A group of supporters from northern Nigeria had bought nomination forms for Jonathan to take part in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party’s primary elections scheduled for later this month.
But in a statement late on Monday, his spokesman Ikechukwu Eze said the former president did not authorise the purchase of the nomination forms, a requirement for candidates to take part in primary elections.
Jonathan was president between 2010 and 2015, under the People’s Democratic Party, now in opposition.
“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,” Eze said.
“We wish to categorically state that Dr Jonathan was not aware of this bid and did not authorise it.”
It is common for Nigerian politicians to switch sides during elections, but it would have been a surprising about-turn if the APC had decided to embrace a candidate it once derided as incompetent when he was president.
With President Muhammadu Buhari due to step down next year after serving two full terms, the race to succeed him is wide open with more than 20 governing party candidates registering to contest the primary vote.
Registration will end on Tuesday and a party committee will screen the candidates, who include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Lagos state governor and party heavyweight Bola Tinubu, Minister of Petroleum Timipre Sylva and several ministers and state governors. Central bank governor, Godwin Emefiele, is also making an unprecedented presidential run.
But the field is expected to narrow once political horse-trading starts, which will lead to some candidates dropping out.