Former President Goodluck Jonathan Monday night rejected the presidential nomination form obtained for him by a group, the Nomadic Herders and Almajiris Community in Nigeria.
Dr Jonathan, in a statement by his Media Adviser Ikechukwu Eze posted on his Facebook page at about midnight, said he was not aware of the move.
The statement reads: “It has come to the notice of His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, that a group has purportedly purchased Presidential Nomination and Expression of Interest forms, of the All Progressives Congress (the APC), in his name.
“We wish to categorically state that Dr. Jonathan was not aware of this bid and did not authorize it.
“While we appreciate the overwhelming request by a cross-section of Nigerians for Dr. Jonathan to make himself available for the 2023 Presidential election, we wish to state that he has not in any way, committed himself to this request.
“We thank the general public for their concern, as we continue to encourage citizen participation in the affairs of the country.”
Before the rebuttal by the former president, controversy trailed the nomination form purchase.
The group, led by one Ibrahim Abdullahi, claimed that it had picked the form for the former president.
One of the former president’s aides, Reno Omokri, said it would be difficult to shave the head of a person in his absence.
He tweeted: “First of all, to whet your appetite, let me say that under the rain and under the sun, I will follow Jonathan.
“Secondly, I can’t ever be one with APC. Thirdly, nobody can shave HE @GEJonathan’s head in his absence. Read between the lines. More to come!”
But, President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman on New Media, Bashir Ahmad in a tweet on his verified Twitter handle at about 8:35 pm, said: “So, Goodluck Jonathan has dumped the opposition PDP and now a member of our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).”
In a telephone chat with The Nation, Ahmad explained that all circumstances pointed to the fact that the former President would be seeking to return to the office on the platform of the party that removed him from office in 2015.
According to him, a political party would sell nomination and expression of interest forms to only its registered member.
He added: “No one will give out N100 million to buy a presidential form from a party he’s not a member of. The primary reason for parties to sell their forms to you is that you must first be a registered member,” Ahmad argued.
Three chieftains also yesterday joined the presidential race, raising the number of contenders to 25.
Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Minister of State for Petroleum Timipre Sylva and Cross Rivers State Governor Ben Ayade obtained the forms.
Pastor Tunde Bakare, who picked the form last week, unfolded his plans in Abuja.
Also yesterday, frontline aspirant Asiwaju Bola Tinubu intensified his consultation and mobilisation, wooing party delegates in Katsina.
Recently the former President while hosting some women and youths who came to persuade him to contest the 2023 election, told them the process of his joining the race was in progress.
Addressing reporters after picking the form, Abdullahi said: “I represent two of the most vulnerable communities in our country. The nomadic pastoralist and the almajirai communities have decided to purchase this form for our former president, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to come back and rule this country and continue with the good work he has started.
“You may recall that during Goodluck Jonathan’s era, he was the first President since the independence of Nigeria who has found it expedient, who was magnanimous enough to remember the almajiri community. He brought a comprehensive policy of reformation and integration of the almajirai into the mainstream educational system in Nigeria.
“It was the dream and the vision of President Goodluck Jonathan that if that programme had continued it would one day produce from the Almajiri system of education doctors and engineers. Unfortunately, that programme was kept aside as soon as he left.
“Other parts of the vulnerable community that Goodluck Jonathan wanted to give a sense of belonging was the Fulani community, the nomadic pastoralist.”
The nomadic leader said the good work of the former President made them sell their cows to raise the money for the purchase of the forms.
On the party membership status of the former President, the Fulani leader said: “Yes President Goodluck Jonathan is a member of APC.”
The nomination form for the Senate President was purchased by a group of friends in the ruling APC, led by Chief Sam Nkire, a member of the National Caucus and 15 senators. Sylva’s form was picked by a group of friends, led by Alhaji Sulaiman Abdullahi.
Speaking with reporters after collecting the nomination forms for the Senate President, Nkire said the Lawan’s antecedents qualified him for the prime job.
Nkire, who hails from Abia State dismissed the argument for zoning, saying: “Every politician is in politics to win. We don’t want PDP to take the government from us.
“If you give the position to a Southerner and PDP gives a Northerner, APC will go into the wilderness. I’m not ready to go to the wilderness.”
Suleiman Abdullahi, spokesman of Northern Solidarity Group for Timipre Sylva, said nomination forms were picked for the minister based on his competence and antecedent.
He said: “We picked this presidential nomination forms to surprise the Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, to contest for the presidency of this country, which we found him capable to do. We are his fans from the Northern part of Nigeria.
“Nigerians can see from his antecedent from the state level to the federal level that he has garnered necessary experience and is well accepted across the country. So we know that his chances of winning the ticket of the APC are brighter.”
Sylva promised to consult Ijaw National leader, Chief Edwin Clark, and other leaders before deciding to run.
He said he would commence the consultation in his constituency.
Speaking at the entrance of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited Towers, Abuja, where the form was presented to him, he said he was humbled and shocked to realise that the group appreciated his efforts.
His words: “I am humbled and shocked that my efforts have been noticed by you Nigerians. And that you Nigerians by yourself you go and take the trouble of obtaining the nomination and the expression of interest form for me.
“It is very humbling and I must also say that I am very happy and pleased by this gesture.
“I need to consult my constituency and consult the leaders of this country and then I will come back to you to let you know if I have taken the position to run for this contest.
“You will give me a very short time. I will start right away the consultation and will go to my leaders, for example, the Ijaw leader, Sir EK Clark.
“I will talk to him. I will also consult other leaders of the country and I will get back to you.”
A member of the group leader, Alhaji Mohammed Abu Abaji, said since the minister has been in the saddle, the oil and gas industry has not been threatened by Niger Delta agitators.
Lawan joins APC’s Presidential race
Lawan, after receiving the forms, said he had consulted widely and promised to play the game by the rules.
He said: “Today is a special day and this moment is very memorable and historic. Over the last seven years, we have been participants in the administration of our country at the national level.
“I have listened to various calls from all parts of our dear country, our dear nation Nigeria, for me to show interest to run for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“I took my time to pray to almighty God to guide me. I took my time to consult very widely, consult Nigerians from all parts of the country to ensure that I get the understanding of the citizens of this country on whose behalf we will, by the Grace of God, win the election and run the administration.
“Nigeria needs to be taken to the next level. We know what we have been able to achieve as an administration and as a political party and we know where we are supposed to take this level to eventually.
“I want to commit myself to this call and this movement of Nigerians from all walks of life, rich, poor, north, south, east, west, male, female, old and young.
“This is not my journey. This is our journey. This is our journey because every hand must be on deck for us to achieve exactly what we need to achieve.
“I am joining lately. The field is already full of other aspirants. I want, at this point, to assure Nigerians that the APC is a very beautiful bride and that is why we have many aspirants.
Chief Whip Orji Kalu, yesterday, withdrew from the race. He said he would be supporting Lawan to succeed the president.
Kalu in a statement in Abuja said: “I congratulate my friend, former roommate and boss, Senator Ahmad Lawan, as he picks form to run for President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under our great party, All Progressives Congress (APC).
“I am most glad because he is from the Northeast, the only zone alongside the Southeast that is yet to produce the President of Nigeria.
“I have always maintained an unambiguous stand that for justice, equity and fairness in our country, the next President of Nigeria after President Muhammadu Buhari should come from the Southeast or the Northeast.
“I have also told Nigerians that I would only run for the office of President if the two major political parties (APC and PDP) zone their tickets to the Southeast.
“That is why I was disappointed with our Southern brothers who are talking about fairness and equity but have zero tolerance for the same fairness and equity in the South.
“In the absence of a South Easterner being President of Nigeria in 2023, I have my full support for a North Easterner. This is because it would be the closest to the equity, fairness and justice everyone is talking about. It further means that justice is on its way to the Southeast.”
“I thank those who said they have picked presidential form for me because they meant well for Nigerians.
“However, since there is no zoning and the contest is open to all Nigerians, I officially withdraw from the presidential contest in 2023.
“I have also picked a ticket to run for Abia North Senatorial zone and to complete the good work I started in Abia North.
“I urge all my friends, allies and supporters in the APC to toe the line of justice by supporting Senator Ahmad Lawan, a North Easterner for the presidential ticket of the APC.”
Ayade expressed confidence that he “will be the next president of this country”.
He said he would engage Nigerians on the “basis of what I have done and not on promises and not on statistics”.
“I would do so with videos and pictures so that those who don’t know would know,” he said.
He spoke shortly after he received his nomination and Expression of Interest (EOI) forms purchased for him by sons and daughters of Cross River State, Arewa Youths as well as other interest groups across the country’s six geopolitical zones.
Ayade said he would replicate his successes as a state governor at the national level and help address the country’s myriad of challenges.
“I thank all of you who have contributed to the purchase of these forms, your money will not go in vain,” he said.
Ayade said: “Great Nigerians citizens, I come before you not as a politician but as a system purifier.
“I understand the challenges of this country and that as Ph.D student, as somebody who is a professor, I have an intellectual potency to my professorship.”
The governor said as a senator, he sponsored 41 bills – the highest in the Seventh Republic and transformed the state despite meeting a gross debt profile of over N382 billion.