By Ikechukwu Eze, Media Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan
Our attention has been drawn to a story in the Nation newspaper of Wednesday November 21, 2018 titled ‘Jonathan: I was pressed to reject 2015 election result’ which erroneously claimed that some identified former aides and ministers of ex-President Jonathan advised him “not to accept defeat.”
The story which was said to have emanated from former President Jonathan’s new book ‘My Transition Hours’ mentioned 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, as those whose advice was rebuffed by Jonathan.
This is obviously a gross misrepresentation of what was stated in the book which one wouldn’t ordinarily expect to read in a credible paper like The Nation.
Although we see The Nation as a well respected paper, we also recognise that even credible organisations with the best of intentions sometimes lower their guard and, sadly, drop the ball. We believe this is what may have happened in this case, as there is no justification for the obvious twisting of the facts that were clearly stated in the book.
President Jonathan had maintained that he never consulted anybody over the decision to call and congratulate his opponent while the results of the 2015 Presidential election was still being tallied. Whereas the decision to concede defeat was one he took without any compelling, the former President is however grateful to those who were with him at that moment and many other Nigerians that shared in his conviction to put across the historic phone call.
For the avoidance of doubt, the following sentence lifted from the book represented how Jonathan narrated his engagement with the mentioned key appointees of the former President at that critical time in the nation’s political history: “They were recommending sundry alternatives, but I was quiet in the midst of their discussion.” However, this was how The Nation chose to report the narrative: “Okonjo-Iweala, Adoke, Chidoka, Dudafa advised me not to accept defeat”.
It therefore beggars belief that the phrase ‘sundry alternatives’ could be interpreted to mean that the former President was advised by the identified personalities ‘not to accept defeat.’
We always say that the society will be better served if journalists keep their interpretative reporting within the limits of credible and constructive imagination.