MARCH 31 (17.15) was a very Nigerian moment. It was when President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan called President-elect, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, to concede the 2015 presidential election. It was unprecedented, almost unthinkable, if one judged the stridency of the campaigns and the testy contest for the votes.
Eight hours, 40 minutes later (02.55), the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, formally declared Buhari winner of the poll.
Once the media started relating Jonathan’s concession, the tension that had been building across the country, fueled by official American and British speculations of the results, were being manipulated, dispersed. Nigerians celebrated the victory– Buhari’s 15,424,921 votes (53.95 per cent) of the 28,587,564 valid votes cast– to President Goodluck Jonathan’s, 12,853,162 votes (44.96 per cent).It was a sweeping Buhari victory but the delays in releasing the official result aided a build up of tension that saw offices and business premises closed in some places.
President Jonathan doused the tension with his call to Buhari and a broadcast. “I promised the country free and fair elections. I have kept my word.
That is one legacy I will like to see endure,” he reminded Nigerians. It was unbelievable that a sitting Nigerian president would lose an election and congratulate the winner. The democratic space was expanding. Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State last June set the stage when he conceded the governorship election to Peter Ayodele Fayose, and was having the transition meeting with Fayose before his concession was public. Like what was witnessed yesterday, the Fayemi leadership saved lives and property in Ekiti State, where the tension was about to tip over.
“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,” Jonathan said while asking aggrieved parties to take the prescribed legal steps in addressing their grievances. The victory Jonathan’s leadership offered Nigerians was sterling.
Hours earlier, former Minister Godson Orubebe protested vehemently against the results, holding up proceeding at the collation centre. Many feared that was the President’s stand on the results.
“At exactly 5:15pm, President Jonathan called to congratulate me on my victory. For this, I want all Nigerians to join me in congratulating and appreciating Mr. President for his statesmanship.
President Jonathan engaged in a spirited campaign and was a worthy opponent. I extend my hand of fellowship to him. I look forward to meeting him soon as we plan the transition from one administration to another. He will receive nothing but understanding, cooperation and respect from me and my team,” Buhari said.
Commendations from the African Union to Jonathan for “graciously accepting the results”, and the United States, “President Jonathan has placed his country’s interests first by conceding the election and congratulating president-elect (Muhammadu) Buhari on his victory,” the United Nations and others, all point to the expansive reaches of Jonathan’s action.
INEC’s painstaking efforts in assembling the results, and Professor Attahiru Jega’s steady nerves even when the likes of Orubebe probingly provoked himself, displayed the changes that Nigeria’s democracy is undergoing.
These are worthy precedents on which to build a nation.