Former military Head of State, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar (rtd) has shared a vivid account of how former President Goodluck Jonathan was convinced to concede defeat to President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2015 presidential election.
Speaking at the 2018 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja, the former military head of state said that African history is rife with leaders who are obsessed with power.
Abubakar, who delivered a keynote address on: “Political transitions in Africa: Lessons to learn,” lamented that even when political office holders are elected through the democratic process, they manipulate some vital democratic institutions such as the judiciary and legislature to enable them suppress opposition in a bid to hang on to power unduly.
He said, “Despite all these, however, Africa is now harvesting an influx of leaders and politicians. These young people who are emerging are more educated and internationally exposed than the current old leaders we have all over Africa.
“And these young men and women are trying to make their marks. However, as you know, they are hampered by the high cost of electioneering in developing countries and indeed the world.
The former military leader further commended former President Jonathan for not only conceding defeat, but for congratulating Buhari, who was a candidate of the opposition party.
He explained how he engaged stakeholders and elder statesmen with a view to forestalling such a scenario in the 2015 general elections where Jonathan conceded defeat.
He said, “Under the auspices of a peace initiative, we brokered the acceptance by leading contestants of some form of a memorandum of understanding with them to agree to accept the outcome of the elections, preach cordiality in relations and conduct peaceful campaigns.
“It is gratifying to note that, courtesy of our humble efforts and the
goodwill extended to it by the contestants and the Nigerian public, the 2015 national elections were conducted peacefully.
“To his eternal credit, the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, who lost the poll, had the magnanimity to concede defeat and congratulate the candidate of the opposition party. In the end, peace, amity and political stability prevailed in the land.”
Abdulsalami further disclosed how the process that led to the transfer of power to a democratically elected leader in 1999 was
He narrated that when he was appointed to lead the country in 1998, there was political apathy and that the political class was already fatigued, with some voices wanting a return of the country to a parliamentary system of government.
Also speaking at the event, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega stressed that while strong leaders and institutions are important for political transition, emphasis should not be placed on the strength of the leader at the detriment of the leader’s competence and disposition.
He said, “To my mind, we need strong institutions; we need strong leadership but it is not just the strength of the leader that we require.
What wemrequire most is the competence and the capacity of that leader to take decisions and to be assertive in ensuring that those decisions are
“So we have to be very careful in thinking that strong leaders can really help. Just as a weak leader can wreck an institution, a strong leader who has just that power and courage, if he lacks capacity,mability and competence to lead, could also wreck strong institutions,”