2015 election: How Jonathan conceded defeat

28 April 2017 National

FACTS have emerged on how former president and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the 2015 presidential, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, conceded defeat to the incumbent president and candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election, Muhammadu Buhari.

The revelations, including individuals who encouraged Jonathan to congratulate the APC candidate, despite the irregularities that marred the election, were contained in a book, “Against the Run of Play,” written by the chairman of Editorial Board, ThisDay newspapers, Olusegun Adeniyi.

The trio of former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke; former Aviation Minister, Mr Osita Chidoka and a former Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Affairs, Mr Warpamo–Owei Dudafa, were, in the book, reported to have encouraged the president to make the call to Buhari, congratulating him on the electoral victory.

“The drama unfolding at the Villa on March 21, 2015, four days after the presidential election, would have profound implications for President Jonathan and the nation he led.

“Kneeling in front of Jonathan were his Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke; Aviation Minister, Mr Osita Chidoka and the Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Affairs, Mr Warpamo–Owei Dudafa.

“The mission of the three officials was to persuade Jonathan to call and congratulate his opponent, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), even as the final results were still being collated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“Seated a few metres away in the room were Vice-President Namadi Sambo; Akwa Ibom State governor, Mr Godswill Akpabio; Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission. Mr John Kennedy Opara and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

“Chidoka had co-opted Adoke and Dudafa to make the plea after a conversation he had with Jonathan the previous day. The president had acknowledged that the results were going against him and that he was going to concede. This was at a period when Nigerians were unsure of who would win, with many politicians within the then ruling PDP still betting on Jonathan.

“He had already asked Chidoka and a few others, including his spokesman, Dr Reuben Abati, to give him a draft concession speech,” part of the book read.

Adeniyi further revealed that there were evidence to dissuade the PDP presidential candidate to join league with forces asking him not to accept defeat, but he decided to pull “Nigerian back from the precipice, thus saving the country from what could have been a serious crisis, the ending of which nobody could have foretold.

“For Jonathan, coming to terms with defeat was culmination of what began four days earlier when he arrived at a polling unit in his hometown of Otuoke, Bayelsa State, with his wife, Patience, for accreditation under the full glare of the media. The country watched on live television as one card reader after another failed to read the president’s biometrics. After four tries and close to about 20 minutes, Jonathan and his wife had to be accredited manually.

“Despite his earlier misgivings about the use of card reader for the election, which was also opposed by his party, Jonathan resisted the temptation to chip at the credibility of the exercise by graciously reaffirming his confidence in the process.”

The book quoted the then INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, as telling newsmen when accosted about the challenges Jonathan faced during accreditation.

“President Jonathan is just one person,” he told reporters. “So, if we have problem with one person, as far as the election is going on well nationally, I’m not worried that there might be a delay. My interest is that we conduct a credible election.”

Adeniyi said the period was the first defining moment of the election.

“A disgruntled reaction could have easily set the wheels of political discord in motion and truncated the peace that had characterised the exercise up till that point.

“However by Monday, March 30, the atmosphere around Jonathan had been soured by reports suggesting the election may not have been free and fair as he initially thought, especially  in some of the northern states.

“With photographic evidence, Jonathan was shown how underage people were allowed to vote at some polling units in Kano and Bauchi states.

“This inflamed those within the government who were urging Jonathan not to concede, even as it became increasingly clear that he had lost.

Adeniyi went further: “Among the strongest arguments for a potentially rigged election were the results from Kano State. Jonathan himself admitted as much to me in the course of our lengthy chat, saying, “go and check the results from Kano.

The presidential election and that of National Assembly happened on the same day and same time. “The National Assembly result reflected that about 800,000 people voted but that of the presidential reflected a vote of about 1.8 million. I had reports of what happened but I decided that for such to be accepted, it meant that those who called themselves my supporters must have colluded. I was betrayed by the very people I relied on to win the election.”

The book described the atmosphere at the Aso Villa around the period as gloomy, adding that most residents of the seat of power were of the belief that the former INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, had conspired to rig Jonathan out of power.

“The general feeling within the Villa, a view fervently shared by Jonathan, was that the INEC chairman, Professor Jega, was part of a ‘northern conspiracy’ against him. With that, Jonathan decided to keep all options open. “This emboldened some of his supporters who were desperate enough to want to disrupt the election,” it added.

The book also put a lie to misconception in certain quarters that the former president was privy to the plot to disrupt the announcement of results, with former Niger Delta Minister, Elder Godsday Orubebe, as principal leader of the  gang behind the macabre plot.

“There were many around Jonathan who did not share his sense of magnanimity. Tuesday, March 31, was, therefore, a dramatic day with the abortive attempt by the Niger Delta minister and ally of the president, Godsday Orubebe, to disrupt proceedings at the INEC collation centre, a spectacle that unfolded on live television.

“Although he would later apologise for his misadventure, Orubebe’s histrionics were part of a grand plot to disrupt the election, a plot that failed essentially because other parties involved refused to play to the script.

“While Jega did not have the exact details of what would happen, he had nonetheless been alerted to the fact that there would be a disruption in the process, including a kidnap threat.

“On arrival at the collation centre that morning, we discovered that the gate between the International Conference Centre and NICON Luxury Hotel, which was always locked, had curiously been opened,” recalled a security officer detailed to work with Jega.

A decision was immediately taken for the INEC chairman not to leave the collation hall under any circumstances.

“Jega’s handlers proposed a live television feed of the electoral commission’s activities so that whatever happened, the whole world would witness it.

“In the security official’s narration, of course, Jega is usually a calm person, but given what he already knew, there was no way he was going to (take) the bait of Orubebe who kept shouting, ‘Jega, go to your office!’ We knew what the whole plan was about and had resolved not to play into their hands.

“Meanwhile, at the Villa, the drama was also being watched on television. While the outcome must have deflated the hawks around Jonathan, who were still looking for a way out of the looming defeat, it worked in favour of those who wanted him to concede before the final tally of the results.

“With Orubebe’s antics dealt with by Jega, INEC continued to process the results from the remaining states.”

The book dramatised the sustained plea by the trio of Chidoka, Adoke and Dudafa for the former president to congratulate General Buhari and it ultimately paid off.

“Chidoka pleaded, ‘Why don’t you take the wind off Jega? By calling Buhari, you would have rendered whatever INEC is doing redundant.’

“This school of thought won the day. At one point, Dudafa stood up and said to Jonathan, ‘Daddy, anybody can say whatever they like, but we are leaving this house on May 29. You have done your best for Nigeria and the people will appreciate your sacrifices.’

“Shortly thereafter, Jonathan got up from his seat and went into his study where he picked up the phone and asked ‘Control’ to get Buhari on the line. He spoke briefly with Buhari in a rather nervous tone and then came out to announce to those in the room that he had conceded and congratulated the APC candidate on his victory.”

“A relieved Chidoka asked: ‘Can I tell the world?’ ‘Go ahead,’ Jonathan directed and Chidoka sent out a tweet from his mobile phone at exactly 5.23 p.m., Nigerian time.

“And with that call, Jonathan pulled Nigeria back from the precipice, saving the country from what would have been a serious crisis, the ending of which nobody could have foretold. But the story did not end there. There were still attempts by some persons close to the president to use the party hierarchy to fight the outcome of the election.”

The former president, despite the anger by his loyalists who felt betrayed that they were left in the cold in his heroic action to congratulate the candidate of the erstwhile main opposition party, rationalised his action.

“Despite his misgivings, by the time it became evident that he had lost, Jonathan was left counting the cost.”

The book gave further insight into the reasons that informed the concession of defeat by Jonathan.

“in 2011 when Buhari did not campaign anywhere and could not have won the election, there was spontaneous violent reaction that led to death of several innocent people, including youth corps members.

“I asked myself what would happen in a situation in which there was already internal and international conspiracy in his favour? I could not bear the thought of anybody dying, so I told myself I had only one option and that was to concede,” Jonathan was noted in the book.

Source: Tribune


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