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Tribute to GEJ, the Gemstone in GMB’s Quarry
Franklin Otorofani

Published April 6th, 2015

The much awaited Nigerian presidential election has come and gone and it took four agonizing days and sleepless nights to announce the final results. At a point in the seemingly endless serial presentation by INEC chairman, Jega, in Abuja, it seemed to me that we might be heading for a cliff hanger of an election. But that was not to be.

There is no beating about the bush here and parsing words. And I will not attempt to put a bold face on a defeat either. I get it: Buhari won and Jonathan lost in his bid for a second term. Jonathan had beaten Buhari hands down back in 2011 and in this return match, to use soccer analogy, Buhari drew blood and ran away with victory. If there is any lesson to be learnt from Buhari’s victory, it is that perseverance pays in the end.

If it had come a little earlier, perhaps it might have served as an inspiration to someone like Mitt Romney who had wanted to take a third shot at the US presidency and had in fact declared his candidacy only to chicken out before he even finished making his announcement to run. Buhari is a much tougher character of course than timid Romney waiting to be told to get out of the race by liberal US media. He could not even take a page from President Abraham Lincoln who ran again and again three times before he finally clinched the US presidency and became the American icon who issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed black slaves in Jim Crow’s south. As they say in America, Buhari has “fire in his belly” and Romney had the cool-aid in his cold, icy belly. It takes a belly with a fire to gun for the presidency and run away with victory as Buhari has just demonstrated.

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To be charitable though Buhari’s victory was well deserved because unlike before he actually worked hard for it this time around except for the presidential debates that he tactically avoided so as not to do himself irreparable damage not being a great debater, and the debates might have killed his chances. But Nigerians deserve to have those debates and the electoral law ought to be amended to make specific provisions for debates by candidates for elective offices at all levels. But that is a matter for another day and need not detain us here nor detract in any shape or form from Buhari’s game changing epochal victory.

Following, therefore, in the worthy footsteps of President Jonathan, permit me to say: Congratulations Buhari! There is hope yet for democracy in Nigeria amid the doom and gloom. I had written in the past that Nigerians would pull through these dark days in spite of everything, and they just did, didn’t they? But here is my short message to Buhari though: Your great victory, democratically won, while not exactly washing away the caked blood of innocent Nigerians stuck in your hands and flowing gown, has certainly covered it, hiding it from public censure.

Your victory has given you another chance to account for their deaths and make peace with those you’ve hurt so badly and so sadistically in previous elections. You now have a great and rare opportunity to make amends and reconcile yourself with history. Few leaders are this lucky to be blessed with a second chance to make amends. If in doubt ask the evil genius and fellow military dictator, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), the annuler of June 12, 1993 presidential election won by murdered Chief MKO Abiola. I will not dwell on your past transgressions, however, in these jubilant moments and will allow you savor your sweet victory while it is still thick in the air and animated chants of “Sai Buhari!” are still renting the air in Kano city and other parts.

Even so amid the jubilations the question remains as to whom this historical moment truly belongs: Buhari or Jonathan. Without making light of Buhari’s stunning victory, this day in reality, belongs not to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (GMB), but to President Goodluck Ebere Jonathan (GEJ).

Let me explain: This election was conducted under somebody’s watch and its success did not come by chance but by design. It could have gone the other way as all previous elections in Nigeria. What’s more, this election has recorded several positive firsts and perhaps a few negative firsts too, as well. However, while the positive firsts are directly attributable to the Jonathan administration, the negatives aren’t. Here below is summary of the firsts:

(1.First Successful Presidential Election:  It’s the first time a sitting president conducted an election in Nigerian history successfully with the opposition party winning and not rigging itself to power with all the powers of incumbency at its disposal. To date Nigeria has had three civilian leaders who had conducted elections; namely: Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan. Of the three only Jonathan was able to achieve that feat, with the first two succeeding themselves and setting the nation on fire literally.

Yes Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo conducted elections and handed over power to a democratically elected government in 1979 as the first in Africa for which he was rewarded later as Nigeria’s first civilian president in this dispensation. But he did that when he was quitting and not contesting and under a military as opposed to civilian administration. Jonathan actually contested in this as a sitting president going for second term and no other previous sitting president had lost or rather allowed himself to lose.

(2. First Concession of Defeat: It’s the first time a defeated presidential candidate conceded defeat to the winner—a fact that is not lost on Nigerians now hailing the President, setting a great example that will reverberate throughout the African continent and beyond. In Nigerian parlance, this is the first time “power changed hands” peacefully and democratically in Nigeria. And that is no mean feat. It was not Buhari’s or APC’s doing but Jonathan’s, and PDP’s. This gesture alone gives the day and the season more to the defeated Jonathan rather than to the victorious Buhari. I’m extremely proud of Jonathan for this monumental gesture that will go a long way in stabilizing the polity with tensions running high in Niger Delta. Given his antecedents

I make bold to state that Buhari is incapable of pulling off such gesture and we shall see how he will handle that in future election just around the corner in four years. I would, therefore, like to use this opportunity to call on all Niger Deltans to sheath their swords and accept the results in good faith because their son, GEJ, has with this election set a shining example for Africa, not just Nigeria, and indeed the world. Rather than lament the defeat and get angry, they should be proud of this feat and democratic accomplishment of their son.

Great Niger Deltans—the goose that laid the golden eggs—must take heart and understand that there will be another political match-up coming up in just four years’ time and GEJ, if my political antenna is still working right, has just finished the warm up match in preparation for the big one coming down the road in four years. In case anyone forgets in a hurry, Jonathan is still constitutionally entitled to run again for the office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If Buhari could come back after 30+ years, Jonathan certainly can after four or eight years. And if and when he does this monumental act of political sportsmanship will pull him through. That is when he could step out from late Yar’Adua’s shadows as his own candidate and reap the abundance of goodwill this wonderful gesture of his has earned him in the hearts of millions of Nigerians. He will be leaving in a blaze of glory.

(3. First Party to Party Power Transition: President Obasanjo was the first to transition from one civilian administration to another in 2003 in an election without a military coup intervening. But he failed to transition from one political party to party in 2007, as he handed over to Yar’Adua of the same PDP when he left office. Well Jonathan has broken that jinx. He’s handing over not to PDP but to a different party, APC, for the very first time in the nation’s history. That’s awesome. Ghana beat Nigeria to that.

(4. First Election During Civil War: I know some might take umbrage at the characterization of the security situation in the nation as a civil war, but it is, if they understand the meaning of the term. This is the first time general elections would be conducted in Nigeria successfully in the midst of a civil war in a major part of the country with the least disruptions and violence recorded in Nigerian electoral history. Even elections conducted in peacetimes could not boast of such a feat.

And let me also make another point here which is equally important: Some leaders in Jonathan’s shoes could easily have postponed the elections indefinitely under the pretext of fighting a civil war. And he could have escalated massively it in such a way as to make elections unwise and impossible. He did none of that. Kudos to the president. He has acquitted himself as a true democrat at heart. Let’s see how Buhari acquits himself in office in comparison.

(5. First Undisputed and Un-litigated Election: It says a lot about the democratic temperament of GEJ that he not only conceded defeat readily to Bhuari, but went further to actually congratulate Buhari on his victory. There are plenty of complaints floating around the presidential election; from under-aged voting in parts of the North captured and floated around in social media, to INEC’s disenfranchisement of voters, Jega’s alleged partisanship, broken INEC machines, and other electoral malpractices, which were enough to cause him to dispute the results and head to the tribunal.

I mean, here was an election in which the president of the nation himself could not vote due to malfunctioning INEC’s machines, leading to the wholesale disenfranchisement of voters in the president’s strongholds not to mention under registration and accreditation of voters in his support base. A Muhammadu Buhari in similar position would have cried foul, breathing fire to let loose hell on the nation. But Jonathan brushed all of them aside, called Buhari and conceded defeat. Let’s not forget in a hurry that a duly concluded presidential election awaiting just the declaration of results had been criminally annulled midstream in this country and nothing happened. And instead of the annuler going to jail for plunging the nation into needless crisis, the presumptive winner died in prison for daring to reclaim his electoral mandate!

In fact, Jonathan may have saved Nigeria’s democracy and averted the much predicted doomsday for the nation. This is why, being a patriot myself, I would doff my hat for GEJ any day for his exemplary post-election conduct. While it is rather too early to predict what lies ahead, he may have single handedly saved the nation and given her another chance to get her acts together. Put another way, he has midwifed the dawn of a new era, and it is up to his successor to keep up to the very high standards of sportsmanship exhibited by Jonathan. This is why Jonathan is the gem in Buhari’s quarry.

(6. South/West Betrayal: This is the first time, to the best of my knowledge, that the Yorubas, not just in the South/West, but extending all the way to Kwara and Kogi states, ganged up with the Northern oligarchy to deny a southern presidential candidate from Niger Delta victory. While the Yorubas may be jubilating at this treachery and stab on Jonathan’s back, this must go down in history as a day of infamy for the Yorubas for turning their backs on Jonathan when he needed them the most. This treachery shall be borne in the breast of every Niger Deltan and every South/Easterner alive today. And let it be known that there will be a day of reckoning because treachery shall have its own payday, if not today, then tomorrow or the day after.

If, as I suspect, this treachery was darkly hatched and executed in the dark chambers of the APC demigods in the South/West in the hope that it might place the Nigerian presidency on a golden ship to sail southward from the North and berth in the South/West in four or eight years’ time post Buhari’s reign, the Yorubas are in for a rude shock because that is not happening anytime soon or ever! That, for now, is my blunt message to the Yorubas. And this is without prejudice to the millions of courageous and independent minded Yorubas who had defied Tinubu and voted for Jonathan in the South/West. Theirs was an act of courage against the herd mentality that produced this regrettable outcome. Their act of courage shall not go unrecorded by history either. . 

But did Jonathan deserve this betrayal from the Yorubas? Where did he incur the wrath of the Yorubas that had caused them to bay for his political blood? Did he not give their sons and daughters federal appointments? Did he not site federal projects in their land? Did he not promise them implementation of the recommendations of the political confab that is dear to their hearts? What did he not do for them? Oh how their smiling Obas swooned at his feet while the damnable Obasanjo drove his cursed knife into his back while busy shaking their treacherous hands in good faith! This treachery shall be remembered in the history books and passed on from generation to generation and should I dare say the beginning of a new political realignment in Nigeria. The North has broken its historical pact with the South/South which the South/South had faithfully kept as an article of faith over several decades when the South/West was at war with it. Let it be known there will be a steep political price to be paid for this betrayal.

With all of that said, the Yorubas, led by the nose by Tinubu did not hatch this plot with the Northern oligarchs yesterday. APC has been around for at least two years and the plot was an open secret when it was consummated. This should have given the PDP and Jonathan more than enough time to design a counter strategy to checkmate it. Political wisdom dictates that you do not underrate your opponent in any elections. It is always better to overrate the opponent and celebrate when he falls short of your rating. But they didn’t that and instead underrated it.

And what’s more, they allowed the party to literally bleed to death with daily defections to the APC not just by governors but lawmakers with enormous political clouts. The APC literally went and set up shop at the huge Lake PDP, downed its hooks and pulled off big catches gasping for air at the surface. You can’t blame a desperate party for trying its luck in that way and it paid off big time. Maybe PDP with its big tent mentality thought it was probably “too big to fail” like American GM and the big banks that received government bailout funds to artificially keep them afloat.

With that said, I will not go into the reasons for Jonathan’s defeat in this write up extenso. There will be proper accounting for that later. But suffice it to state here and now that Jonathan and the PDP dropped the ball and were rather slow to react to the gathering electoral danger posed by the APC and the Tinubu Yorubas in particular, to the electoral equation. There was a power sharing plot between the North and the South/West alright, but that alone would not have made such a big a dent on the political fortunes of the PDP in this election cycle let alone outright defeat. Poor reading of the political landscape is to blame.

Which tells me that the PDP has poor political strategists in its ranks. And in the end the buck stops at Jonathan’s desk. He’s the biggest loser and the biggest winner, both rolled into one in the person of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan—the quintessential democrat going out in a blaze of glory!

Franklin Otorofani is a Nigerian attorney and public affairs analyst resident in the United States.

Contact: mudiagaone@yahoo.com



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