That President Goodluck Jonathan picked up his phone around 5.30 pm on Tuesday, March 31, as results of the March 28 presidential election were still being collated and called his All Progressives Congress challenger, General Muhammadu Buhari, to concede defeat and to congratulate him is now common knowledge. What is not known is the president was hard-pressed doing so; he seemed to be in great agony conceding defeat in an election he lost due to low performance, bad politics and poor coordination of his campaigns, writes TUNDE RAHMAN.
“I have never seen a party as undisciplined as PDP. If you people wanted me to give you money for your election, you should have ensured that I won the election.” – President Jonathan
“When we got to Aso Rock Presidential Villa, around 6pm on Tuesday, March 31, we were yet to see President Jonathan. Then we called General Buhari to also implore him to toe the path of peace and abide by the spirit of the Abuja Peace Accord. He immediately told us Mr. President had called him to concede defeat and congratulate him. We all heaved a sigh of relief. So when we eventually saw President Jonathan, what was meant to be an appeal became a prayer and praise session. We commended him for doing what hitherto was thought to be unthinkable in Africa. We told him he had written his name in gold. Then we prayed for him and his family…”
That was Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan, in an interview programme on Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria last Monday. He was responding to a question on the state in which the National Peace Committee led by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, of which Onaiyekan is a member, met the president after most of the results of the election had been announced and how they felt when the committee learnt President Jonathan had accepted defeat.
“The outcome of the election and the manner in which President Jonathan conceded victory to Buhari is totally un-African, it is very important in the history of Africa,” former Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), said on Wednesday after President Jonathan paid him a private visit in his residence in Asokoro, Abuja. “If Ojukwu did the same after the fall of Enugu, if he had conceded victory to the federal troops, he would have saved the nation one full year of bloodshed,” he added.
President Jonathan’s gesture of accepting defeat has been generally applauded. His fans and foes alike have commended him for his noble and courageous gesture, for making himself a statesman and for turning defeat into victory in a way. “Yes, the president lost the election but he made himself a winner by his concession of defeat without question even when there were noticeable irregularities about the election. He took the shine off Buhari’s victory so to say,” one Peoples Democratic Party stalwart told this writer.
That was the way many Nigerians, including die-hard critics of the president, generally reacted to his acceptance of defeat. But unknown to them, that attitude of President Jonathan did not come easy, at least going by his subsequent action and posture. How? A few days after the conclusion of the process and the final declaration of Buhari as President-elect, President Jonathan summoned a meeting of PDP governorship candidates for Aso Rock Presidential Villa. WESTERN POST learnt that before they met the president, most of the candidates had had some sort of pre-meeting discussions. In their meeting with the party’s National Chairman Adamu Mua’zu before meeting the president, they complained about how President Jonathan went out of his way to fund opposition candidates to support his election, many of whom eventually used the money to fight the PDP. The candidates complained they needed money to prosecute their election.
The PDP national chairman was said to have advised them to raise all their issues with the president. When the meeting with the president, however, got underway, most of the PDP gubernatorial candidates suddenly became tight-lipped. “None of them was ready to broach the issue they had discussed and agreed to raise with the president,” said a source close to the meeting. One incumbent governor and PDP governorship candidate from the North (names withheld) who opened the floor merely heaped praises on the president for his performance in office and for accepting defeat at the poll and as he put it “for setting a standard in Africa as far as democracy is concerned.”
One of two other candidates also spoke in the same vein. Then another speaker, a candidate from one of the states in the South-west (names withheld) also commended the president for his gesture. But he went further to plead with President Jonathan to release some funds to aid the campaigns of the governorship candidates, saying PDP needed to win a majority of the governorship seats.
WP sources said the President was livid at that request. He called for the microphone. He was quoted as saying thus: “I have never seen a party as undisciplined as PDP. If you people wanted me to give you money for your election, you should have ensured that I won the election”. The president made a sharp contrast between the PDP governors and those of the opposition party. He reportedly asked: “Why is everybody expecting money from here?. Look at the APC. The APC government in Kwara gave money to the party’s chapter in Kogi to prosecute the election. How many PDP governors did that?”
The president said he would liaise with the party chairman and get back to the candidates. He then reportedly got up and left. That was the end of the meeting, said the source. With the president out of the hall, the candidates also left one after another, with their tails in between their legs.