By Rotimi Fasan
THIS month, precisely the 29th day, makes it exactly two full years to the day the present administration was inaugurated. That single event was preceded by the rather (in our parts of the world) unprecedented feat of the defeat of an incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan.
The winner of that election, Muhammadu Buhari, was a three time presidential election candidate manqué. Many Nigerians would argue that by the time he was entering the race again in 2015, his fourth attempt, he had become desperate and considerably embittered by his previous failed attempts.
They would cite his belligerent and uncompromising rhetoric before the election, indeed in the many months leading up to it, as evidence of his bitter disposition. His infamous reference to people bathing in the blood of baboons and tigers if the people’s (his people?) will was not allowed to prevail was one his critics were never quick to forget. For Buhari and company then it appeared it was either the ‘way or the highway’- either Muhammadu Buhari won or his supporters in the north would resort to bloodshed.
They, including the northern elite, had to some extent made the country ungovernable for Jonathan by their implied if not active support of the insurgency of Boko Haram.
Thus their belligerence as reflected in the quoted words of Buhari and evidenced in the murderous violence of Boko Haram didn’t at all look like a bluff even though many in the south, especially in the Niger-Delta, were equally poised to confront whatever threat the north wanted to unleash. The northern establishment’s refusal to condemn in clear terms the activities of Boko-Haram seemed a tacit endorsement of what it was doing.
This was before the group became blinded by an overweening sense of mission, a delusion of grandeur that got it seeing itself as a credible alternative to the ruling government and indeed a better option to the western-style democracy that was in place. At this point it made no distinction between the putative ruling infidels from the south and their northern counterparts. This all culminated with the group’s declaration of a caliphate in a section of the north-east.
But all of this was before the election that saw Buhari emerge as president which, given his sabre-rattling rhetoric many months before, was sufficient excuse if not sound reason for Jonathan to have paid him back in his own coin by rejecting the outcome of the election that pronounced him defeated.
The disruptive display of Godswill Orubebe at the collation centre during the announcement of the result by Attahiru Jega was a frightful glimpse of what could have happened had Jonathan chosen to toe that typical line of Nigerian politicians. There are now reports of behind-the-scene activities that suggested Jonathan indeed contemplated rejecting the result or at least was urged to do so until he was nudged in the direction of surrender by some western powers and local peace brokers.
The Obama administration, leading other western governments like the United Kingdom, is said to have taken a leading role in this. Long story short: Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat to the utter dismay of his kinsmen, supporters and associates, including his wife. This was the sense in which his concession of defeat was at once unprecedented and deserving of praise. His decision, whether influenced by others or self-imposed, was very much ‘Against the run of play’. It’s for this reason I’m restating that Jonathan ought to be praised.
But two years down the line the election is being x-rayed for a number of reasons, not the least being the role played by America and Britain. It would also appear that Jonathan himself now regrets his failure to challenge Buhari’s victory.
While Britain has now rejected any such ascribed role, America has not denied playing a part or showing interest in the winner of the election. America has in fact been consolidating and doubling down on its interest in the election by the way it’s being extending funds to Nigeria in its fight against insurgency and its readiness to sell military hardware to the country.
This was something the Obama administration had refused to do even while it promised, tongue-in-cheek, to support Nigeria’s anti-insurgency war.
It’s in character for the British to take diplomacy to its very limit and be shy of admitting to any part in the internal affairs of other countries, particularly in a matter as sensitive as an election. It should, therefore, not be surprising that the Brits have been quick to deny any part or interest in the election that led to the ouster of Jonathan. But in spite of the irony of its position following the hacking controversy and the alleged interference of Russia in the outcome of the presidential election that brought Donald Trump into office, America has studiously ignored whatever is being said about its part in the emergence of Buhari.
This again should not be surprising given who presently steers America’s ship of state. But whatever America did or didn’t do, what should concern us as Nigerians is what appears like Jonathan’s apparent regret for conceding defeat, a point that is further rubbed in by his kinsmen who have dismissed his recent comments about the election and likened it to crying after spilt milk. Jonathan has expressed disappointment in Attahiru Jega as he has in the former chair of the Peoples Democratic Party, Adamu Muazu among other ‘fifth columnists’ supposedly on his side.
And this is why we should all be concerned because Jonathans’s acceptance of defeat was generally seen as a sign that democracy was maturing in Nigeria. But if he continues to gripe about his loss as he lately appears to be doing, he would be undercutting the morality of his decision. Nigerians would be left no better option than to conclude as some have that he conceded not because he was a democrat as many had been led to believe, or opposed to bloodshed as he claimed.
But rather Nigerians would see his giving up power as something he did out of fear- of either the north or of Nigerians who were exasperated with the PDP or just simply of the unknown. Perhaps votes were inflated in certain parts by both parties in the election but I do not truly believe that Jonathan lost the election because he was rigged out. No, the PDP was desperate to win even when all signs pointed to its defeat.
Regretting his loss at this time is surely an impotent gesture and he is better off silent and be thought a democrat than to open his mouth too widely and be seen as a sore loser but one too weak to fight. Then he loses both the moral high ground and the goodwill of Nigerians.