An ex-minister who served under Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet has alleged that the former President had plans in place to obtain a court order to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from announcing the result of the 2015 presidential election.
Jonathan has been celebrated in Nigeria and across the globe for reportedly calling to congratulate his opponent then, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.
The former President in his book – My Transition Hours, narrated what happened at that critical moment.
He named four aides who advised him to concede defeat adding that he ignored ministers who told him otherwise.
They were recommending sundry alternatives, but I was quiet in the midst of their discussions. I hugged my thought, figuring out how to do that which was best for the country. My personal interest was receding rapidly and the interest of Nigeria looming large.
“I excused myself and left the sitting room. I walked into my study. Even there, my mantra was a strong circle around me, supporting and comforting me. Let the country survive. Let democracy survive. My political ambition is not worth people being ‘soaked in blood,” Jonathan added.
Unfair and petty
According to The Cable, the minister, who refused to be identified described Jonathan’s narration as unfair and petty, adding that “The impression the former president is trying to create is that the people came to tell him not to concede. In truth, Jonathan was being persuaded by a former south-south governor not to concede, so some ministers were quickly invited to come and counter them.
“What would Okonjo-Iweala, Adoke and Chidoka be doing at the villa at that time if not that something was going wrong? Is Jonathan trying to say he was not involved in Elder Godsday Orubebe’s attempt to disrupt the announcement of the results? Is Jonathan trying to claim innocence of a plot to secure a court injunction to stop INEC from further announcing the results? Jonathan needs to be a man of honour.”
Another minister who also commented on the former President’s version of the story said “Let him enjoy the euphoria of his book launch first, but those he has defamed will surely respond in due course.”
The minister also added that Jonathan’s recent action might lead to his demystification.
The former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who Jonathan mentioned as one of those who advised him to concede had earlier spoken on what happened in 2015.
Okonjo-Iweala, in her book, Fighting Corruption Is Dangerous, the story behind the headlines, said “The state-by-state announcement of election results by Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of INEC, began at noon on Monday, March 30. I joined a few colleagues from the Economic Management Team at the office of one of the presidential advisers where a team was monitoring the results.
“The atmosphere was electric. Throughout the day, vote counts came in from different states, mostly from the South-South and South East. The president was leading, but his margin was getting slimmer. And the results from the northern states—the opposition stronghold—had not yet come in. By 8pm, these results began to arrive, and the tide turned against the president. By 10pm, it became clear that the Jonathan administration was now on a losing streak.
“We all assembled again in the adviser’s office—which we now called our situation room. A couple of hours later, the Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, called me to say that a concession speech was being drafted by Mr. Reuben Abati, the president’s speech writer, and they wanted my contribution. What did I think he should emphasize in the speech?
“I drafted a few thoughts on the economic achievements of the administration, the president’s legacy and the difficult economic challenges facing the nation that needed immediate attention. By 4pm, I felt I had enough material and decided to go to the Villa to talk to those working on the speech. I wondered where the president was and what he was doing.
“They were urging the president not to concede the election. More politicians came in and joined them. On the opposite side of the room were the Minister of Aviation Osita Chidoka; the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke; and the Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina. They were relaying a dissenting view, arguing that the president should concede.
“I was immediately drawn into the argument as everyone turned to hear my views. I said I thought the president should concede and do so before the announcement of the vote count was completed. The Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Affairs, Dr. Dudafa Waripamo-Owei, a politician, whom I expected to side with the politicians, also said he sided with those who thought the president should concede.
“According to the announcements we were all following on the big screens, only a few more states were yet to report their election results.
“I sat next to the president and whispered to him that if he was going to concede, he probably should do so before the announcement of election results ended.
“Suddenly, he got up and left the room. We all thought he had gone off for a few moments of quiet. He returned about twenty minutes later and sat down without saying a word. I decided to take a chance and press him again on a timely concession. As I whispered again for a second time, the president responded to me out loud, “CME(Coordinating Minister of the Economy), it is done. I have called President-elect Buhari and conceded!”
“We were stunned! He had said not one word to us, but it was clear that this was a man who had made up his mind and done what he thought was right. The president repeated something he had often said to his ministers and advisers: I have always said that power for Jonathan is not worth shedding a drop of blood of a single Nigerian”
Former APC spokesman narrates what happened
In his book, the former spokesman of the APC, Bolaji Abdullahi, who also served as the minister of sports under Jonathan, said “By the time he returned later that day, the sombre atmosphere at the Presidential Villa had become somewhat charged. The president’s media adviser, Reuben Abati had also brought a draft speech.
“He was asked to go and work with Akinwumi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture, to reconcile the two speeches. Several other people had also arrived, and now sat around the presidential living room like a delegation of mourners, each trying his best to surpass the other in a show of grief .Among them was the Vice President, Namadi Sambo and the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio.
“Jonathan had by now given indication of his plan to accept defeat. What they probably did not realise, however, was that by asking him not to concede, they were presenting him with a dilemma. He had roundly promised the country a credible election. And if there was one legacy he would like to leave behind in office, it would be that he conducted the most credible election in the nation’s history.
“Therefore, to contend that the election has been anything but credible was to rob himself the chance to leave even this imprint on history. The alternative of course was for him to simply accept defeat and walk away.
“In the battle for the president’s mind, Chidoka could see that he was hopelessly outnumbered. Many had even started to accuse him openly of working for the former Minister of Federal Capital Territory and APC Governorship candidate in Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai. Having taken in the atmosphere, the Aviation Minister quickly summoned two other people he knew could exert significant influence on the President: the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke; and the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. They soon arrived.
“A usually sedate President Jonathan, who appeared like he did not care only a while ago, was now fuming. He ranted about how the election was rigged. How children were used to vote. How Jega had compromised and betrayed his trust. Okonjo-Iweala, whose words normally carried weight with the President, was pleading with him, but he was not listening.
“Abati returned with an updated draft of the speech, which he had started by having the president congratulate the winner, Muhammadu Buhari. But the president said, no, he was not going to congratulate Buhari because he wasn’t convinced that he had won the election fair and square. Chidoka turned to Jonathan and asked, ‘Sir, but are you still going to give the address?’
“President Jonathan said he was going to give the address, but he was not going to congratulate anyone. He would only appeal to Nigerians to remain calm and await the announcement of the final results. It was obvious that the ‘rejecters’ had made an impact and were having the upper hand.
“And, sensing that they were winning, they pressed their advantage. They reminded President Jonathan of what Buhari was capable of doing to him,and argued that even if he was going to concede, the terms had to be negotiated.
“Vice President Sambo wanted Jonathan to wait until the full results were announced before he made a statement. Even then, he thought the statement should not be to congratulate Buhari but to say that the president had kept his promise to conduct the elections but the party would meet to review the results and then decide whether to accept the outcome or reject it.
“Okonjo-Iweala and Adoke however countered that if the president issued a statement conceding defeat as he had planned to do even before the final results were announced, he would be snatching a major victory out of the jaws of defeat.
“Sir, why don’t you even call General Buhari to congratulate him?” No one could recall who first made this suggestion. But this was a major tipping point that every one of the ‘persuaders’ would be happy to claim. They all agreed that if the President called Buhari to congratulate him, that would settle the matter and turn him to an instant hero, even in defeat. “You have lost the mortal game, this is the chance to claim immortality.
“One person who had been listening to all the arguments but contributing very little was Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, the President’s long term aide. His only previous contribution to the debate was when he said to the president, “Daddy, no matter what, we are leaving here May 29.’
“Dudafa knew that when President Jonathan said his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian, he meant it. He also knew what the president meant when he once said, that he was no Nebuchadnezzar. Therefore, the moment the idea of a phone call to General Buhari was mentioned, he started working with some other domestic aides to get Buhari on the phone. He soon got through.
“Your Excellency, sir. Hope I’m speaking with General Buhari, sir. President Goodluck Jonathan would like to speak with you, sir,” Dudafa said to the phone and handed it over to President Jonathan.”
According to the result announced by INEC, Buhari got 15,424,921 votes, defeating Jonathan who came second with 12,853,162 to win the 2015 presidential election.