It is not how long but how well, President Goodluck Jonathan, Tuesday, turned deaf to the drumbeats of war from associates to congratulate the victor in last Saturday’s presidential election. His exit strategy could position him on the platform of statesmanship
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
WIth the trend of the results of the presidential election showing his challenger, Muhammadu Buhari in an unassailable lead, Jonathan at about 5.15 p.m. on Tuesday put forth a telephone call to Buhari to concede defeat.
It was an unprecedented act especially given the fact that never in the history of the country had such an act been done for a party in power in Nigeria to admit defeat in an electoral contest.
The action of Dr. Jonathan who flew the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was especially remarkable given the tension that had enveloped the country in the days leading to the election. Non indigenes in the north had relocated down south, while a number of non-indigenes living in the south also went north in apprehension of possible outbreak of violence arising from what many feared would be a violent resistance to the result of the election. The violence that followed the announcement of the 2011 election that was itself not as competitive as the last presidential election cost hundreds of lives.
That apprehension this time was against the background of the assertion by the PDP, which has ruled the country since the return to democratic rule 16 years ago that the party would rule for 60 years.
Besides that, were the insinuations that some associates of the president who are major beneficiaries of Jonathan’s continued stay in office would do everything including provoking a truncation of the democratic system to stop a handover. That insinuation was given a fillip by the action of a close associate of the president, Elder Godsday Orubebe while the collation was ongoing on Tuesday. The former minister of Niger Delta had stalled the process for about 20 minutes and accused the INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega of bias. What especially raised concern among some was that Orubebe came to the venue of the collation with some security operatives.
However, quick assurance that Orubebe was on a solitary mission came with the disclosure that President Jonathan was the one who forced him to stop his protest through a phone call from the presidential villa.
Perceptions that some were determined to stop Buhari was perhaps attributable to his austere and disciplinarian disposition. Indeed, there were fears that Buhari could herd many elite into prison, a claim that was repeatedly insinuated by Mrs. Patience Jonathan during the campaigns.
So it was not surprising that in the days leading to the election and as indications showed that Buhari could unseat Jonathan, insinuations about establishing an Interim National Government, ING as a way of staving off a government to be headed by Buhari were repeatedly voiced.
President Jonathan was, however, quick to show his prodemocracy identity by ruling out such an option, going to the length of describing such as treasonable.
However, as the results of the election began to emerge and with indications that Buhari was taking an unassailable lead, the tension that had enveloped the land began to swell.
Workers who went to work at the Federal Secretariat in Abuja on Monday, the first working day after the election were forced to go home early as rumours of possible unrest swept through the complex. The rumours also spread through to Lagos as workers in the Lagos State Government secretariat in Alausa also relocated home on the fear of possible violence. Besides the stampedes out of the government offices in Abuja and Lagos, the eerie emptiness of the roads in Lagos and Abuja were indicative of doom. The tension in the land was not helped by the dithering procrastination by the election management body in releasing the results of the election.
Dousing of tension
By Tuesday afternoon and with tension swelling, President Jonathan at about 5.15 p.m. put a call to Buhari to congratulate him and concede victory to him. By the time the president did that, results from Borno State were yet to be inputted into the tally of votes. The president’s action became public knowledge after Buhari himself told a delegation of eminent statesmen led by a former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar of the president’s action.
That action alone immediately doused tension in the land. It was what saved the polity from the possible outbreak of violence on Tuesday night especially given the dithering procrastination that shadowed the compilation of the final results. Indeed, many had suggested that had Dr. Jonathan not put the call the time he did and given the delay it took INEC to announce Buhari as winner, that many tensed supporters of the APC could have imagined a plot to scuttle the party’s victory.
In his private conversation with the Abubakar led group of statesmen that included business mogul Aliko Dangote, John Cardinal Onaiyekan and former military second in command, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, the president explained his reasons.
He was to make the reasons public later in a national broadcast on state-owned Nigerian Television Authority, NTA. He said: “I promised the country free and fair elections. I have kept my word. I have also expanded the space for Nigerians to participate in the democratic process. That is one legacy I will like to see endure.
“Although some people have expressed mixed feelings about the results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I urge those who may feel aggrieved to follow due process based on our constitution and our electoral laws, in seeking redress. “As I have always affirmed, nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. The unity, stability and progress of our dear country are more important than anything else.
“I congratulate all Nigerians for successfully going through the process of the March 28th General Elections with the commendable enthusiasm and commitment that was demonstrated nationwide.
“I also commend the Security Services for their role in ensuring that the elections were mostly peaceful and violence-free. To my colleagues in the PDP, I thank you for your support. Today, the PDP should be celebrating rather than mourning. We have established a legacy of democratic freedom, transparency, economic growth and free and fair elections.
“For the past 16 years, we have steered the country away from ethnic and regional politics. We created a Pan-Nigerian political party and brought home to our people the realities of economic development and social transformation. “Through patriotism and diligence, we have built the biggest and most patriotic party in Nigerian history. We must stand together as a party and look to the future with renewed optimism.
“I thank all Nigerians once again for the great opportunity I was given to lead this country and assure you that I will continue to do my best at the helm of national affairs until the end of my tenure”. Dr. Jonathan has inevitably set a culture and course for other presidents that may lose elections. By his action, he has inevitably set a step forward towards the land of statesmen and Nigeria will be the better for it.