There is this general propensity by most Nigerians to ignore the contributions of the immediate past President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan towards the creation of an enabling environment which ensured that genuine democratic values were fostered and truly accomplished during the 2015 general elections. We simply tend to focus primarily on the outcome of the elections; why Jonathan failed, Buhari’s victory and the prospects of change without appreciating the critical factors that made the much talked about ‘change’ possible and the actions of one man mostly responsible for it.
Although Jonathan lost the election, he was indeed, the true hero of modern day Nigerian democracy. More than any other Nigerian, notwithstanding the potency of the opposition and the campaign for change upon which its electioneering process was anchored, Jonathan actually made the change possible not so much as a result of his unpopularity and inability to secure the mandate of the people, nor due to the superior argument of the opposition, but more as a result of his willingness to let the supreme will of the people hold sway.
He was not only truly committed to it; he also discountenanced both subtle and obvious moves by men and women with selfish interests who tried to force him to retrace his steps and subvert the course of the Nigerian democracy. We must have taken everything for granted, especially after witnessing a free and fair election in which the votes cast by the majority of the electorate gave victory to Buhari. But when we consider the fact that it has not always been this way, and that grievous consequences might have been the lot of this nation, save for the true allegiance of one man to upholding genuine democratic ethos, we will then discern the true import of Jonathan’s actions and its positive effects, not only for the unity of the country but also for progressive development of our nascent democracy. Of course, when a man does what is expected of him, nobody raises an eyebrow and his actions are usually taken for granted and little or no credits often accompany such actions. Jonathan chose to be on the side of genuine practice of democracy and some people seem to assume that it is a simple accomplishment for a man who stood to lose by making such apparently inopportune decision.
It is uncharitable that some people are still insisting that Jonathan was a desperate politician who wanted to stay put in power and unwilling to relinquish it. That such perception still persists in their minds in the midst of the realities of his actions and disposition during and after the 2015 presidential election, speaks volume about the extent some of us are ready to go in the attempt to vilify and cast aspersions on the person and character of the former President of the country. There were a lot of ugly things Jonathan could have done to thwart and subvert the Nigerian democracy which he conscientiously refused to do even in the midst of sustained promptings from varied quarters.
He was the incumbent President and within the possibilities and potentialities of his office, he could have mobilized heavily agent provocateurs of trouble and manipulation and deploy them to use government instrument of coercion and intimidation to rig the elections, if not in the entire Northern states, at least, in the South East, South-South and South West. If he had done so, the talk about change will still remain an illusion. Perhaps, we will be talking about something else and at worse, the best way to contend with the status quo. The face of the Nigerian democracy would have been terribly bruised with indelible scars.
Of course, the opposition would have been crying foul and trying the best it can to foment trouble and scuttle the efforts of Jonathan’s government to remain in power. Perhaps, by now, the baboons and dogs would have been soaked in blood. However, if Jonathan had followed the traditional pattern of most African leaders whose penchant for clinging to power is legendary, Nigeria would not have broken to pieces as being canvassed by some people. After all, the result of the election clearly shows that Jonathan was not entirely too unpopular. Just a little effort at rigging the election would have made at least a slight victory possible for him. We need to remind ourselves of these possibilities in order to appreciate what he did for the true and genuine growth of our democracy. Democratic values and cultures are nurtured, cultivated and promoted. It is not just practiced on the altar of hypocrisy, intrigue and subversion of the will of the people as it is the case in most African nations.
The truest definition of democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people, in which the electoral process is conducted in a free and fair manner without coercion and undue encumbrances, manipulation and subversion of the will of the people. In other words, the electorate is given the opportunity and enabling environment to express their choice and allow it to count in determining who gets their mandate to assume the reins of power. Ironically, democracy is also practiced and given legitimacy and validity in the midst of massive subversion of the will of the people. We may refer to the above scenario as pseudo-democratic practice, but we see it taking place in virtually all the nascent democracies of Africa, including Nigeria of yesteryears. There were instances of massive rigging during the 1999 general elections that brought the former President Olusegun Obasanjo to power. The electoral process was hijacked by retired army generals who were hell bent on returning one of their own to power. A lot of intrigues, subversion and manipulations played out in the process.
In 2003, there were also widespread cases of rigging and Obasanjo’s ploy to secure a third term mandate and subvert the course of the Nigerian democracy through unwholesome constitutional amendment was eventually nipped in the bud. The then ruling People’s Democratic Party reenacted its electoral victory through massive rigging of the process that led to the emergence of President Shehu Musa Yar’Adua in 2007. The Supreme Court Judgment in which there was five against four verdict speaks volume about the way the election was truly conducted. Although Jonathan was in the saddle during the 2011 general elections, there were also instances of electoral malpractices, but of less magnitude compared to previous elections. It is, therefore, instructive to note that Jonathan could have chosen to re-enact the PDP electoral feats of yesteryears through massive rigging and manipulation of the electoral process. But he blatantly refused to subvert the will of the Nigerian electorate.
All the devious attempts and entreaties by politicians from the PDP extraction to force him to remove Jega and appoint someone who would have played their script and rig the election in favour of the ruling Party fell on deaf ears. Jonathan kept to his promise of ensuring the conduct of a free and fair election. Even when there were evidences of massive rigging by the opposition in the Northern parts of the country, Jonathan refused to capitalize on it to scuttle the election and subvert Nigerian democracy. True to his promise of accepting the verdict of Nigerians, he readily accepted defeat and promptly congratulated Buhari before the announcement of the result of the election. He pursued and ensured that true democratic practice was put in place during the 2015 general election. From all intents and purposes, Jonathan deserves to be seen as the real hero of contemporary Nigerian democracy.
Crusoe, Public Affairs Analyst wrote from Ikotun,Lagos [email protected]