Partisan politics temporarily took the back seat yesterday, as many Nigerians across party divides, gathered in their numbers in Abuja, to honour former President Goodluck Jonathan, who turned 61.
The event was marked by the launch of his book: ‘My Transition Hours’.
The occasion saw a large turnout of the both members of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, his Peoples Democratic Party’s counterpart, Uche Secondus, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who stood in for President Muhammadu Buhari, as well as other opposition PDP members.
Also at the event were former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Ghana, John Mahama, ex-President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Koroma, Senate President Bukola Saraki, and Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, all whom, hailed Jonathan and congratulated him on his birthday and for writing the book for posterity.
Also at the event were Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state, Governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, that of Delta, Ifeanyi Okowa, Arch. Darius Ishiaku of Taraba, his Cross River state counterpart, Professor Ben Ayade, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekeweremadu, and President, National Youth Council of Nigeria, Ambassador Sukubo Sara-Igbe Sukubo among others.
Speakers took their turns to eulogise the virtues of Jonathan for conceding victory to President Buhari in 2015, an action they all agreed, changed the narratives of impending violence to peaceful transition and stabilising Nigeria’s democracy.
Others who spoke at the occasion were former Vice President and PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President under Jonathan’s administration, Arc Namadi Sambo, and Chief Nnaemeka Achebe, chairman of the Council of Anambra Traditional Rulers.
Jonathan speaks on the book
Speaking at the gathering, former President Jonathan told the gathering that the book, apart from being his contribution to stabilising democracy, would also seek to correct some misconceptions during his administration, especially about the Chibok girls and the Boko Haram terrorist group.
According to him, many Nigerians at home and abroad, had severally asked him why he conceded defeat through the call to Buhari, pointing out that the book centered mainly on the 2015 elections.
And an excerpt from the book, quoted Jonathan as saying the ‘personal ambition’ of some of the then PDP governors like Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Rabiu Kwankwaso(Kano) and Magatakarda Wamako (Sokoto), all of whom defected alongside party chieftains to the APC, majorly accounted for his loss to the incumbent in 2015, with over 2.5 million votes.
He also blamed some northern leaders who wanted power returned to their region for sabotaging his re-election bid.
“This time around, there were governors who were rounding off their eight years tenure and were blinded by ambition.
“Some governors wanted to be vice president whilst others strived to be the president. If I contested, none could realise his ambition. This muffled implosion would fully manifest in the build-up to the 2015, which each ship-jumper calculating how much he or she would take from the PDP or the most opportune moment to cause maximum damage and based on that, plot their exit.
“As they jumped ship in preparation for the 2015 elections, only very few of these lots, if any at all, bothered about what the PDP did or did not do in terms of delivering our campaign promises. Their opposition to my re-election was principally driven by personal ambition. They therefore played up the issue of where I come from and the faith, I professed to fuel their burning ambition. My performance mattered quite little, if it mattered at all,” the ex-president wrote.
He further explained that while in office, the issue of Chibok girls and Boko Haram were randomly used against him.
Similarly, Jonathan stated that the issue of corruption was mentioned in the book as a guide to how to tackle corruption, while deploring the menace of vote buying which he said, is currently rocking Nigeria’s democracy.
According to him, in other climes vote buying is criminalised while it is gaining momentum in Nigeria.
In his message, President Buhari eulogised the former leader for choosing the path of honour by accepting the defeat, even before the official announcement of the results of the poll.
Represented by SGF Mustapha, the president said to Jonathan: “You are a leader of the past, of now and of the future; you will rise again; I wish you the best you wish yourself.”
He said Jonathan would be judged as a true patriot for the singular honour that would have cost loss of lives if he had chosen to do otherwise, saying this act calmed frayed nerves and stabilised the nation’s democracy.
Buhari commended the former president for keeping to his word when he said “no blood of any Nigerian should be shed for his ambition.”
He called on all political leaders to see elections as a passing phase, and urged them to put the interest of the country first.
“The accomplishment of that objective has showed Nigeria as a leader of development of democracy in Africa. One that strongly desires for peace and not violence, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan said and reiterated that no Nigerian blood should be shed for his ambition.
“With this book being launched today, Nigerians, historians and scholars now have a firsthand account and an insight into what transpired in the 2015 transition hours.
“We imagine what went through the mind of Dr. Jonathan during these long hours when varieties of counsel for and against were being called. History has recorded the time as the Nigerian fifth democratically elected leader since independence. History will judge you well as a patriotic leader,” Buhari said.
The president also noted that, “in approximately 88 days from today, Nigerians will be exercising their civic today of electing new leaders in another general elections. I call upon political leaders to see elections as a contest based on principles, programmes and aspirations that will outlive the nation.”
Also in his remarks, former President Obasanjo, who chaired the event, congratulated the former president.
According to him, there are four seasons for a democratic politician, and in every democratic dispensation.
He explained that, “the first is when you start campaigning and go round to seek for votes, then the election comes and you win. The second season is when you take up office and all is going well, then suddenly there is up and down. Of course, you came in with high popularity that’s why you are able to win election. But as you go on, the popularity starts to dwindle, until either you come to the expiration of your time or you lose election.
“Now the beginning of the third season, it does not matter who you are, immediately you leave office you will have lost friends, particularly the fair weather their friends, and that is a very tight period for anybody who have been elected before. Then, the fourth is when you have weathered the storm, until you start to pick up again.”
According to Obasanjo, “the post-office life is a life that we should all crave for. It’s a life not only of enjoyment, but a life of continued service to the community. Because by virtue of what God has made us in our respective countries, we have what you call residual responsibility to continue to serve our people. And that is the position you (Jonathan) are today, you have residual responsibility to continue to serve your people, your state, Nigeria, Africa and indeed democracy.”
The former president also noted that, “When all is said and done, there is still no substitute for democracy. It fosters peace and not conflict, it builds and does not destroy, it unifies rather than divide. But all these can only happen if democracy is found as an instrument in the hand of the democrat.
“If is in the hands of people that I call evils, hooligans in politics, it can be a dangerous weapon. So we must avoid hooligans to have access to this beautiful weapon, to abuse.”
In his remarks, former Vice President Abubakar disclosed that, “in the process of planning the book launch, this book launch was to be presented before the presidential primary election of the PDP. But because he wanted me to participate, he then shifted it. He said if he presented it then, other aspirants will say ‘I am already taking side.”
Atiku, who described the day as historic, added that, “former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s action in 2015, helped safeguard democracy and preserved our country, without that singular action only God knows where we would have been.”
Saraki, Gowon, Abdulsalami too
Also in a tribute, Senate President Saraki described former President Jonathan’s famous phone call to Buhari as a great step that saved Nigeria and Africa’s democracy.
He said: “The title of the book is My Transition Hours. It is not only your transition hours, but Nigerians finest hours and Africa’s finest moment. For those of us who have read the book, we all learnt lesson, the lesson is that you have taken democracy to the next level.”
He urged all Nigerians, especially politicians, to imbibe the spirit of the book, which according to him, was that “no blood of Nigerian is worth my ambition.”
In a similar message, General Gowon and another former Head of State, Abdulsalam Abubakar, also described Jonathan as a great leader.
While Gowon said the former president deserved every encomium for stabilising the country, Abdulsalami said, “Jonathan gave Nigerians the peace they are enjoying today. His famous call and himself became an example to Africa by showing that you love the country more than you love power.”
On his part, a former Ghannian President John Mahama, thanked Jonathan for his invitation, saying Jonathan is not a typical politician and that could have been largely responsible for his success in politics.
He said: “For Jonathan, politics was not a matter of life and death. His decision to hand over power peacefully in 2015 was not surprising to me. He said the same scenario played out in Ghana when he too lost election to the opposition in the country.
“These actions have consolidated the democracy in our countries, and when the history of democracy is written in Africa, the name of President Jonathan would be carved in gold.”
Also in another message, President of Sierra Leone, Mr. Koroma, who represented the ECOWAS Heads of State, urged Nigeria to provide leadership for the rest of the African continent.
He described Jonathan as a good example of what Nigeria should be, saying Jonathan respects democracy and human rights.
“This occasion is a happy moment for us. It will send a great signal to the wider world that indeed ECOWAS indeed Nigeria is coming of age; we have gone a long way to build our democracy.
“These are great moments that will continue to define our democracy, moments that will continue to add value to our democracy,” he said.
Also former Vice President Sambo while eulogising Jonathan’s virtue, said the outbreak of Ebola virus in Nigeria showed the strength of character of his former boss.
“You have written your name in the sands of time as a true nationalist and patriot”, Sambo said.
Former Minister of Defence, General Theophilus Danjuma, who unveiled the book commended the act of patriotism shown by the author which prevented the country from being plunged into chaos.
Represented by former Chief of Army Staff, General Matin Luther Agwai, Danjuma said Jonathan’s action is a reminder that sometimes politics should be put aside for national interest.
He said peace is not necessarily the absence of conflict or war but where there is no injustice, no insecurity, politics of exclusiveness is the absence of peace.