By Muhammad Ajah
In 2015, while fanatics of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Orubebe were busy attempting to disrupt collation of results from states, the person they were fighting for and former President Goodluck Jonathan found it very necessary to ease the political tension by congratulating on phone his victorious opposition candidate. While Jonathan’s men could still not understand the spirit that pushed him to do that, that singular action has endeared him to Nigerian citizens and the international community.
Before the election, Jonathan had reiterated that his political ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian citizen. That was the spirit of true Nigerianism, the spirit of love and humanity. I think this spirit links both contemporary politicians and leaders of Nigeria, Jonathan and Buhari, the latter who has reiterated that he will accept the decisions of Nigerians in the forthcoming 2019 general election, especially the Presidential polls of February 16, 2019.
I personally admire Jonathan for that action. According to him, while receiving the African Sun Times Man of the Year award conferred on him by the international magazine, hehonourably handed over power to Buhari, as a clear indication that election can be conducted without bloodshed in Nigeria. He expressed gratitude to Nigerians, not only his party, for standing by him. This was apparent appreciation to the General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s Peace committee which did a very wonderful job throughout the electioneering period in 2015. “That,to me, is a most worthy testimonial of the character of the Nigerian nation and the resilience of our people”, he averred.
Jonathan never regretted his action. Rather he has been proud of it; boasting of it everywhere he goes and whenever he speaks to people. He believed that Nigeria’s enemies were defeated. “We, the Nigerian people put to shame naysayers and prophets of doom and in 2015, we held a most transparent, violence free and credible elections that transferred power from one political party to another and from an incumbent to the opposition, without rancour, bitterness or strife. In the process, we proved that nobody’s political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian or any national of any country for that matter.”
I hope that Nigerian politicians will imbibe this spirit and eschew the spirit of “do or die” politics. The political situation in 2015 was very tense, indeed. The level of hate speech was unprecedented. But Nigerians were free and associated with their chosen parties and candidates. Observations and reactions from feelers portray that the situation is not tense ahead of 2019 and hate speech is not pervading the air. Nigerians are freely associating with their candidates. The incumbent President Buhari is not showing any sign of desperation, thus the needless call for heating up the politics. I pray that the political situation will remain so and that no Nigerian will be killed or forced to die for the cause of the elections.
Jonathan placed national interest ahead of personal ambition; that is why there was smooth transition. In short, despite his show of statesmanship by accepting defeat, there were speculations that his men would have scuttled the handover processes. He stood his ground as the leader of his party and ensured that Buhari was sworn-in, despite controversies that ensued afterwards. I am sure that the spirit is still with him so that his party will accept the outcome of the next election without rancour. For this, it is hoped that all anti-democratic tendencies of some politicians and the tensions they often generate during elections should be monitored by the security agencies. Those extremist politicians who use political campaigns of terror against Nigeria and her citizens should have a rethink.
Buhari holds Jonathan in high esteem. He has, in many fora, expressed the shock he received when Jonathan called and congratulated him. He said at a dinner organized for members of Kannywood (Hausa-language movie industry) at the State House in Abuja that Jonathan endeared himself to him. “As they were thinking of what to do with the result which they were unable to manipulate because of the card reader and PVC, Jonathan phoned to congratulate me,” he said. “I kept quiet for a while when he called me. He (Jonathan) then asked whether I didn’t hear him, I said I did and I thanked him.”
Jonathan, to me, is a strong pillar of Nigeria’s democracy. He has continued to preach peace and the spirit of sportsmanship in defeat to his party men and Nigerians. One of the instruments for the smooth transition in 2015 was the signing ofMemorandum of Understanding (MoU) by all the presidential candidates. That is being planned but it should be properly executed for 2019 elections. Thanks be to God that the committee has begun its work in earnest. According to its chairman General Abubakar, after a meeting with a delegation from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by its Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, the MoU will not only be to check violence-free campaigns, but also to avoid hate speeches and unguarded utterances during campaign activities.
This is a good move. But as I have always maintained, Buhari is a trustworthy patriot who always put the nation above self. He will do better. There are assurances that the 2019 general elections will be freer and fairer than ever before. Therefore, with or without signing any pact, he will ensure smooth elections and transition in 2019, hitch-free handovers to democratically elected officers. I join millions of Nigerian patriots to hail him for not accenting to faulty electoral bill. He must remain focused to deliver credible polls in 2019 but he must not be cowed by the selfish interests of anti-democrats who are attempting to create lampoons in the electoral act in the name of amendment. May God bless Nigeria at all times.
Muhammad Ajah wrote in from Abuja and is reachable via Efirstname.lastname@example.org.