There has been an organized and consistent attempt by a certain section of the political class and the Nigerian commentariat to water down the historical impact of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s decision to concede victory to President-elect Muhammadu Buhari ahead of the final tally in the 2015 Presidential election.
Those who have engaged in this enterprise are unkind, if not callous, insincere, if not cruel. Their tactics, which range from the dubious to the mischievous, have included a desperate attempt to push the story that President Jonathan would not be the first African leader to concede victory in an election, or that he is certainly not the first Nigerian President to do so.
The second claim has been effectively dismissed with historical facts, and as for the former, in a continent where sit-tightism remains a threat to democratic consolidation, and elections in many places are seen as mere rituals for keeping the monarch in power till death do them part, no informed student of the subject will deny the truth that President Jonathan’s conduct is definitely an act of statesmanship and heroism, and that President Jonathan deserves all the recognition, the accolades, applause and vastly elevated moral stature that has come with that singular act.
By his very unusual and highly symbolic act of graceful concession, President Jonathan snatched glorious victory from the jaws of seeming defeat. He outsmarted his traducers and became overnight, a hero of global proponents of true democracy in Africa.
While many of his opponents seemed obsessed with power at all costs and by all means possible, by calling General Buhari to concede victory, President Jonathan fully lived up to his often stated conviction that the country is more important than individual ambitions and that leadership should be more about sacrifice than the pursuit of self-interest. Some had threatened that he would end up like Cote d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo.
He proved to be a much better student of history. They promised that if his electoral defeat which they had dictated as an inevitability did not come to pass, they will instigate chaos and confusion, form a parallel government and make Nigeria ungovernable, hang it all on his head and send him to the International Criminal Court. In the end, he short-circuited their conspiracy, and showed that he belongs to a global hall of honour, not infamy. Ahead of the 2015 Presidential election, many Nigerians had scampered to their ancestral, ethnic safety zones in fear, while the better circumstanced sought safety in self-imposed temporary exile, to watch the homeland from a distance until things settled. One man’s act of courage and patriotism changed all that. He defied the same stereotypes which curiously are being reinforced in some African countries, and created a special moment for Nigeria and Africa. This is perhaps the more enduring location of President Jonathan’s legacy: his vote for peace and national stability.
We need to keep repeating this, especially as those who feel cheated and hurt by President Jonathan’s winning in losing, seem determined before our very eyes, to revise a less than six-week old narrative. With their first two claims dismissed as vacuous and even irrelevant to the point, they are now recruiting pens and mouths for a new leg of their narrative. The President did not need to be persuaded to take that decision.
He had always made it clear that his ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. As he himself has pointed out, he took the decision in the interest of national unity, peace and stability and to prevent any form of post-election violence. The President could see through the traps that had been laid for him; at that moment he was already fully aware of the extent of the network of sabotage and conspiracies, internal and external, contrived and inflicted, that wrong-footed the PDP during the elections. Many party leaders started rushing to the Villa after hearing what the President had done. They were caught unawares. He had absolutely no reason to ask the party to reject the results of the Presidential election. And he never did.
He had made up his mind to let it go. By the morning of April 1, he was already packing his things out of the Presidential Villa, satisfied that he had done the right thing by preventing a much predicted ethnic, religious and political violence. Olusegun Adeniyi therefore got it all wrong. But not done with his trip to Babel, he is also threatening to write a book to be titled: ‘Against the Run of Play: How an Incumbent President was Defeated in Nigeria’. He certainly owes us an obligation to declare early enough if that is intended to be a work of fiction and hearsay. The People’s Democratic Party which lost power suddenly at the centre, after 16 years in the saddle, is obviously undergoing a post-defeat trauma. Discrediting President Jonathan, with dubious story-telling, should not be part of that crisis.