The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an urgent appeal to four UN special rapporteurs drawing their attention to “the arbitrary arrest and detention of anti-corruption defender Moses Motoni, and urging them to use their “mandates to prevail on the Nigerian government and Nigeria police to immediately and unconditionally release him.” The urgent…
A few weeks ago, Nigeria’s former president, Goodluck Jonathan, sparked off a mild controversy in the minds of concerned Nigerians. Jonathan had, at a public forum, told his audience that he was not compelled by anyone to concede defeat in the 2015 presidential elections. The former first citizen said his decision was purely driven by the fact that he did not want the blood of innocent Nigerians to be shed on account of the crisis that might have arisen if he had not allowed Muhammadu Buhari to be pronounced the winner of the elections. By that statement, Jonathan was simply reechoing his campaign declaration that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian.
Even though a good many Nigerians are hardly concerned anymore by what transpired during the 2015 presidential elections, owing to the existential issues that have made politics to pale, somewhat, into insignificance, not a few overlooked the justifications that Jonathan is using to paper over his pitiable exit from office. A good number of my associates took interest in the matter and were compelled to remind themselves of what happened before and during the elections. I have since synthesised the renewed debate and have come to understand that their unmistakable verdict is that Jonathan’s pacifist disposition has not made him a hero.
Whereas Jonathan seemed to give the impression that he was defeated, since it is only a loss that can eventuate in concession of defeat, many of those who took interest in the matter accused Jonathan of making an illicit jump by not telling the people the undercurrents of his loss. Those who feel this way believe that Jonathan deliberately looked the other way so that victory could be awarded to Buhari. In other words, was Jonathan afraid of victory in the 2015 presidential elections? The reasoning goes thus:
Jonathan, as vice president, was pliant and compliant. He did not stand in the way of anybody. When his boss, Umaru Yar’Adua, took ill, a cabal ran a ring around Jonathan. They did not want him to perform the functions of the president, as provided for in the constitution. But Jonathan did not kick. He did not resist the plot. He remained passive until Yar’Adua was officially pronounced dead. Jonathan, the argument goes, won the 2011 presidential elections largely on the basis of his unobtrusive disposition.
However, after victory comes judgment. The overriding impression was that Jonathan did not manage his victory properly. Thus, a year or two after his ascension as president, Jonathan had thoroughly mismanaged his goodwill. He took so much for granted by allowing the desperate opposition to sell to the public the impression that he was a weak and clueless president. Jonathan and his team did nothing about the blackmail from the opposition to the extent that it, in no time, became the standard upon which he was being judged.
As a confirmed good man, Jonathan relied solely on his goodness. He did not see any need to engage his detractors or play smart politics. In fact, Jonathan’s inability to retain power has been traced to the absence of smart politics. The argument here is that Jonathan, knowingly but surprisingly, worked against his own victory. An election, they remind us, is not won or lost solely on the day voters file out to cast their votes. So many pre-election matters come into play before the actual election. Jonathan was believed to have overlooked the basic elements that could count for or against him. Analysts readily remind themselves of the blank cheque he gave to Attahiru Jega, the then chairman of the electoral commission. Jega, to the knowledge of Jonathan, worked meticulously to ensure that he (Jonathan), lost the election. That was why he engaged in all manner of electoral gerrymandering. Jega ensured that areas considered as Jonathan’s catchment areas were disadvantaged. He awarded 70 per cent of the voting centres to Buhari’s northern enclave and left the poor remainder to Jonathan’s South. But much more than that, the issuance of the so-called permanent voters cards was tilted in favour of Buhari’s North. The ratio was one of 70 to 30 in favour of the North. It was evident, long before the elections, that if the possession of voters cards was a criterion for winning elections, the North would carry the day because Jonathan’s South was nowhere near Buhari’s North. The direction of the election was self-evident, going by the spatial distribution of the people that Jega armed with voters cards. The lopsidedness was in the public domain. But Jonathan did not complain. He looked on morosely. The president’s complacency in this matter will remain a subject of critical inquiry for many years to come.
But then, that sounded somewhat simplistic to those who applied more rigour to the argument. Their position is that Jonathan could not have been tired at the time he presented himself as candidate for president in the 2015 elections. They prefer to say, and that makes sense, that Jonathan was in the race to win. But along the line, he lost the courage and will power to deal with the thorny and knotty issues that reared their ugly head. Jonathan, for instance, could not penetrate, let alone comprehend, the complex web of the conspiracy that was the abduction of Chibok schoolgirls. The president was at sea over the matter. His detractors distracted him fully with that subterfuge. He was buffeted to no end. But the situation was made worse by the fact that he and his team had no appropriate response to the development.
At this point, Jonathan was running a weak presidency. Advanced democracies of the world led by the United States, had lost confidence in him. His much talked about weakness had become legendary. Blackmailing him had become the cheapest article of trade. He had, at this point, become afraid of taking charge of his office. One way in which he would have asserted that he was the president would have been to call Jega to order. He could have removed the electoral chairman from office if he considerd his infractions serious enough. But the president could not summon the courage to do any of these. He believed that such actions would make him look ugly in the eyes of a section of Nigerians and the international community. He did not want a tainted image. He wanted to remain the good man to the very end. Consequently, by the time Jonathan was going into the elections, what he had remaining was good luck. He was merely taking a chance. If the odds favoured him, so be it. And if it turned out otherwise, he would not be bothered. And that was what happened. The odds were against him. At that stage, he did not want anybody to weep for him. That was why he threw in the towel. Jonathan may not be in a position tell this story. But analysts are of the view that he was afraid of victory. That is why nobody is weeping for him. That is also why nobody sees heroism in his action. If you send Nigerians to the polls, majority of the voters will return a verdict of cowardice on Jonathan.