The echoes of the 2015 presidential election won by President Muhammadu Buhari reverberated on Tuesday as former President Goodluck Jonathan presented his book, ‘My Transition Hours,’ to the public in Abuja.
Dignitaries that included Buhari, former Heads of State in Nigeria and West Africa, former ministers and traditional rulers took turns to shower encomiums on the former President for conceding defeat in the election.
Buhari was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.
Jonathan himself admitted that some unnamed individuals both in Nigeria and outside the country expressed surprise at his decision.
He said the people concerned kept asking him why he would allow the result of the election to stand without contesting it in court.
But his guests took turns to commend him for the decision which they said led to the peace the nation currently enjoys.
Jonathan said the twin issue of Boko Haram insurgency and the abduction of Chibok girls were used against him during elections.
Jonathan said, “Whenever I travelled out, people asked me, ‘why did you concede defeat, why did you make that phone call. Why didn’t you go to court?’
“The book reviewer has revealed everything and if you read the book, you will understand. The book centres mainly on the election. I mentioned some negative things, it’s like the life of an individual, it can be positive while it can also be negative.
“There were certain issues in government that were used against me during election, like the issue of Boko Haram and the Chibok girls. In fact, some people said I brought Boko Haram to reduce the voting population of the North so that I can win the election.”
He added, “So, I commented on the Chibok girls, it was one of the points that was really used by politicians. Of course, I don’t blame them. Maybe if it was me, I would have done the same thing.
“I also took the issue of corruption so that young Nigerians will understand the issue, where it started if anybody knows. I have made some suggestions to encourage future governments to tackle corruption.
“I also used the opportunity to make a little suggestion about our elections.”
Jonathan raised the alarm over the issue of vote-buying which he said had become scandalous in the country.
He suggested a change in the way polling booths are erected as one of the ways of tackling the problem.
“The issue of vote-buying is becoming scandalous in Nigeria. While inducing candidates is wrong and is criminalised in other countries, in Nigeria it is seen as normal and this is wrong.
“My suggestion is that we should begin to look at the way we build polling booths, we should copy other countries that use public buildings like schools for elections.
“So one school will be one polling unit and it will be easier for the police to police that unit and it will be difficult for someone who is in a classroom to show you his ballot paper since you cannot pay somebody until you have access to see his ballot paper. If we have a polling booth that you cannot access the ballot paper, then the issue of outright vote-buying will reduce,” he said.
Buhari again seized the opportunity of the presentation to commend Jonathan for conceding defeat in 2015.
He said he was aware that Jonathan took the decision without any pressure.
The President commended him for being a true democrat and a patriotic leader, saying his call to him doused tension.
Buhari said, “I want to openly as I have done on several occasions salute the statesmanship, sportsmanship and courage embedded in the person of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who in 2015 without any pressure conceded defeat in the presidential election even when the compilation of the results was still in progress.
“Your singular act of placing the call to me doused and calmed frayed nerves all over the country and I sincerely thank you for being a true democrat and a patriotic Nigerian.”
Buhari recalled that he and Jonathan were parties to a pact to ensure that the 2015 election was free and peaceful.
He noted that throughout the campaign period, Jonathan kept reiterating that no blood should be shed because of his ambition.
The President said history has recorded Jonathan as the fifth democratically-elected President of Nigeria and history will also judge him well as a patriotic leader.
He said, “It is important to restate that in the run-up to the elections, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and I were parties to a pact to ensure that the 2015 General Elections were free and credible. The outcome of that election has placed Nigeria as a leader of democracy in Africa.
“In his desire for peace and non-violence, Jonathan kept reiterating that no Nigerian blood should be shed for selfish reason.
“With this book being launched today, Nigerians, historians and scholars now have a personal account of what transpired during the transitional hours.”
He added, “It is difficult to imagine what went through the minds of Dr Jonathan during those long hours when variety of counsel for and against was being offered. As the fifth democratically elected president, history will judge you well and favourably.”
The President said he had been committed to ensuring that service to Nigerians was placed above every other consideration.
“Looking at the past three years, my administration has demonstrated that service to Nigerians transcends party lines and political affiliations.
“That is of course the reason why my administration remains committed to serving the nation by completing different projects that were started by previous administrations.”
He further described the former President as a leader of the past, present and future, saying he would rise again.
As the 2019 general elections draw nearer, Buhari called on all politicians not to see election as a declaration of war.
He urged them to eschew bitterness, falsehood and bigotry among other vices.
“In another 87 days from today, Nigerians will be electing new leaders in another general elections, I call on all political leaders to see elections based on principles and aspirations that will outlive the nation.
“Elections should not be a declaration of war rather cement our brotherliness and nationhood.
“Let me express my personal appreciation for what you have done for this country. You are a leader of the past, you are a leader for now. Rest assured, you are a leader of the future. You will rise again,” he added.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who chaired the public presentation, urged Nigerians to ensure that they would not hand over the nation and democracy to those he called thieves and hooligans.
He said if the nation’s democracy was handed over to those in those categories, they could use it as a weapon against the people.
Obasanjo said, “There is still no substitute for democracy when all is said and done. It fosters peace. It builds and does not destroy. It unifies, rather than divides.
“But all these can only happen if democracy is in the hands of democrats. If it is in the hands of thieves and hooligans, they can use it as a weapon. We should ensure hooligans don’t get it.”
The former President recalled a statement credited to a diplomat that he preferred to live in Nigeria because if it appeared the all would collapse in the morning, things would be cool and calm by the evening.
“Let us continue to make Nigeria cool and calm,” he said.
Obasanjo congratulated Jonathan for enjoying a peaceful retirement.
He said the post-office life which Jonathan was enjoying was one that all must crave for, describing it as a life of continued service to humanity.
He said the former President had a residual responsibility to continue to serve people and God.
He also advised him not to be found wanting in serving his community, state, Nigeria, Africa and the world.