Nigeria’s President Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan made history last Tuesday afternoon when he courageously and statesmanlike called on his toughest political opponent and rival and congratulated him on his victory even when the last whistle had not been blown. Dr Jonathan performed a feat that was very rare in this part of the world, and by so doing set an Olympic record for Africa’s political leaders.
Never in the history of ‘die-in-the-office’ leaders had any one been generous and patriotic enough to willingly accept political defeat and usher his opponent to the Presidential or Prime Minister’s seat. And what made Jonathan’s example unique, we must repeat, was that the results of the votes cast in one of the biggest states were yet to be announced when Jonathan admitted that the game was up, and he should yield way.
That singular act made Jonathan, not Jega or Buhari, the man of the moment as far as the recently concluded Presidential Elections went. And he has written his name in gold and with one stroke got Nigerians to overlook the mistakes of his out-going administration.
Professor Attahiru Jega of course qualifies for heroism. And this is not because of his close-to-perfection- Elections processes, but because of the remarkable calm and political sagacity he displayed in response to Orubebe’s motor park rascality. Orubebe, regrettably a former Minister in a country where Ministerial appointments had been reduced to job- for- the boys or presidential gateway to the hottest pants, made himself a laughing stock as he vainly tried to re-enact the scenario that led to Professor Nwosu’s handicap which forced him to abandon the release of the 19993 Presidential elections mid-way!
It was obviously the last joker after the magical conjuring of humongous vote counts had failed to achieve a torpedo of the people’s will. Jega took a good look at bleary Orubebe who had reduced himself to a bimbo, and tongue lashed him. Had Jega reacted otherwise, the whole Election process would have been thrown to the dogs at the last hour. The agony and anguish that would have followed a maddening pandemonium at the INEC Situation Room could only best be imagined, and the resultant fate of Nigeria would have been gruesome.
Jega saved all that with his maturity and professorial efficacy.
President-Elect General Muhammadu Buhari’s victory was not unexpected, especially with overwhelming number of Nigerians both at home and in the Diaspora crying for change. And for several months preceding the Elections, that symbol of the desired change was located in Buhari. If anything, people expected about double the figures recorded for Buhari. Buhari’s claim to heroism in the whole saga was his tenacity, his focus, his unrelenting faith in Nigeria, and his total commitment to serve as the Rescue Agent for Nigeria and Nigerians.
But all said and done, the unequalled man of the moment is Dr Ebele Jonathan. Jonathan’s congratulatory phone call to Buhari and his acceptance of defeat were acts of magnanimity which would go on record as the real character traits of the real Jonathan. Many pundits have averred that left to Jonathan he would have left the stage much earlier but for the wolves and vultures who were milking Nigeria dry at the expense of Jonathan’s good name. The frenzy that characterised the last six weeks after the fraudulent postponement of Elections slated for February 14 would have not taken place but for the desperation of those who genuinely did not wish Jonathan well.
Dr Jonathan had disappointed all those who had thought that he was a ’do-or-die’ politician. Jonathan had demonstrated by his heroic gesture that he was a true believer in the Lord in recognising that power belongs only to God and God only.
Just imagine for a moment if Jonathan had declared that he rejected the entire Elections processes and refused to accept the results of the Elections. Imagine what would have been the immediate response in the entire regions where Buhari virtually scored block votes! Imagine the spontaneous reaction from the regions where Jonathan recorded block votes. Imagine the fate of Nigeria. Cast your mind back to July 1966, April-May 1967, and quickly flash your mind on Ondo state of post 1983 elections!!!
Dr Jonathan fooled all of us by appearing to be ignorant of history. How wrong were all Nigerians in their estimation of Jonathan’s character! It is now very clear that what hampered Jonathan all these years were the cruel political and leadership cultures that are very peculiar to Nigeria. And as Professor Iyorwuese Hagher submitted in Chapter One of his classical book, Diverse But Not Broken Though titled ‘Not About Jonathan’, Hagher brilliantly uses Jonathan as metaphor, and both as a subject and object of what the peculiar Leadership Culture in Nigeria can do to any leader, be it an elected President, a military leader or simply as a leader manning a university or any establishment.
Without any attempt to run away from history or re-write history, Jonathan’s last act in office appears so weighty, so monumental, and so life-saving that historians may in the future look back on Jonathan and give him kudos for dousing a credible fire that would have consumed Nigeria.
While his performance in office is not exactly the standard Nigerians expected of their leader, the way and manner Jonathan is set to relinquish his office gives an open window on who Jonathan that political vultures prevented us from knowing really is.
We are also made to know that when Jonathan was left in the hands of selfless counsel, the best of him popped up.
Here is wishing statesman Dr Ebele Jonathan the best that he wishes for himself as he paddles his way back to the creeks. As one of your hardest and staunchest critics, your obedience of the clarion call to save Nigeria from going the way of Liberia and Ivory Coast gives me hope that another Jonathan devoid of political wolves may reappear in the future.
Go home brother, and continue to savour the comic theatricalities of your inner chamber.