For five years, President Goodluck Jonathan’s actions and inaction were unimpressive. But his five minutes call to General Buhari, conceding defeat, instantly elevated him to status of a statesman, and one of the greatest leaders of Nigeria.
Last weekend’s presidential election is considered the most ‘apprehensive state’ of Nigeria; everyone expected intense social disorder that would have plunged the nation into an irredeemable state of anomie but, thank God, the President’s maturity and selflessness changed the rhythm. He will forever be remembered as one of Nigeria’s greatest leaders, for just that single action.
Democracy is simply about the will of the people; legitimacy and equality of all under an umbrella of rule of law. The major cause of a nation’s political and social disasters is when a leader sees himself as the ultimate owner of a country’s electorate, and every citizen must accept his selfish desires. President Jonathan’s acceptance of defeat, the will to step down, and his desire for peace, against all odds, are exemplary in the real sense of nation building.
No one would have been surprised if the reverse was the case; because tension, and the possibility of war and social disorder were plainly visible on the horizon. Again, Jonathan’s possible triumphant exit will go down as an historic event in Nigeria, and we must applaud him.
Another reason why the President deserves accolade is the fact that he resisted all forms of temptation to remain in office by people like Femi Fani-Kayode, Orubebe, who could not contain his own desire to truncate the election result, and most of all, Dame Patience, the President’s wife, whose overbearing personality dominated the campaign. The temptation to remain in office at all cost is ever present in our political domain, but it takes a lot of sacrifice and undaunted will to exit the scene graciously like Jonathan will do.
Despite all criticisms of his administration, his speech to Buhari instantly granted great relief to all Nigerians, with the hope for unity and prosperity. No country can exist without peace and it is obvious that war and its footprints cannot easily be erased.
Nigeria is a country where governance has been made delicious and personal. Politicians intensely scramble to rig election; cheat as much as possible to remain in power, and when they get there, they loot available national resources. They easily forget the masses whose votes are either unappreciated or deemed unnecessary. Once elected, shallow-minded politicians or public officers in Nigeria swim in an ocean of illusions, and generally become detached from reality.
Those who forget that power is transient, and that change is the most constant thing in all human endeavour, naturally find themselves losing at the end of the day. This is one of the core reasons why political leaders fail to accept defeat and even kill to remain in office and in reality, fail to understand the constancy of change. These simple, but twisted variables in human fate are visible only to the very few wise men.
The majority of world leaders, especially in developing countries, who defy the will of their people to step down in an election, where clearly the incumbent has lost the reelection bid, usually find themselves trapped in an uncomfortable leadership role. In the end, they are neither progressive nor acceptable on the world stage. They always fail to realise the devalued economic prospects of the countries they govern.
Robert Mugabe, the life President of Zimbabwe is a typical example of a sit-tight “syndrome”leader, whose ego exemplifies that of a dictator. Despite his unpopularity, his people have very little resources to offset this dictatorial behaviour. Mugabe has every reason to vacate office graciously and change the course of history in his country, but because he has become afraid of his own shadow, as a result of atrocities committed by his unending regime, he would rather stay and die in office.
Another leader in pursuit of the same legacy as Robert Mugabe is Yoweri Museveni, a former rebel turned politician, who became president of Uganda in 1986. From every indication, Museveni does not intend to hand over power soon, and he may long to die on the seat.
These two examples should be reinforced on every politician’s mind; that no matter how long one intends to remain in office, someday, time will surely abrogate the extended stay.
Jonathan’s peaceful exit has paved way for all Nigerians to partake in the decision to select those who would lead us, and resist any form of election rigging (which has almost become cultural) in our society. This is also an indication that our votes must count and we, the electorate, should decide our next leaders. Those elected must know that we can easily, through the ballot box, remove and replace them, if they perform below expectation.
The fact that Jonathan willingly conceded defeat is out of character for an African leader, of course, with the exception of Nelson Mandela. We must forgive him for all his mistakes and find ways to move the country forward.
General Buhari definitely has a lot of work to do. In addition to safety and security for all Nigerians, the economy must receive urgent attention to avoid imminent collapse. This is the time to unite all Nigerians, and everyone must be free to reside in any part of the country under an enhanced rule of law.
Jonathan absolutely deserves my respect for the integrity he displayed in the just concluded presidential election.