Nigeria: Okonjo-Iweala, Others Didn't Urge Me Not to Concede - Jonathan

23 November 2018

Former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, dismissed insinuations that he was persuaded not to concede defeat by some of his ministers, including former Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, describing it as twisted logic.

The former President also advocated the abolition of the two-term tenure system in Nigeria for presidents and governors and proposed the adoption of a single term of seven years to save the nation from the bitter rivalry and tension usually associated with the struggle for second term.

Responding to the claim, Jonathan noted that such deduction was tantamount to stretching interpretative reporting beyond acceptable limits, stressing that the writer willfully ignored the true account of what happened at that critical moment as clearly stated in the book, "just to create mischief."

In a statement by Ikechukwu Eze, his media adviser, Jonathan further described the claim as gross misrepresentation of what he wrote in his new book.

He said: "Our attention has been drawn to a circulating story entitled Jonathan: I was pressed to reject 2015 election result, which erroneously claimed that some identified former aides and ministers of ex-President Jonathan advised him 'not to accept defeat'.

"The story which was said to have been written from ex-President Jonathan's new book, "My Transition Hours," mentioned the then Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister Mohammed Bello Adoke; Aviation Minister Osita Chidoka, as those whose advice was rebuffed by Jonathan.

"This is obviously a gross misrepresentation of what was clearly stated in the book. President Jonathan had maintained that he never consulted anybody over the decision to call and congratulate his opponent while the results of the 2015 presidential election were still being tallied.

"Whereas the decision to concede defeat was one he took without any compelling, the former President is however grateful to those who were with him at that moment and many other Nigerians that shared in his conviction to put across the historic phone call.

"For the avoidance of doubt, the former President in his narrative of his engagement with the mentioned key appointees at that critical time in the nation's political history stated clearly that we're considering 'sundry alternatives, but I was quiet in the midst of their discussion'.

"However, this was how a daily (not Vanguard) chose to report the narrative: 'Okonjo-Iweala, Adoke, Chidoka, Dudafa advised me not to accept defeat'.

"It, therefore, beggars belief that the phrase 'sundry alternatives' could be interpreted to mean that the former President was advised by the identified personalities 'not to accept defeat'.

"We always say that the society will be better served if journalists keep their interpretative reporting within the limits of credible and constructive imagination."

... on political offices

President Jonathan, whose view is contained in his book My Transition Hours, unveiled in Abuja on Tuesday, also suggested making the office of the president in Nigeria and other African countries less attractive and what he called 'office of the citizen' more powerful.

He said the way out of the political quagmire on the continent was for leaders to abolish their selfish bid to remain in office forever and pave the way for a seamless transition to their successors.

Jonathan gave a pass mark to himself for taking steps to conduct a credible election and handing over to his successor, despite being an incumbent.

He boasted: "I reflect on my homecoming celebrations, I am glad that a large number of people appreciated the depth of my action.

"Some Nigerians on their own declared me the Hero of Democracy while some others refer to me as The Face of Democracy. The words 'hero' or 'face' are of little significance to me but thinking deeply, I know that the message of democracy and orderly transfer of power is resonating with our people.

"I only hope that successive administrations will sustain our achievement and make INEC stronger and more independent

"I am fully persuaded that we need free and fair elections. So what can we do to achieve this? We must continue to nurture the democratic spirit."

and as I travel around the continent, I will continue to advocate that each nation-state looks at its action plan by identifying and eliminating challenges facing them."

such as nation-first thinking as opposed to me and my tribe against my nation.

"Making the office of the President less attractive and the office of the Citizen more powerful; granting financial autonomy to Electoral Commissions; and strong independent ombudsman to investigate and punish incidences of electoral crimes.

"One problem we have in Africa is the re-election of a sitting President. Can an incumbent President oversee the conduct of credible elections, not minding the outcome? In Nigeria, I had once proposed a single term of seven years to prevent incumbents from running for re-election because I notice that when the incumbent is contesting to be re-elected, there appears to be more tension in the country.

"Of course, some critics fought against this idea, thinking it was a ploy on my part to elongate my tenure. Allied to that is the orderly transfer of power from one leader to the next. This issue has created a lot of conflict over the years.

"Political leaders prefer to stay in power longer than their term because of the fear of what may happen to them as private citizens. This concern is very real, prompting leaders to tamper with the constitution for the purpose of elongating their tenure.

"A very good example is the case of The Gambia. Yahya Jammeh had initially and graciously conceded after his surprise defeat during the December 1, 2016 Gambian presidential election. The final official results gave the opposition candidate, Adama Barrow, 43.3% of the vote, giving him a slim 3.7% margin of victory over the incumbent Yahya Jammeh who got 39.6%.

"With such a narrow margin, Yahya could have asked for a recount or in any way disputed the results but he did not, at that time. He conceded.

"However, on December 4, 2016, Hamat Bah, the leader of President Adama Barrow's National Reconciliation Party, gave an international press conference to say his party would probe Yahya Jammeh over his alleged crimes against the Gambian people, things began to change and just five days later Jammeh rejected the election results and rescinded his concession thereby sparking a crisis that almost engulfed his nation.

"Mr. Jammeh may or may not have been a saint, but casting all the blame for the stalemate that occurred on him is a bit too convenient. If the National Reconciliation Party had been a bit more circumspect, what happened may not have occurred and The Gambia and the rest of West Africa would have been spared the tension.

"This is a lesson that ought to be imbibed by all winning candidate, whether or not they are taking over from a rival. No matter how badly you feel about your predecessor, you need to think about the stability of your nation and focus on leadership rather than on settling scores.

"While no elections can ever be perfect, not even in the most advanced and stable democracies, at a minimum, people want their elections to be free, fair and credible. My conviction and determination to reshape the electoral process in Africa is critical, and for that reason I urge all African nations to work with fidelity for the greater good of the African continent.

"Having been President, I know the toll the cost of electioneering takes on our system. I still recommend having only one tenure of seven years instead of the popular tenure system of two terms of four years. This, in my view, would make leaders work and do the right thing since the fear of losing election as an incumbent President will no longer be there.

"There is also the need for electoral reforms that simplifies the electoral process and ensures a reduction in the cost of running elections. My hope is that African leaders must embrace the concept of democracy that delivers purposeful leadership that improves the lives of the people and envision a secure future for their nation.

"Before the election, Muhammadu Buhari and I committed to take necessary steps towards a peaceful electoral process by signing an inter-party agreement. We also agreed to respect the outcome of the ballot. This was an important message to reassure the world that good things can come out of Nigeria. Democracy is not just about fulfilling all righteousness by treating the people to the ballot box that you bring out only on Election Day. Democracy boils down to legitimacy and ensuring that the people have the necessary dividends. Elections must offer valid choices.

"Hopefully, in the near future our country would have grown democratically to the point where elections would be based on the programmes and policies of parties and character of the candidates, rather than ethnicity or religious preferences.

"Over time, through my Foundation, I will speak to thousands and perhaps millions of my fellow Africans to share my story, my heart and my recommendations on having free, fair and credible elections. In my home country, I am associated with the mantra one man one vote, one woman one vote, one youth one vote

"I crave the support of one and all to take my work forward as I have made a covenant to dedicate the rest of my life to the cause of peace, democracy, stability, and good governance - God helping me," the former president wrote.

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