As a firm believer in the concept of seasons and purpose, I am totally ecstatic about the place where Nigeria is today. In a discussion I had last Sunday, one day after Nigeria’s most anticipated presidential election, I said that we were at the threshold of what may be the country’s most glorious or most catastrophic moment. And that the way we go would be largely determined by the reaction of politicians and their supporters to the outcome of the previous day’s elections.
If you happened to have followed the evolution of Nigeria in the past couple of years, you will understand what I meant. Following a scenario painting by some Americans in 2005, rumours became rife that Nigeria was bound to fail by 2015.
These experts on sub-Saharan Africa under the auspices of America’s National Intelligence Council noted that Nigerian leaders were “locked in a bad marriage that all dislike but dare not leave” and that the bubble may burst in 2015.This set the stage for utter fear of the approach of 2015 especially as analysts presented the scenario like it was a sacrosanct prediction.
Incidentally, event rolled upon event to help sustain the theory that there might be trouble in 2015.Although the country has had the Jamā‘atu Ahli is-Sunnah lid-Da‘watiwal-Jihād, otherwise known as Boko Haram to cope with since about 2002, for example, it got to a head after the 2011 elections.
Records have it that no fewer than 5,000 civilians were killed by the insurgents between 2009 and 2014. Another 1000 persons have been killed just this year. As of January, 13 local governments spread between Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States were effectively under the control of the insurgents. The group has also kidnapped hundreds of Nigerians, including girl-children picked from their school premises in Chibok, Borno State about 12 months ago.
In addition to this, leaders of ethnic groups in Nigeria have since 2011 continually issued threats on the dreadful implications of not having one of their own as President in 2015. Specifically, the Northern Elders Forum has insisted that the north must have another shot at the presidency while various organisations from the South-South where incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan hails from would not compromise the chance that their son must do another term of four years! So, the die was cast with each group dishing out a measure of threat as repercussion for failure to do their bidding.
Politicians on both divides also danced to this tune. By the end of January this year, the National Human Rights Commission said that about 60 people had lost their lives to pre-election violence in Nigeria.
Violence and threats of violence permeated the land and everyone associated with Nigeria worried that the country would be engulfed in post-election flames.
To drive home this point, a peace agreement was signed in Abuja under the supervision of a former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, and a former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, in January.
That same month, the US Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, conferred with major political actors in the country on the need for peaceful, free and fair elections. President Barak Obama was to back this up with an address to Nigerians penultimate Monday.
So, the world feared that the worst could happen to Nigeria and everyone was on edge as we went to the polls on Saturday March 28, 2015. A lot of our compatriots fled the country in anticipation of war even as those who stayed behind remained on the tether gripped with fear that elections might be manipulated and result in violence that could tear the country apart. All these expectations were based on earlier mentioned threats and the experience of former President Olusegun Obasanjo leading the Peoples Democratic Party on a series of “do-or-die elections.”
But, when Obasanjo handed over to Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007, Nigeria did not have this measure of pressure towards 2015. It was therefore a different season in the history of the nation and we needed a leader made for that season.
Enter Goodluck Jonathan, a non-assuming teacher turned politician who took over Nigeria’s presidency after the death of Yar’Adua, in May, 2010. Carrying on the legacy of his predecessor, Jonathan promised to promote the rule of law as well as reform the electoral process, fallout of the guilt feeling they both had about the election that brought them to power.
The first sign that Jonathan would keep to his word was the appointment of Prof. Attahiru Jega as the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission in June 2010. If you think the appointment of Jega was a no issue, imagine what would have happened if Jonathan appointed a man without integrity instead of the first class political scientist and outstanding man of principle.
Jonathan is said to have given total support to INEC and its chairman in the past five years. Reports say he never queried any innovation proposed by Jega, including the card reader which has finally broken the back of dubious politicians who thrived on multiple voting. Jega also had the free hand to organise staggered elections in five states out of which Jonathan’s PDP won only one.
With the enormous power at the disposal of any occupant of Nigeria’s Presidency, one of the things that people hold against Jonathan is that he did not use the Presidency to the advantage of himself and his party. But he seems to be a man who thought more about the collective good.
Take the postponement of the elections by six weeks for instance. Although it was suspect at the outset, everyone, including INEC eventually agreed that it was helpful in one way or the other.
However, within those six weeks, a myriad of speculations aimed at either preempting Jonathan or just further tarnishing his reputation flew around.
He was said to nurse the idea of an interim government, some swore that elections would not hold, others said that he planned to hand over to the military as a measure of how much he hated Buhari. Added to the foregoing were vociferous agitations for the removal of Jega on the strength of various accusations of bias and support for the opposition.
Some people would suggest that none of these is possible in a democracy but anyone familiar with the dictatorial tendencies of many pseudo democrats in Africa knows that a desperate leader could go ahead and play out one or more of these options for self-preservation, without any care that he might plunge his country into crisis.
But Jonathan kept assuring that he would not allow any of these to happen. At several times, he kept saying he would go back to his Otuoke village should he lose the election. The presidential election held on March 28 and the whole world waited in anxiety for the unfolding of Nigeria’s Armageddon, which was expected to unfold during the revelation of the winner of the election.
As it became apparent that Jonathan and his PDP were losing the election, many Nigerians were gripped with fear considering the threat of war by Jonathan’s kinsmen. Disturbed by this prospect like other Nigerians, I prayed as I wrote in a letter to the President on this page two weeks ago, that he would find the grace to accept the result of the election and go a step further to congratulate Buhari, something that no Nigerian leader had ever done!
Jonathan found the grace at about 5:15 pm on Tuesday. He put a call across to the President-elect, congratulated him and assured him of his cooperation. It was one noble move which shocked everyone including the Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, Chairman of the National Peace Committee on the 2015 Presidential Election. Jonathan later released a statement in which he reiterated his determination to entrench free and fair elections and his conviction that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian.
So, while Nigerians cannot agree on how much Jonathan has achieved in the five years that he has led Nigeria, delivering credible elections in which he has conceded defeat to the opposition party, setting Nigeria on an incredible path to democratic growth is an achievement worthy of celebration. This could as well be the purpose for which God has sent Jonathan to us at this time and I dare say, this man has fulfilled that purpose and history will never forget him