Jonathan’s allegation that Obama interfered in the election confirms once again public opinion that Nigerian politicians never accept election results in good faith.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s book launch last week was like a bazaar in which many people came to place on record their affection for a man previously vilified. Four years ago, following his defeat at the presidential election, Jonathan was seen as a villain. He was demonised. He was heckled and called all manner of names. Some said his government consecrated corruption. Others said he was weak, clueless, and unfit to be president.
In just one day last week, Jonathan became the poster boy of Nigerian politics. Just about everyone paid tribute to the man. All those who chastised Jonathan and his government, including President Muhammadu Buhari and senior officials of the government, hailed Jonathan. What has changed about Jonathan and his profile? How did a man who had remained silent since he was bundled out of office four years ago suddenly become the man widely sought after by his political adversaries and allies?
It is often said that time reconciles enemies and repairs all wounds. This was precisely what happened last week. Whether the banter, handshakes, uproarious jokes, and laughter were genuine remain uncertain. As renowned English playwright William Shakespeare said, it is often difficult to decipher the mind’s construction through the face.
Jonathan used the opportunity to reveal many things he had withheld from Nigerian people since the 2015 presidential election. Everyone had waited for him to provide insights into what happened before, during, and after the election, and why he took the path of honour to quit his position as president rather than hang on to contest the election outcome up to the Supreme Court. At his book launch, Jonathan said there were national and international forces that conspired to undermine his re-election bid. Coming nearly four years after that landmark election, you could say the revelations have come very late. Some people have described his narrative as an expression of resentment.
Jonathan said one of the reasons why he was defeated at the 2015 presidential election was the vaulting political ambition, as well as lack of support and commitment by some of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governors who engaged in duplicitous activities designed to enhance their political careers. He said those PDP governors who changed camp to dine with the political foe, the APC, did so mainly for their economic aggrandisement.
Jonathan observed: “…, there were governors who were rounding off their eight years tenure and were blinded by ambition… Some governors wanted to be vice president whilst others strived to be the president. If I contested none could realise his ambition.” Jonathan continued: “As they jumped ship in preparation for the 2015 elections, only very few of this lot, if any at all, bothered about what the PDP did or did not do in terms of delivering our campaign promises. Their opposition to my re-election was principally driven by personal ambition.”
These were the words of a man deeply hurt by the conspiratorial actions of governors with whom he previously shared the same political ideology. Not only did Jonathan feel betrayed, he also felt he was left to swim alone in waters encircled by sharks and crocodiles. Essentially, Jonathan was abandoned and left to hang by himself alone. Nigerian politicians have a shrewd reputation as men and women of little faith. All their actions are directed to enable them to achieve maximum economic benefits.
These politicians are not altruistic. They are not driven to serve the interests of the people. They want to be served by the people who elected them. They have a one-track mind that tells them that nothing matters in political life other than dubious enrichment through appropriation of the treasury, public property, and wilful seizure of national resources.
Jonathan also accused Barack Obama, then President of the United States, of unnecessary interference in the 2015 presidential election. He noted: “I can recall that President Obama sent his Secretary of State to Nigeria, a sovereign nation, to protest the rescheduling of the election. John Kerry arrived in Nigeria on Sunday, January 25, 2015 and said, ‘it’s imperative that these elections happen on time as scheduled’… How can the US Secretary of State know what is more important for Nigeria than Nigeria’s own government? How could they have expected us to conduct elections when Boko Haram controlled part of the North East and were killing and maiming Nigerians?”
Jonathan had a valid point about the unacceptable interference of a foreign government in the internal affairs of another country. However, his allegation would appear to be a case of sour grapes. Obama might wield a lot of influence as US President but I do not think that Obama influenced the outcome of the presidential election to the extent that Jonathan alleged. Nigerian voters are not juvenile, gullible, or easily fooled. They have independent minds and are more likely to be persuaded by their experiences on the ground rather than what any foreign government said to them.
What Jonathan failed to acknowledge was the prevailing atmosphere and clamour for political and social change in Nigeria before the 2015 general elections. The outcry for change was overwhelming. It was strengthened by the general feeling that corruption had become institutionalised, that law and order had broken down irrevocably following audacious and frequent terrorist attacks by Boko Haram insurgents, that citizens were becoming more impoverished owing to hunger and poverty, that the economy was sliding on a daily basis, and that general standards of living were declining at an alarming rate.
In that existing environment of hopelessness, growing insecurity and anger, you could see that regardless of whether Jonathan or anyone else was president, Nigerians wanted a change and nothing other than the defeat of the government in power would have satisfied that national mood for transformation. It was this appetite for change driven by a combination of factors that Jonathan failed to acknowledge in his analysis of factors that undermined his re-election bid in the 2015 presidential election.
Jonathan cannot ignore the national mood for political change. Voters embraced the All Progressives Congress (APC) not because the APC had a track record of achievements but simply because the APC echoed the change mantra, identified change as its dominant manifesto, and rode on the waves of that national frame of mind. In that prevailing environment, voters were primed to support any political party that advocated political change.
Jonathan’s allegation that Obama interfered in the election confirms once again public opinion that Nigerian politicians never accept election results in good faith. Nothing Jonathan says now would change the outcome of that election.
There is no doubt that Jonathan’s conduct during and after the presidential election, in particular his decision to concede defeat, as well as his decision not to appeal the election results in light of clear evidence of rigging in some parts of the country, helped to mould Jonathan as a respected politician, a man of integrity, and a man driven by concerns for public good. That image is now at odds with Jonathan’s latest allegations that Obama interfered in the presidential election.