Vanguard awards

April 8, 2016

Goodluck Jonathan: Drawing strength from his loss

Goodluck Jonathan: Drawing strength from his loss

Ex President Jonathan

By Jide Ajani

Whichever way you look at the 2015 presidential election, ultimately, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was a gallant contestant; he did the unfamiliar in this part of terra firma — for the first time in Nigeria, an incumbent President accepted defeat. Again, a President seen by many as weak actually reached into the recesses of his psyche and drew inner strength to unflex taut muscles and let go, preferring the way of peace to that of conflict, the beginning of which all may know and see, but whose end not all will see and know.

President Jonathan

President Jonathan

torchbearerThis is because ours is a polity of contentious and unimaginably clashing socio-political and economic interests where it does not take long to ignite the fire of hate, acrimony and general disturbance of peace.

Result of the election

It does not take long to incite the public and call out people who quickly transform into a mob. It happened just after the declaration of results of the 2011 presidential election because the loser let loose on the polity some supporters who did not agree with the result of the election.

In conceding defeat, Dr Jonathan told a nation on tenterhooks in a broadcast: “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 is more important than anything else…”

This, at a time when some hawks in the leadership cadre of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, his political party, did not want him to relinquish power.  Up till the last moment Jonathan called Buhari, some leaders of his party and government did not want to concede.

Unthinkable gesture

Besides, the doomsayers had looked at their crystal balls and fingered 2015, the election year as the year Nigeria’s fate as one nation will unravel; Jonathan’s “unthinkable” gesture deflated the tyres on which the predictions were rolling.

The beneficiary of Jonathan’s electoral loss, President Buhari, knew fully well the import of the path his predecessor chose to tread. At his inauguration on May 29, 2015, Buhari had this to say of Jonathan: “I would like to thank President Goodluck Jonathan for his display of statesmanship in setting a precedent for us that has now made our people proud to be Nigerians wherever they are.

With the support and cooperation he has given to the transition process, he has made it possible for us to show the world that despite the perceived tension in the land we can be a united people capable of doing what is right for our nation. Together we co-operated to surprise the world that had come to expect only the worst from Nigeria. I hope this act of graciously accepting defeat by the outgoing President will become the standard of political conduct in the country.”

Jonathan’s tenure from 2011 to 2015 would raise many questions about his choice as Personality of The Year.  He made flashes of statesmanlike conduct by expanding the political space and allowing the opposition to blossom in a country where his predecessors had practically emasculated and muffled the voice of opposition.

While some hawks around him wanted toughness and brute force, Jonathan opted for conciliation. But there are those who would argue for him; while many would also argue against him; but this is 2016, and Nigerians are still living in peace because one man conceded power.

He cannot be held responsible for the insurgency and the activities of Boko Haram but he can be blamed for the way he handled the abduction of the over 200 Chibok girls. True, there may have been political undertones at the commencement of the insurgency but when the presidency was quick to splash the tar of politics on every act of insurgency, it belied the fundamental issues which were related purely to a lack of capacity from the seat of power.

Yes, he was not perfect.  In fact, were perfection to be a factor in the choice of Vanguard Editors, the toxicity that would greet mention of Jonathan’s name would have had an annihilating effect on the senses.

An example was laid bare in February by otherwise intelligent people, largely in the opposition, who chose to look the other way in the face of a shambling  pre-election distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, the main legal instrument that would allow you vote.  It did not matter that just a week to the first presidential election date of February 14, about 40% of PVCs were yet to be received (not collected as INEC would want Nigerians believe because you collect what is ready for collection).

Three of Dr Jonathan’s predecessors drew opprobrium because they couldn’t let go when it was called for. General Yakubu Gowon (postponement of handover date), General Ibrahim Babangida (serial handover postponement and June 12 annulment) and civilian President Olusegun Obasanjo (Third Term pursuit), in spite of all they achieved while in power, lost all because of the charming yet potentially destructive lure of power and a determination not to know when to allow a process of transition manifest.

Latent power struggle

At each turn, doom loomed. In other parts of Africa, the story is similar. The over 500,000 lives lost in Rwanda can be traced to the latent power struggle spiralled out of control..There was Samuel Doe who refused to relinquish power in Liberia – Liberians are still recovering from the war that followed almost a quarter of a century ago. Zaire, Central Africa Republic, Cote D’Ivoire, Sierra Leone are countries that have gone through needless wars because of power struggle.

Nigeria should by now have become a more stable, prosperous democracy had the June 12, 1993 presidential election not been decidedly made controversial by the military junta that refused to relinquish power. 22 years after, the nation has not recovered from that hurt.

Lives were lost during the struggle to return the country to democracy. There was the Peace Committee that ensured that both Buhari and Jonathan signed a deal to ensure that the outcome of the election would be accepted by either contestant. Without legal teeth, it could have as well been a fool’s errand.

Jonathan, with a demure demeanour, verdant and unacquainted, for sparing Nigeria and its over 180 million people the chaos, conflict and needless loss of lives, things that had been predicted to happen after the 2015 general elections, as well as the possible dismemberment of the country – not forgetting that a chaotic Nigeria would have meant an unstable West African sub-region – and by conceding victory to Buhari in a presidential contest, we have chosen him as Vanguard’s Personality of The Year, in tandem with his electoral nemesis, President Buhari.