GEJ: Celebrating the hero of Nigerian democracy @65




Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR will remain in the history of the most read documents as one who saved the African giant’s democracy from sinking, thus making him the most celebrated and decorated black man in the eyes of the world.

This happened amidst tensions and predictions of the west that Nigeria will breakup after the 2015 general elections.Today, we are stronger together and moving as one indivisible nation, courtesy of the standard set by one Nigerian who spoke in action that his ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.

The appointment of Attahiru Jega, a former ASUU chairman and professor of political science from Bayero University Kano, as chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, was the beginning of the implementation of the nation’s landmark reforms in the electoral system. On May 29 ,2007, Jonathan and his predecessor late Umaru Musa Yar’adua took oath of office as president and vice president.

They admitted electoral irregularities and promised to overhault the process to give the Nigerian voters the opportunity to excercise their voting rights without intimidation. The Inauguration of Justice Uwais electoral committee and their recommendations set the stage for returning full autonomy to the electorate with their PVCs and GEJ commitment in action led to the defeat of an incumbent president of Nigeria by an opposition political party.

Although, Yar’adua did not live long to fulfill his promise but it is said the joy of a dying father is living behind a worthy successor. GEJ was indeed a replica of his late boss as everything about these noble Nigerians is defined by passion, love and patriotism to their only country Nigeria as placing their personal interest over national interest was none of their character during their reign.

INEC’s introduction of card reader marked a landmark in our electoral system. This initiative minimised electoral fraud and eroded the power of serving political leaders by restoring the power of votes to the electorate.

One of his speeches that forced tears from my eyes was the national broadcast after the March 2015 general elections. GEJ said, “I promised you free, fair and credible polls and I have kept my word”. This was when Nigerians realised they have lost a great man who has given it all for Nigeria to survive. This was happening at a time free, fair and credible polls was a parrot cry not just to the electorate but also to the stakeholders. 

On April 2 at 17:00 (16:00GMT) the editor of the BBC Hausa Service and now Director General of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Mansur Liman, broke the story of the historic phone call from President Jonathan to admit election defeat and congratulate the President Muhammadu Buhari.

Surprises greeted the world and millions of Nigerians that an election that is predicted to breakup the country has further brightened its chances of survival as one indivisible entity. GEJ’s phone call was a strong message to Nigerians that despite our differences in regions, tribes and religion, we can still reason together and take critical decisions in the nation’s interest.

As GEJ clocks 65 years, Nigerians have continued to shower their goodwill messages, best wishes and prayers to the former president for his legacy of free, fair, credible and acceptable elections in the eyes of the world which produced President Buhari from then opposition All Progressives Congress, APC. The world has acknowledged him for giving the country an atmosphere of freedom, national integration and cohesion which resulted to an unprecedented economic growth during his reign.

One of the glaring achievements of GEJ is that he supervised and assembled a sound economic team that created millions of jobs. Key sectors like education was transformed with the establishment of 14 federal universities. Medical tourism was minimal under his watch. Agriculture sector got the needed support and interventions. Real estate, aviation, telecommunications, manufacturing, oil and gas as well as electricity were given needed attention. GEJ laid the foundation for the revival of rail lines and infrastructure revolution and stimulating Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) leading to massive job opportunities.

The Nigerian economy grew with over $550 billion (largest in Africa and 26th globally). It is an unarguable discourse that GEJ handed over a working economy favourable to the downtrodden. Nigerians. The price of petrol was N 87 per litre. Exchange rate was N197 to a dollar with an inflation rate of 9.01%. GEJ was the most criticised president then, but today, he is the most celebrated and decorated Nigerian leader alive. This is the reward of serving with honesty, transparency and above all the fear of God, especially that power is transient.

As Nigeria heads towards another historic elections in 2023 with increasing agitations for power sharing, inclusivity, equity,  justice and fairness across the sections of the country, the clamour for free and credible polls is now the center stage of political discussion even at the popular Rumpan Mai Shayi (tea join). Will President Buhari replicate Jonathan’s uncompromised 2015 elections? 

There are high anticipations that he will sustain the tempo of a legacy of credible and violent-free elections in 2023 being a beneficiary. The elections in Anambra, Ekiti and most recently Osun states, the signing of the 2022 Electoral Act that allows e-transmission (BAVAS) of results from the polling units, his stand that Nigerians are free to vote candidates of their choice, non-interference in his party’s presidential primaries despite pressures from all odds are a clear mark that PMB is on track to give the 93m eligible voters their choice in next year’s general elections.

The only way and manner to shower messages of goodwill to GEJ is by sustaining his legacies as the basis of building the foundations for an emerging new Nigeria left behind our founding fathers. It was his commitment to a peaceful process that he signed a peace accord and as a presiden. He ensured that the election was not militarised and above all protected the rights of the citizenry.

The current presidential candidates especially the front runners like Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi and Musa Kwankwanso must ensure that as stakeholders the next election is conducted in at atmosphere of peace. They can do this by ensuring that their supporters play by the rules. Should attacks on the opposition continue unabated then President Buhari’s commitment to free, fair and credible process will be in jeopardy.

We are celebrating him today from the North to the South, East to the West of the country testifies that GEJ is, indeed, a bridge builder, a peace maker and one who believes passionately in the unity of Nigeria. He believes so much in constructively engaging issues, apply mediation in resolving them than seeking alternative methods. This is why he is leading the entire African continent and the world as a mediator and reconciliator to restore broken democracies since he left office in 2015. 

Happy birthday to finest breed of Nigerian leader alive, believer and core defender of democratic values who is defined by integrity, insight and inclusiveness. May we live long to celebrate more of your adorable years ahead in good health, Your Excellency, the hero of Nigerian democracy.

Danaudi, National President of Arewa Youths Advocate for Peace and Unity Initiative, writes from Bauchi via [email protected].

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