By : Kingsley Okeke
At exactly 5:30pm Nigerian time, on the 31st March, 2015, Nigeria’s President-Elect, General MuhammaduBuhari, received the “Golden Call”from the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan which went this way:
“Goodluck: Your Excellency, how are you?
Buhari: Fine Your Excellency (He responds)
Goodluck: I am calling to congratulate you on your victory (smiles)
Buhari: Thank you very much Your Excellency. In fact, i should congratulate you more
Goodluck: You should find time and come, so that i can congratulate you and we can also plan the transitional period
Buhari: Alright Your Excellency. My respect, Your Excellency!”
This 1minute 8seconds telephone conversation saved millions of lives and preserved the peace and unity of the most populous black nation in the world in an election that can best be described as the most keenly contested in the history of the country.
The congratulatory call which came while the votes were still been counted, marked the end of tension and apprehension, which characterized the processes leading up to the elections and result collation and announcements.
This bold, decisive and sportsmanly action instantly made Mr. Jonathan the winner of the election; because on a continent that is notable for the “sit tight syndrome” of its leaders; his move clearly shows that the continent is gradually gravitating towards a rebirth, moreso, because Nigeria represents a lot for the continent, as the largest economy and the big brother.
Some analysts have insisted that he did nothing extraordinary, since he was under tremendous pressure from world powers to ensure his administration does not tamper with the election results. However, we beg to differ in this regard for many reasons. Elections are not about the results, but the processes leading up to the final collation and eventual announcement of the results. Some leaders would have found good grounds to truncate the process with the excuse that the elections were largely fraught with a lot of irregularities-from card reader failures, logistics challenges for the INEC officials, to allegations of underage voting in some parts of the country.
The electoral umpire even described the card reader failure as a national embarrassment-while millions of voters in some parts of the country were getting agitated.
During an interview by Mr. Jonathan, shortly after he cast his vote, after initial setbacks with his accreditation occasioned by faulty card readers, he said “i have received calls from some parts of the country, complaining about the card readers, i also received a call from the Governor of Anambra state, and he was boiling and complaining bitterly, but i told him to calm down. Everybody must be patient with INEC, they are trying their best.”
The deluge of complains alone would have been a good ground to request for the cancelation of the elections, which would have thrown the country into instant chaos and avoidable breakdown of law and order, but he chose the path of honour.
Examples abound of African Leaders who held firmly unto power in the face of glaring defeat at the polls, and were eventually forced out, after so much harm must have been done.
President Goodluck Jonathan has no doubt written his name in gold by conceding defeat in the presidential race. By this singular act,he has proved to be above the petty politics of some climes and thereby contributed in no small measure to the sustenance of a virile democracy.
Jonathan’s undying believe that his “ambition or that of any Politician, is not worth the blood of any Nigerian,” and his commitment in upholding this assertion; has no doubt placed him amongst the growing list of Africa’s finest Statesmen, who would continue to play a key role in taking Africa to the promise land.
Jonathan has restored hope in one Nigeria and obviates the feeling of insecurity and apprehension over possible outburst of crisis and chaos as the 2015 election erased the ignoble “do or die” agenda of most politicians across the continent. While his party loyalists created a feeling of insecurity in the country with a view to exploiting such to achieve their “inordinate ambition”, Jonathan rose above the fray insisting that his continued stay in power was not worth the blood of any Nigerian.
It is to his eternal credit that bloodshed has been averted. His steadfastness on ensuring that people’s votes count in the spirit of one man, one woman, one youth, one vote without unleashing the apparatus of state security on opponents makes him an undisputable hero of Nigeria’s transitional democracy.
Mr. Jonathan received congratulatory calls just as the president-elect, if not much more than he did and rightly so too, because, before the elections, there has been suggestions that he had no intention of handing over the mantle of leadership to anyone.
Dr. Mo Ibrahim, a recipient of the African Leadership magazine’s Award for Inspiring Leadership on the continent and founder of the Mo Ibrahim foundation, in his Congratulatory letter to Jonathan wrote, “The news from Nigeria today is wonderful. Africa’s largest country has concluded a peaceful election process. Furthermore, the incumbent has already gracefully conceded and congratulated his successor – a first for Nigeria and a benchmark for other African countries to follow. Today, we Africans are all proud of Nigeria and President Jonathan.
Thank you Mr. President. If you are seeking a legacy, you have definitely achieved it.”
I could not agree more with Dr. Ibrahim. He may have lost a contest, but he has undoubtedly, won the hearts of Africans and written his name in the annals of African Political history. He clearly should be a top contender for the 2016 Mo Ibrahim prize for leadership.
Many years to come, when the Jonathan story would be told to generations unborn and in leadership case studies in the world’s leading business schools, it would be more about his strength of character, humility and commitment to peace, than about his flaws and leadership mistakes.