Former President Goodluck Jonathan has revealed how he was pressured not to accept defeat in the 2015 election.
Noting that the election was laden with some irregularities, including the difficulty he faced before he could vote in his native Otuoke, Bayelsa State home, Jonathan said he conceded defeat principally because it was his belief that his ambition should not lead to loss of lives and property as it was the case in previous elections.
He said contrary to some narratives that members of the international community prevailed on him to accept his defeat and congratulate the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the decision came naturally to him as he was aware a day before the announcement of the results that his party was bound to lose.
The revelations are contained in the former President’s book, “My Transition Hours”, which was presented in Abuja yesterday on his 61st birthday.
The book records the last-minute intrigues and political manoeuvres that defined his last moments with top aides and ministers in the Presidential Villa and the relief he felt after he congratulated President Buhari in a telephone conversation.
Jonathan said he rebuffed the advice by the then Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister Mohammed Bello Adoke; Aviation Minister Osita Chidoka, who was a compere at the book launch; and his Senior Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs, Warpamowei Dudafa.
He writes: “They were recommending sundry alternatives, but I was quiet in the midst of their discussions. I hugged my thought, figuring out how to do that which was best for the country. My personal interest was receding rapidly and the interest of Nigeria looming large. I excused myself and left the sitting room. I walked into my study. Even there, my mantra was a strong circle around me, supporting and comforting me. Let the country survive. Let democracy survive. My political ambition is not worth people being ‘soaked in blood.”
On how and why he called to concede victory to Buhari, he wrote: “More results flowed in and I could not wait anymore. The announcement of the final result could take issues out of all our hands. It was time for me to take action and bring peace to the nation. I felt I was destined by God at that point in time to inject the peace serum and douse the palpable tension in the country.
“I reached out for his telephone and placed a call through the State House operators at about 4:45pm. A peace I had never felt since my political sojourn descended on me. It showed me where I had been in the past sixteen years and where I was then. I smiled at the thought of what I was about to do. I waited calmly for the person at the end of my call to answer.
Buhari: “Hello Your Excellency.”
Me: “Your Excellency, how are you”
Buhari: “I am alright, Your Excellency.”
Buhari: “Thank you very much Your Excellency.”
With that, the deed was done. Peace like the flow of a soothing river enveloped his heart, Jonathan said.
He continues: “For several seconds, the line was seized by the loudest silence I have ever known. Then we had a brief discussion. I could sense his relief too. He knew what could have been. Here is a man who had contested three times and lost. Maybe my gesture humbled him against his expectations because he thanked me and we talked about the handing over processes.
Elsewhere all over Africa, Asia and other parts of the world, countless deaths have been recorded on the scores of elections and power disputes. l mentioned Cote d’Ivoire earlier, where people died in their thousands during post-election violence. A similar scenario had unfolded in Kenya. African nations are more prone to post-election violence than other parts of the world. Only very few African nations have not experienced post elections violence on a very grand scale or some bitter power tussle fed by tnbal or ethnic sentiments.
I hung up the phone, confident that my decision was right for Nigeria and would probably have a great impact on Africa. This may well be the beginning of a new perspective to power; a perspective which places national interest above personal preference. It should not always be about winning.
“After my coversation with Muhammadu Buhari, which lifted my spirit greatly, I felt better and lighter; it was time to break the news to my Ministers “. I wandered back into the living room. These are people I came to know over a period of time. I anticipated what their response would be.
“In my new found calm, I stood before them and told them what I had just done. The elections were over. I had called and congratulated Muhammadu Buhari on his victory. It was time for all of us to move on. Stunned silence greeted the room for some time and after they overcame their shock, they all congratulated me.
“My Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka, sought my permission to tweet my phone conversation with Buhari. I obliged and he did. The country was no longer waiting for the declaration of the election results. The nationwide tension automatically dissipated as through a red hot piece of iron had been dipped in a bowl of water. Thereafter, I addressed the nation.”
The former president said in his book, My Transition Hours, that the clueless tag given to his government was an attempt to denigrate his person and that of those who served under him, stressing that no government in Nigeria’s history has had the opportunity of having such array of person working in one government like he did.
He said it is on record that several of his ministers and others he appointed into different positions are currently occupying plum positions across the globe, warning that people should stop digging holes for others to fall into.
He wrote: “Recall that the opposition and their sympathisers and campaigners, both local and international, with their malicious propaganda, tore our economy to shreds, threatened our stability and existence as a nation and intimidated our citizens, all in the bid to take over power.
“Nevertheless, we conducted ourselves in a manner that allowed a peaceful transfer of power from a ruling party to an opposition party, for the first time since Independence in 1960.
“Rather than forge a coalition and build on the momentum we had gathered when they eventually took office, they went on a persecution spree and vengeance mission.
“That the country slipped into recession soon after we left office was a self-inflicted injury caused by misplaced priorities. The narrative of inheriting empty treasury is a blatant lie.
“Also, the excuse of the collapse of world crude prices does not hold water. This is because the Fourth Republic took off in 1999 with crude oil selling for less than $20 per barrel and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth at 0.58 per cent, according to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) figures. Yet, the economy maintained a steady growth from that year, peaking at 15.33 per cent in 2002 when the average crude oil price was about $25.
“It is also instructive that the oil and gas sector constitute about 11 per cent of our GDP. There had to be a wider causative factor than just the fall in world crude prices.
“It also amounts to standing facts on their heads to continuously claim that recession was caused by so-called mindless looting. The truth is that the opposition, in a bid to undo our government, became its own undoing when it got to power, because of the burden of justifying deliberate misrepresentations.
“There is wisdom in the saying that if you win a prize and get the crown, don’t go around destroying the person who previously held that prize; it will lose its value. Even after winning the election and forming the government at the centre, the blame game continued.
“When two brothers fight to death, it is the neighbour that inherits their father’s wealth. And we have seen neigbouring nations like the Republic of Benin and Ghana reaping from the capital flight out of Nigeria.
“Despite Nigeria’s attainment of Independence from Britain ahead of most other African countries, we have been increasingly conditioned to seek succour in the blame game. It is time for Nigeria to take responsibility. As Gen. Murtala Mohammed said while addressing the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now African Union (AU) in 1976 that ‘Africa has come of age’.
“I add that Nigeria has come of age. We either live up to that or we don’t. I am convinced that we can, and we should. We must as a nation always strive to improve the quality of life of our citizens and make developmental plans that will focus on the younger generation. That way, Nigeria will not be a liability to the rest of the world. Our population will be an albatross to us and our allies if we do not take the necessary step to tum it into a great opportunity.
“The sundry accusations by the new administration would appear to have baited the media. Media trials are entertaining, but have little or no effect in fighting corruption and improving the economy. Since I left office, rather than improve on our TI (Transparency International) corruption perception record, the situation has worsened with the nation going 12 places backward, becoming number 148 according to the latest CPI ranking for 2017, from 136 in 2014 when I was president.
“It was bad enough that Boko Haram insurgents continue killing people and ruining businesses, but what is worse is when politicians downgrade the economy by demarketing the country internationally.
“You should never try to slander your political opponents by destroying your country’s economy. Capital flight intensified and companies started laying off staff. In all these, I hope a lesson would be learnt.
“If you embark on digging a hole for your enemy, you better make it shallow, because you might end up in the hole yourself. How do you attract investors you already repelled through your utterances? Investors are an ultra-sensitive lot. Money runs away from unstable societies.
“Most painful have been the attacks on my ministers, aides and associates and even members of my family. There is an attempt to erase our legacy from history.
“The good thing is that the unending barrage of attacks, deliberate misinformation and programmed media smear campaigns have failed to sway the opinion of those with a clear view of our beliefs, efforts and achievements.
“There are millions of Nigerians and others around the world who are still impressed with our modest achievements in consolidating democracy and growing the nation’s economy.
“They will continue to serve as my strength and encouragement. Sometimes, I laugh when certain propagandists attempt to stand logic on its head by maligning my administration as one bereft of ideas and ‘clueless’.
“In assessing my administration, it is best to focus on facts. I cannot assess myself. I leave that to history. But I can assess my cabinet and I make bold to say that never in the history of Nigeria, till date, has the nation had such a star-studded cabinet, full of achievers and people who got to the top of their chosen fields by merit.
“Just consider that my minister of State for Health, Dr. Muhammed Ali Pate, is now a professor at America’s Duke University, as well as a Senior Adviser to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation based in Washington DC. My minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, is now the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
My Co-ordinating minister, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, is the chairperson of the Board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and the African Risk Capacity (ARC). She also sits on the board of Twitter and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, just as she is a Senior Adviser at Lazard and a Director at Standard Chartered Plc in the United Kingdom, amongst others.
My minister of Communication Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson, is currently Chairperson of Custodian and Allied Insurance Limited as well as the Global Alliance for Affordable Internet.
“And it is not just members of my cabinet. Others who served with me in different capacities are also soaring on the world stage. A good example is Ms. Arunma Oteh, who I appointed the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commissnon (SEC).Under her steady and skillful direction, Nigeria’s equity market grew in metric proportions, and by the time I left office in 2015, the market had tripled in size to $150 billion in value. Two months after I left office, Ms. Oteh was appointed a Vice President and Treasurer at the World Bank.
“These are reputable individuals who served their country meritoriously and who, on the strength of their performance as ministers in my government, are now waxing stronger and valiantly on the world stage with only the sky as their limit.
“With such personalities on my cabinet, no one can factually say we were ‘clueless’ or inept. The evidence of performance is simply overwhelming. We gave Nigeria an impressive and steady GDP growth rate at 6.7 per cent per annum.
“We were officially cited as the third fastest growing economy in the world by CNN Money in 2014. We eradicated polio and guinea worm and became the first nation in the world to defeat the Ebola virus, such that the then richest man in the world, Bill Gates celebrated us for our prowess in the health sector. We reduced our food import bill by 36 per cent.
“I did the best that I could to preserve Nigeria’s unity and ensure a brighter future for all Nigerian children. This remains my driving force even now that I am out of office. I can hold my head high in my post-presidential life to say that under my watch, no Nigerian was witch-hunted because of his or her views and not one political assassination occurred under me.
“The momentum we built was a welcome development and a necessary boost which I recommend to other African nations as a means to help the continent expand capacity and reduce youth unemployment.
“These are some of the positive steps I took to guide Nigeria safely to land during the difficult times she found herself. Looking back, I can say that I have a sense of fulfilment. It is said that a good conscience suffers no accusations.
“I have served Nigeria with all my strength and God alone is the judge of the universe. I certainly hope that all those who cast aspersions at us can say the same about themselves because the end of a matter is better than its beginning. I had no enemies to fight; I have none still.
“It is obvious that the world is happy with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. The country came out of genocide. President Kagame made propaganda his enemy and got to work. Although Rwanda experienced the worst genocide in Africa’s recent history, it is today the toast of the world.
“My hope is that African leaders must embrace the concept of democracy that delivers purposeful leadership, improves the lives of the people and envision a secure future for the nation. Africa is critical to global progress and for that reason I urge all African nations to work with fidelity and commitment for the greater good of the continent.
“Looking into the future, I see that our leaders can do a lot to eliminate ethnic sentiments in our societies, enthrone merit and build a system that gives citizens equal opportunities to excel.
“A country that cannot use its best brains will lag behind in the comity of nations. African leaders should remove key impediments limiting our growth. When we build capacity in the youth, it will unleash the creativity that would catalyse rapid development.
“Since after my handover, and as part of the dedication of the rest of my life to the cause of peace and good governance, God helping me, I have engaged myself in finding ways of advancing the course of democracy and good governance in Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world, through my Foundation, the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF). The GJF will partner with all men and organisations of goodwill across the globes who believe in the ideals to which we have committed ourselves. We will seek to prevent conflicts, create conducive environment for businesses to thrive, work to advance the frontiers of education and create employment for the youth as well as encourage them to be self-employed. Millions of our people need help. We need to develop home-grown talents. We must aid educationally-disadvantaged children. Nigeria must become the beacon of hope in Africa.
“I urge Nigerians and Africans to join me in the effort to create a fresh thinking and enlightenment of the people of this great country and our wonderful continent as we speak out against unrestrained and reckless craving for political office.
“We have to rebuild our nations but we must start by rebuilding ourselves. So, let us roll up our sleeves and go to work, actualising our dream, hopes and aspirations for a prosperous and peaceful Nigeria and Africa.”
By The Nation