And so it should be. Very few men in history and fewer still from Africa, have conceded defeat even before the final count was announced. What makes it even more remarkable is that very few people saw it coming.
If anything, what we expected was entirely different. After all, you would not make a Fani Kayode your official spokesperson in an electoral contest if you were not spoiling for a fight, a dirty one.
Or turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the violence in Rivers State if the means were not to justify the end. Everything about this election —from the six week extension, to the amount of settlement money poured into the system during the period— pointed to a man who was prepared to sit tight with the aid, where necessary, of the enormous powers at his disposal. After all, his lieutenants had prepared the ground and people’s minds by discrediting the system that was to usher in a new President while beating the drums of war and division.You would not encourage, or at best acquiesce to the belligerent campaigns and hate speeches that went out in your name if it didn’t suit your game plan. You would not militarise the elections in Ekiti and Osun States just to make Fayose and Omisore look good.
And so it was that the whole world was expecting what it thought was the inevitable. Those who could, left the country. Those who could not afford the ticket stayed holed in their homes. And yet two actions in four days changed everything and turned Dr Jonathan not only into a sportsman who accepts when the game is over even before the final whistle, but also a Statesman who puts his country before personal considerations.
The first was on Saturday when he appealed for calm and patience when the card reader refused him. An angry word or an un-Presidential statement could have played into the hands of those who wanted to render the whole election inconclusive.
The second was when he made that famous phone call before the hawks in his government got to him. The result, to our relief, was that we were expecting a Laurent Gbagbo, we got an Al Gore. We were expecting war, we got peace. He had always said that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian but very few of us believed him largely because of those he surrounded himself with. Last week Tuesday, he proved it with just one phone call.
The following Wednesday, I was at squash with some of my friends and we got talking about the events of the previous day. The cynics believed Dr Jonathan had no choice; all he had to do was look at the map to see that he had lost the support of large chunks of the country. My response was that we always have choices but that our choices have consequences. He could have fought on to the bitter end using the courts and some corrupt judges to prove his case and he would have been within his rights.
He could have declared the election inconclusive using underage voters, violence in some parts of the country and other malpractices as issues to buttress his decision and he probably would get away with it given his powers as the incumbent.
Meanwhile, violence could have broken in parts of the country on ethnic, if not religious grounds. And in any case, how many I asked, would make that call considering that General Buhari did not concede in 2011 when it was similarly obvious that large sections of the country did not want him. We should give credit when due and the credit for peace and the possibility of National healing belongs to President Jonathan at the moment.
It is easy however, to get caught up in the euphoria of it all and forget why that one phone call saved us from the brink of an implosion. This is the time to examine what led us to where we found ourselves before that phone call and resolve to make amends where possible. We must for starters, tighten the electoral laws that will make it impossible to have the kind of hate and ethno-religious campaigns that dominated the campaign space. We must censor the Broadcasting stations that threw professional ethics into the winds and ignored the laws of libel and defamation by airing some adverts.
We must acknowledge that the election was not free and fair in many parts of the country and make genuine plans to correct this. In fact, voting did not take place in some parts of the country. And where it did, it was obvious from the votes declared, that the votes were grossly manipulated. Not putting an end to this is a recipe for violence in future. People must vote and their votes must count; and those who lose must see the contest as being free and fair. The situation that led to an Orubebe walking into the public space to disgrace himself and his party must be nipped in the bud.
There is however not denying that he had a case which he handled most inappropriately. While we praise Prof Jega for his maturity and for staying calm under fire, we must acknowledge that he ran a flawed election due largely to administrative and cultural causes.
Finally, how did Dr Goodluck Jonathan who won a pan Nigerian mandate just four years ago end up sequestered in his regional enclave? I was one of those who despite being tired of PDP, voted for him. Those who, to quote my senior Dr Sobowale’s often derisive comment, ‘voted Jonathan and not PDP’. I wanted him to succeed; I willed him to succeed because I felt he had what Nigeria needed.
He was young; he was educated; he was fresh and untainted; he was a Christian minority. Everything was there but the will and the strength of character. If he felt betrayed by the people, he must realise that he first betrayed them.
He betrayed them when he forgot the circumstances of his ascension and pandered to the interests of a particular region. He betrayed them when he became elitist and increased the gap between the rich and the poor while poverty and unemployment raged. He betrayed them when he encouraged corruption and impunity at the expense of good governance. The ultimate betrayal was when he reneged on his promise to hand over in 2015.
This is a lesson for General Buhari on how a pan Nigerian goodwill can be squandered in a couple of years. In fairness the General has made the right noises in pledging to run an inclusive government. He will however have himself to blame if he allows himself to be captured by the Katsina mafia, the Kaduna mafia or indeed any mafia but the Nigerian mafia. The expectations are high. Nigerians expect him to be a benevolent version of the late Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore who was ruthless against corruption while promoting meritocracy and inclusiveness.
– See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/04/lest-we-forget-2/#sthash.WL0ljeWk.dpuf