By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA—President Muhammadu Buhari has revealed that commitment to democratic ideals and the patriotic zeal exhibited by the major political actors in the 2015 presidential election shamed prophets of doom who predicted that Nigeria would disintegrate.
According to him, the success of the election has deepened the practice of democracy in Nigeria and made the people to have faith in the electoral system, believing that their votes can actually count.
Buhari, who named himself, former President Goodluck Jonathan and former chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, as the critical stakeholders in the election, spoke at the Leadership Awards, an event organized by Leadership Newspapers in Abuja, yesterday, with the theme:
Democracy, Political Transition and the Challenge of Leadership in Africa, where he was honoured alongside Jonathan and Jega as “Leadership Persons of the Year.”
We’ve shamed prophets of doom—Buhari
He said: “Let me hasten to congratulate my joint award winners, my predecessor, His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR and Professor Attahiru Jega, the former Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, as ‘Leadership Person of the Year.’
“The events of 2015, which the Leadership Newspaper has chosen to bring to the fore today, marked a watershed in the political history of our country.
“Those of us who were participating actors in the elections were led by the higher ideal of the future of our great country and the well being of our people rather than the mere desire of politicians to win elections.
“It is, therefore, our commitment to this ideal, the patriotic zeal of former President Jonathan, the impartiality of the electoral umpire, INEC, and exemplary conduct of the political parties, foreign pressure and other actors that, we collectively disappointed the prophets of doom who had predicted the disintegration of the country after the 2015 general elections.
“Our democracy has been strengthened by the outcome of the 2015 elections as our people now have more faith in the electoral system, in the sense that their votes would count when choosing political leaders at various levels. We, the political class, should build on the experience of the 2015 elections to nurture our democracy.”
The President commended the effort of the Leadership Newspaper and tasked the media on fostering democratic tenets.
“The media must continually see itself as true partner in the task of nation building and thus act in the spirit of patriotism at all times in the important role of informing the people of the country.
“On our part, our doors are wide open to media inquiries in line with the transparency and anti-corruption stance of our administration,” he said.
Buhari, Jonathan, Jega’s cooperation paid off — Abubakar
In his opening remarks, former military leader, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar (retd.), who was the chairman of the event, hailed the awardees for their roles in the elections, saying Nigerians should be proud of the three leaders.
In his speech, titled Half full, not half empty, Abubakar enjoined Nigerians to celebrate their nation in the light of the outcome of the election, as many countries had been involved in the orgy of violence after the elections.
He, however, said their efforts as members of national peace committee would have come to nought without the collective cooperation of the three leaders.
“Our efforts would have been in vain if President Buhari and former President Jonathan were not willing to cooperate with us and think about Nigeria first or if Prof. Jega had failed to perform his statutory role well.”
Jonathan’s decision to concede defeat prevented 10,000 deaths —Isaiah
Also speaking, chairman of Leadership Newspaper, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, in his welcome address, said the three men were deserving of the awards due to their critical roles in the election.
He went down memory lane to highlight the mood of the country as results of the election were being collated, submitting that Jonathan’s decision to concede defeat saved the country a gargantuan crisis that would have claimed about 10,000 lives.
He said: “Today’s event is basically to celebrate our democracy because there is a lot to celebrate. It is easy to forget the fright, trepidation, and panic that attended the build-up to the 2015 presidential election and how several doomsday pundits concluded that the election might spell the end of Nigeria.
‘’The tension was so high that the United States President felt so genuinely concerned that he had to address Nigerians in a televised broadcast in the fashion that colonial powers used to address their colonies.
“A few thought there was no way we could get out of the presidential election alive as a country. And there was actually the basis for such dire doomsday prophecy.
“The election held on March 28 and by Sunday evening, the opposition candidate was leading and had momentum. By Monday, the ruling PDP had fired its best shots and was clearly behind. That was when people within the ruling party started working towards actualizing what everyone feared.”