we must begin to take steps to protect our leaders. As APC members, we have campaigned against former President Jonathan in 2015.
” As President, former President Jonathan made every effort to block the emergence of APC in 2013. But those should not be the reference point.
“The reference point should be the historic decision of former President Jonathan to concede defeat in 2015 even before the final votes were counted.
“With that, former President Jonathan ranked himself as one of those who fought and defended Nigeria’s democracy. On no account, therefore, should any political party be allowed to push former President Jonathan to diminish his stature, either as an aspirant or a candidate for any office. Doing so will mean that we want him to gamble away all his legendary achievements.
“It is sad enough that PDP leaders, being who they are, don’t recognise and respect former President Jonathan’s deservedly political stature. No doubt, every speculation about the possibility of former President Jonathan joining the APC has to do with the reality of being unappreciated by PDP leadership.
“Negotiating to bring him into APC should not be based on aspiring for any office. It must be recognised that former President Jonathan, and indeed every former President, is beyond holding any office in the land. Bringing former Presidents to that level will amount to diminishing their political stature.
“Already, President Buhari is doing excellently well by delegating some high-profile diplomatic responsibilities to former President Jonathan. One of the failures of PDP is the inability to create responsibilities that can match the statures of former Presidents. Inability to create responsibilities for former Presidents is perhaps what accounts for the overbearing restlessness of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“With President Buhari scheduled to end his tenure in 2023, less than two years away, negotiations to recruit former President Jonathan into APC must be used to settle the question of the roles of former Presidents within the APC.
“APC must not allow the situation to emerge whereby party leaders and members-only respect elected and appointed functionaries.
“Part of the lessons from the challenges created under the last National Working Committee led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole had to do with the absence of Board of Trustees.
“Is it possible therefore to organise the APC Board of Trustees’ and get former Presidents to provide the needed moral leadership that can serve as a check to both party leaders and elected functionaries of the party?
“Having former Presidents discharging persuasive moral responsibilities as leaders of Board of Trustees would strengthen the capacity of party leaders and members to influence decisions of elected functionaries. Just imagine two former serving Presidents of the standings of President Buhari and former President Jonathan working in harmony towards a common political goal. It will take a rascally elected functionary at whatever level to ignore their recommendations. On the other hand, the big risk is when they are unable to work in harmony.
“That will tear the party apart and may potentially destroy the party. There is the need, therefore, to broaden consultations and agree on everything required to ensure that the framework of operations of the APC Board of Trustees guarantees that former serving Presidents can work in harmony”, he stated.
On My Fani Kayode, the PGF DG said; “Almost every member of APC is angry that our leaders have brought someone like Mr Fani-Kayode into our party. This is made worse by the red-carpet reception given to him, which he doesn’t deserve. But since it has happened, there is no need to cry over spilt milk.
“What is very clear is that our leaders, especially President Buhari have forgiven Mr Fani-Kayode and embrace him as one of us. As members of APC, our anger with Mr Fani-Kayode is that he has abused both the APC, President Buhari and virtually every leader of the party.
“For instance, he claimed that the ‘emergence of Buhari in 2015 annihilated Nigeria and plunged her into darkness, death and destruction. He came to steal, kill and destroy and for the last disastrous 5 years that is all he has done.’ More than this, he has said unprintable things against the APC and all its leaders.
“At this point, therefore, if with all these, our leaders can accept Mr Fani-Kayode into the party, APC members should not be more Catholic than the Pope. Why should APC members be sad that our leaders are magnanimous? Perhaps, because of the red-carpet reception, which many committed APC members cannot even dream of, it should be legitimate to feel unappreciated like Mr Joe Igbokwe had cried out.
“But as APC members, especially those who have been in the party since its formation in 2013 and have endured all the challenges of being loyal members, we must always be reminded that our commitment is to contribute in whatever way and manner possible to change Nigeria for the better.
“If therefore, someone like Mr Fani-Kayode, who is considered unreliable and therefore not qualified to be a member, would seek for forgiveness from our leaders, based on which they extended their arms to him, members of the APC should also show understanding”.