Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has explained the reason why he conceded defeat in 2015 after losing the country’s presidential election.
The former Nigerian leader in his book, ‘My Transition Hours’ says the country was palpably tensed and there was an urgent need for him to inject peace into the polity.
“I was fully informed about the manipulations, intrigues, intimidation and betrayals. The consequences of not conceding were only better imagined. My natural instinct for peace automatically surfaced. I was going to make a decision which reflected my commitment to that ideal.
This is the foundation of my essence. In my periodic projections into the future, I did not see how I would be presiding over any kind of chaos. I was prepared to promote the peace, unity and progress of Nigeria. “This is a huge sacrifice, but I hope my readers believe me when I say it turned out to be one of the easiest decisions I ever took while in office.
With my mind made up, I knew it was time to inject peace into the tensed polity, especially before INEC completed collation. “I was in my living room with some ministers, aides and friends.
Among them were the Coordinating Minister for the Economy/Honourable Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, the Honourable Minister of Aviation, Mr. Osita Chidoka and Waripamowei Dudafa, my Senior Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs.
“They were recommending sundry alternatives, but I was quiet in the midst of their discussion. I hugged my thoughts, figuring out how to do that which was best for the country. My personal interest was receding rapidly and the interest of Nigeria looming large.
I excused myself and left the sitting room. I walked into my study. Even here, my mantra was a strong circle around me, supporting and comforting me. Let the country survive. Let democracy survive. My political ambition is not worth people being ‘soaked in blood’.
“More reports flowed in and I could not wait anymore. The announcement of the final result could take issues out of all our hands. It was time for me to take action and bring peace to the nation. I felt I was destined by God at that point in time to inject the peace serum and douse the palpable tension in the country.
“I reached for the telephone and placed a call through the State House operators at about 4:45 pm. A peace I had never felt since my political sojourn, descended on me. It showed me where I had been in the past 16 years and where I was then. I smiled at the thought of what I was about to do.
I waited calmly for the person at the other end of my call to answer.
Buhari: “Hello Your Excellency!” Me: Your Excellency, how are you?”
Buhari: “I am alright, Your Excellency”
Buhari: “Thank you very much Your Excellency …”
“For several seconds the line was seized by the loudest silence I have ever known. Then we had a brief discussion. I could sense his relief too. He knew what could have been. Here is a man who had contested three times and lost. Maybe my gesture humbled him against his expectations because he thanked me and we talked about the handing over processes.
“Everywhere all over Africa, Asia and other parts of the world, countless deaths have been recorded on the scores of elections and power disputes. I mentioned Cote d’Ivoire earlier, where people died in their thousands during post-election violence.
A similar scenario had unfolded in Kenya. African nations are more prone to post-election violence than other parts of the world. Only very few African nations have not experienced post-election violence on a very grand scale or some bitter power tussle fed by tribal or ethnic sentiments.
“I hung up the phone, confident that my decision was right for Nigeria and would probably have a great impact on Africa. This may well be the beginning of a new perspective to power; a perspective which places national interest above personal preference.
It should not always be about winning. “After my conversation with Muhammadu Buhari, which lifted my spirit greatly, I felt better and lighter; it was time to break the news to my Ministers and aides. I wandered back into the living room. These are people I came to know after a period of time. I anticipated what their response would be.
“In my new found calm, I stood before them and told them what I had just done. The elections were over. I had called and congratulated Muhammadu Buhari on his victory. It was time for all of us to move on.
Stunned silence greeted the room for some time and after they overcame their shock, they all congratulated me. “My Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka, sought my permission to tweet my phone conversation with Muhammadu Buhari. I obliged and he did.
The country was no longer waiting for the declaration of the election results. The nationwide tension automatically dissipated as though a red hot piece of iron had been dipped in a bowl of water.’’
Sleepless nights before the poll The former president lamented that many persons within and outside his party aided and abetted his loss at the poll because of their actions and utterances, which tended to give the opposition an edge over him and the PDP.
Jonathan recalled with pains: “The previous six weeks had been the longest of my life and the climax finally came that cool morning of the 28th of March, 2015, the Presidential Election Day. Skeptics and mischief makers had flown the non-existent kite of tenure elongation, interim government and all the other shenanigans
they could come up with to blackmail my administration and make us look bad in the eyes of Nigerians and the international community. “As is customary, I flew to my community, Otuoke in my State, Bayelsa, to cast my ballot. Some hours into the election, I received some disturbing signals. INEC officials in Southern Nigeria were insisting on the use of card readers while in the Northern part of the country, the decision to use card reader had been de-emphasized.
It was clear that something was wrong somewhere. Tension was brewing in the country because the card readers were malfunctioning. “The intelligence report I had received also carried the spectre of the fabled American intelligence community prediction about the collapse of the Nigerian nation state. The disintegration of Nigeria was a possibility if I contested the results of the election, no matter how justified.
There were justifiable grounds but I was determined that Nigeria will not disintegrate during my tenure. “The fate of thousands of Christians and Southerners in the North and my other Northern supporters, who were at the risk of being slaughtered if I took a selfish decision, lay heavily on my mind. Reprisals were certain to follow in the South.
What rang persistently in my mind was the futility of vanity. “What would it profit me if I clung on to power and let my country slide into an avoidable crisis? Who would stop the impending crisis? Too many things were bound to go wrong! “The multiple massacres which characterized the aftermath of the 2011 elections were still fresh in my memory.
I was neither willing nor ready to look grieving children and parents in the eye and explain to them that they lost their loved ones because of leadership struggle.
Already some Nigerian citizens and external forces had plans that were not good for our country. “I had every reason to contest the results, starting from educational qualification for elections and electoral malpractices. These were the facts in my hands, but there was also the question of worth. Was it worth it? I reflected on some details.
My country had been under colonial rule and our fathers mounted a struggle for freedom from the colonial masters. Without shedding blood, we gained our independence. How could I now be party to a decision that would result in rivers of blood which would flow across the land? “I thought deeply about the hand it had pleased God to deal me.
My rise to the pinnacle of power in a country of 180 Million people (in 2010), most of whom would give anything to be where I had been, was already cause for eternal gratitude.
“I thought about the economy to which we dedicated long hours and hard labour which had only recently officially become the largest economy in Africa. Every three months, I had chaired the meetings of the Economic Management Team involving the top players of the organised private sector and key government officials.
Those meetings of the economic management team usually lasted upwards of three hours. How could I jeopardise all our joint efforts? “I thought about the policies my administration had put in place just to convince genuine foreign investors to invest in Nigeria. I imagined all those huge investments simply coming to ruins.
Could I sincerely let all those investments go to waste? We toiled to make the Nigerian economy the number one destination for foreign investment in Africa, as published in the World Investment Report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), 2013. Could I then watch the destruction of that same economy? My choice of peace “In my capacity as Nigeria’s President, I worked with other Presidents to resolve the political crises in some West African countries.
In Cote d’Ivoire alone, thousands of human beings were killed in post-election violence. There were other crises in the sub-region which we helped resolve. How would I discuss Nigeria’s stability with my colleagues from ECOWAS? What do I tell them? “From 1967 to 1970, Nigeria fought a very bitter civil war in which millions of lives were lost.
That war was fought over a secession attempt by a region which was the culmination of unsettled issues stemming from the disputed 1965 Western Region of Nigeria election which eventually led to the first military coup in Nigeria on 15 January 1966.
The consequences of the civil war are still haunting us till date. Did I want history to repeat itself? Could I partake in the reincarnation of that war which sent hundreds of thousands of Nigerians to an early grave? A war which razed down my own very community! ‘’From the interim report before me, youth had been armed and mobilized to unleash mayhem. Provisions of guns, petrol bombs, knives and other incendiary substances had been made in full readiness for maelstrom on a massive scale.
“This was not surprising given the threat by the main opposition party, to form a parallel government if the elections were “rigged”. Every election that had not been won by the opposition in the past was considered rigged.
“An eerie comment was made two years before by the then main opposition candidate, threatening that “if what happened in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.”
“Of course what happened in 2011 was that the opposition had lost the Presidential election that was unanimously adjudged free and fair by both international and local observer missions.
The former Botswanan President, Festus Mogae, who led the Commonwealth Election Observer Group, returned the following verdict, describing the election to be “orderly and transparent and therefore a pleasant surprise given the fact that this country has been notorious for flawed elections.”
Mr. Mogae, said further he was “very impressed” by the election stressing that other observers had adjudged it the most credible election since Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999. “When I met with then President Obama after the 2011 elections, he told me that from the information they had, the elections were free and fair. Yet here was the opposition threatening to “soak” the country in blood if the same thing occurred in 2015. Indeed when my opponent challenged the results of the 2011 elections in the Court of Appeal, all five Justices unanimously upheld the results of the election. The same happened at the Supreme Court where all seven Justices again unanimously upheld the results of the election. There was no minority judgment in both appellate courts. “As I said earlier, recalling 2011 was too easy.
I won the election but the nation lost many lives. Youth were mobilized to cause havoc in the North despite the fact that there were no genuine disputes about my victory. That victory ended up tasting like ash in my mouth because of the loss of lives and mindless destruction of properties. The murders were as many as they were foul; properties worth billions of Naira of many Nigerians in the North perceived to have sympathy for me were destroyed. “By the time the 2015 elections came, it was practically impossible for my supporters in some parts of the North to go out and canvass for me; and in fact, on election day, to go out and vote.
Threats of violence against them were palpable and real. This was particularly so because of the bitter experience of the 2011 elections in which more than 500 people in Kaduna were killed including the brutal murder of the 10 NYSC members in Bauchi in the aftermath of the declaration of the elections. “The fact that I got only 16% of the votes in Bauchi State was an indication that the reasons for the killings went beyond the results of the election from the state. “The alleged sin of those NYSC members was serving their fatherland as INEC ad hoc staff on Election Day.
It had since stuck to my memory. Hundreds of thoughts flashed through my mind in each round of reflection. Could we ever play politics without bitterness in this country? The phrase raised the image of one of our great leaders in my mind, late Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim. His advocacy was “politics without bitterness.” “Nigeria was at the brink of a major explosion. Many who could afford airline tickets had already sent or were planning to send their families overseas. Those who could not afford to leave the country were sending their loved ones to neighbouring nations, or their villages and towns. The flight from this unseen but impending catastrophe was happening more in the big cities like Lagos,Abuja, Kano and Katsina.
“I felt so sad for the youth prepped to kill and destroy. I was apprehensive of human lives that would be lost, properties and investments worth trillions of Naira going up in flames. I had genuine fears that my country would no longer be one if I took to serve my personal interest. “It was at this point that the breakthrough came to me as something in my spirit recalled the single phrase I was noted for saying, ‘my ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.’ This was my mantra when I ran for election into the office of the Governor of Bayelsa State in 2006 and it gained a prominent echo during my Presidential campaign in 2011 and 2015.
“I knew instantly that if I clung on to power, latching on to some of the identified infractions of the elections, there was a possibility that Nigeria may have imploded. If it was just that perhaps some people may have been pleased but it was not just that Nigeria’s corporate existence would be threatened, it would have first been” soaked in blood.”
“I had worked hard to consolidate and protect the independence of INEC that conducted an acceptable election in 2011. Can I tell the world that the same INEC had changed because of some interest? It was a burden for me as a sitting President to tell the world that the same INEC had performed differently in the 2015 elections. “The division along religious and ethnic lines was sharp. The positions were firm and decided. It was a very dangerous moment which could not be taken for granted.
The prediction of the U.S intelligence community on the disintegration of Nigeria was an additional concern. Such intelligence is not to be ignored. Not that all their predictions come to pass but indicators pointed to a great likelihood that this one may have been a correct call. “The spill over scenario of Nigeria’s population throughout the West African and Central African sub-regions was always the nightmare of Heads of Government and everybody involved in the vigil for peace in the region and far beyond. I refused to bear that burden.
I knew I had to act swiftly,” Jonathan explained. The Roll Call The book launch attracted a host of eminent Nigerians and foreign heads of state such as President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha; former President Olusegun Obasango; former Nigerian heads of state – Generals Yakubu Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar; former Vice President and PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar; former Vice President Namadi Sambo; former President of Ghana, John Mahama; former presidents of Sierra Leone and Benin Republic; Senate President Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; past and serving PDP governors; and former Ministers of the PDP.
There were also National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Adams Oshiomhole, President of the African Development Bank, ADB, Akinwumi Adesina; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar N’Abba; former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu; Senator Godwill Akpabio; former Governor of Anambra State and PDP Vice Presidential Candidate, Mr. Peter Obi; Senator Jim Nwobodo; former Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State; representatives of the diplomatic community in Nigeria, and traditional institution among others.
Nigerians must not allow anti-democratic elements access to power – Obasanjo
Former President Obasanjo, who chaired the occasion, held at the Transcorp Hilton, said Nigerians must not allow anti-democratic elements, whom he refereed to as hooligans to have access to power, saying it would become a dangerous weapon in their hands. Agreeing that there is no alternative to democracy, he said there was every tendency that anti democratic elements would abuse it. Congratulating Jonathan on his 61st birthday, Obasanjo said: “The birthday boy.
I congratulate you and we all congratulate ourselves for you. I thank you for making me the chair of the occasion. We must also congratulate you for enjoying a peaceful retirement. You have put your experience in the book. Let me also welcome you to the club of authors. From experience, there are four seasons for a democrat.
“The first is when you start campaign and you are going round and everything is going well and the election comes and you win. The second season is when you take up office and all is going well and then you you have ups and downs and, of course, you came in with high popularity as you go on the popularity starts to dwindle and you lose election.
The beginning of the third season is it does not matter who you are… and the fourth season is when you have weathered the storm and you start up again. If you have launched this book three years ago, you wouldn’t have mustered the crowd you have today.
We are enjoying that life. “We have residual responsibility to continue to serve people and God and that’s is the position you are in now. You and I have residual responsibility to service the public. But when all is said and done, there is still no substitute for democracy. It fosters peace and not conflict and violence. It builds and does not destroy.
It unifies rather than divide. It does. But all these happen if only democracy stands as instrument in the hands of democrats. We must avoid hooligans having access to this dangerous weapon because they will abuse it.” Buhari, Gowon, Abdulsalami salute Jonathan for saving Nigeria’s democracy Also speaking at the event, President Buhari, Generals Yakubu Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar hailed Jonathan for conceding defeat in the 2015 election, saying it was one singular act of kindness that largely saved Nigeria from blood shed. President Buhari, who recalled how Jonathan phoned to congratulate him and subsequently conceded defeat said that history will judge his predecessor well.
The President also called on Nigerians to eschew rancour and bitterness especially as the 2019 elections draw nearer. The president,who was represented by Mustapher made a joke of his campaign slogan that Nigeria was going to the next level. But the joke met a swift resistance from the audience who shouted “Atiku, PDP, Let’s get our country working again”. Said Buhari to Jonathan: “Your singular act of placing a call to me calmed all frayed nerves. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and I were parties to ensure that 2015 elections were violent free.
History has recorded your time. History will judge you well as a patriotic leader. “I call on all to see elections as a contest based on principle, programmes that should uplift the nation.
There is best level, there is only the next level. I charge you today to promote one Nigeria. You are a leader of the past, you are a leader of the now, be rest assured you are a leader of the present.”
In his goodwill message, Gen. Gowon thanked Jonathan for resisting voices that told him to hang onto power at the time, saying that it saved Nigeria a serious trouble. “All the speeches made here today have been wonderful. What am I to add? Let me first congratulate you on your 61 birthday. What I want to say is that I remembered that the concern of everyone was how the election was going to go. It was serious. Then on the final day the news came that Ebele Jonathan had conceded defeat and congratulate the winner.
There was such jubilation. You did something that many people have not been able to do and you saved Nigerian from a serious trouble. May God bless you for that. Thank God for what you have done.’’ Also, General Abdulsalami Abubakar said that Nigeria would remain eternally grateful to Jonathan.
“On behalf of my wife, I congratulate President. We cannot thank you enough for the peace we are having in the country through peaceful transition when you voluntarily and honourably conceded defeat. You have brought peace to the is country. You became an example to Africa. You showed that you love your country more than you love power. I wish you well.”
To Senate President Bukola Saraki, Nigeria’s finest hour was the time Jonathan conceded defeat. “Let me on behalf of the senate congratulate you. It is Nigeria’s finest hours in African Continent. As we all read the book, we all learn lesson. And we will not let it go down beyond our levels. Mr. President, the spirit of the book is what we should ensure. The spirit in the sense that no blood of any Nigerian is worth wasting. We will ensure the standard you have set”, he said.