Former Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan took over the social media yesterday as well-wishers, friends, politicians and legion of followers took time to extol him as he clocked 58.
The outpouring of goodwill came barely 24 hours after former American President, Jimmy Carter, celebrated the former Nigerian leader and described him as “symbol of democracy on the Africa continent.”
According to Carter, who received Dr Jonathan at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum located at the Carter Center in Atlanta, said he had a fruitful wide-ranging discussion with Jonathan on global issues and shared views on how to promote peace, democracy and good governance in Africa and the world.
Speaking on Jonathan’s time in office, Carter said: “President Goodluck Jonathan is the symbol of democracy in action. You set an example that other African leaders should follow.”
Carter also praised Jonathan for organising a transparent election and easily conceding defeat and handing over to the opposition.
About 10 days before Carter hosted Jonathan, the former Nigerian leader, transformed into a global statesman overnight after handing over power on May 29, was a guest of the Presidential Precinct, Challotsville Virginia, USA.
The Presidential Precinct, a foremost global institution designed to empower the next generation of leaders, hosted Jonathan for his role in Nigeria’s smooth democratic transition, especially with the seamless handover of power from the ruling party to the opposition.
At the Presidential Precinct breakfast, Jonathan was received by former Governor Jerry Baliles of Virginia and Francois Baird, Chairman of the Presidential Precinct Board. His hosts described him as a ‘Hero of Democracy’ in Africa, a nation builder and sustainer of true democratic principles and good governance.
While in the United States, Jonathan was hosted by other strategic US pro-democracy institutions where he shared his experience on peaceful and transparent elections as well as the future of Africa’s democracy.
Jonathan caught the attention of the global community when he conceded defeat and voluntarily handed over government against permutation in some quarters that bloodbath will trail the Nigerian election. The global community poured encomiums on Jonathan for standing out amongst African leaders where sit-tight syndrome is the order of the day.
In their separate messages, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Francois Hollande of France, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, Rwandan leader Paul Kagame and Prime Minister of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou congratulated Jonathan for his sacrifice and creating enabling environment for the conduct of a credible election that would ensure a peaceful transfer of power from one elected administration to another.
Mr Tony Blair, in a statement by Rianne Buter, his Senior Media Manager, hailed Jonathan and applauded “Nigeria’s strength and resilience as a country.”
He said, “It is an extraordinary sign of Nigeria’s strength and resilience as a country that there has been this election with its outcome accepted so clearly despite all the challenges Nigeria faces. It gives all of us who care about Nigeria great optimism and confidence in its future.”
US President, Barack Obama, praised Jonathan and lauded “Nigeria’s commitment to democratic principles” on the watch of Jonathan.
Obama, in a statement issued from the White House, said “President Jonathan has placed his country’s interests first by conceding the election and congratulating president-elect (Muhammadu) Buhari on his victory. I look forward to working with President Jonathan throughout the remainder of his term, and I thank him for his many years of service and his statesmanlike conduct at this critical juncture. The last few days have shown the world the strength of Nigeria’s commitment to democratic principles,” Obama said.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu was also among eminent Nigerians that lauded Jonathan for the “unprecedented show of statesmanship which has gone a long way in rewriting the history of the nation’s democracy and ensuring post-election peace and security of Nigeria.”
After handing over, Jonathan went for a short holiday before he hit the international circuit as a symbol of democracy. He was appointed leader of the Commonwealth Observer Group, COG, to Tanzania general election which came as an affirmation of the former President’s towering status as the moral face of democracy and transparent polling in Africa.
His appointment as leader of the COG was applauded all over Tanzania. The media in that country described him as “‘a hero of free and fair election in Africa,’ having contributed largely to the successful conduct of the election which was declared peaceful, free, fair and credible by international observers.
The Daily News of Tanzania, in an editorial before the election, titled, ‘Salutary lessons for Tanzania from Nigeria’s latest elections,’ paid glowing tributes to Jonathan. The newspaper commended him for taking his defeat in the last presidential election “in all magnanimity,” stressing that, “Jonathan may very well have averted bloodshed that is characteristic of incumbent leaders who cling in power tooth and nail, fang and claw! What lesson is there in this for us in Tanzania, pray?”
Similarly, the Guardian of Tanzania, in its own editorial entitled, ‘High profile figures among observers will add credibility to poll process, results’, poured encomiums on the former Nigerian president, describing him as a democrat who has pointed the way forward for the rest of Africa.
The Guardian further wrote that “Jonathan’s voluntary handover of power to the opposition wrote a new chapter for Nigeria’s democracy, given the fact that it is rare for sitting presidents in Africa to hand over powers to winning opposition parties.”
As Jonathan was folding up his COG assignment, he was again appointed by Commonwealth to lead negotiations for the resolution of the political stalemate in Zanzibar.
Jonathan is a man of history. He is the first Nigerian to rise from the position of a deputy governor to governor; from that position to vice president, acting president and duly elected president.
Nigeria went through a lot of reforms since Jonathan and late President Umaru Yar’Adua took over in 2007. On their watch the electoral process was completely over hauled to make it more transparent, credible, free and fair. Before Jonathan left office, he bequeathed to Nigeria the new technology of card readers and permanent voters’ card that will reduce incidents of manipulations in future elections once the technology is mastered by INEC officials and voters. These are irreversible developments that the Jonathan administration will be remembered for.
On the economic front, Nigerians will remember Jonathan for handing over the largest economy in Africa to his successor; brought back the railway transport after more than 30 years; established the highest number of federal universities; established the Almajiri schools to remove over nine million out of school children from the streets of the north; eradicated the age-long corruption in the distribution of fertilizers; took agriculture to the next level; brought back vehicle assembly plants back to the Nigeria, including the manufacture of first made-in-Nigeria cars and jeeps; and an host of others in others sectors.