On behalf of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group, I wish to welcome you all to this historic occasion. Today’s event is basically to celebrate our democracy because there’s a hell of a lot to celebrate. It is easy to forget the fright, trepidation and panic that attended the build-up to the 2015 presidential election and how several doomsday pundits concluded that the election might spell the end of Nigeria as we know it. The tension was so high that the United States President felt so genuinely concerned that he had to address Nigerians in a televised broadcast in the fashion that colonial powers used to address their colonies.
Few thought there was no way we would get out of the presidential election alive as a country. And there was actually the augury for such dire doomsday prophecy.
The election held on Saturday, March 28 and by Sunday evening the opposition candidate was leading and had the momentum. By Monday morning, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had fired its best shots and was clearly behind. That was when some people within the ruling party started working towards actualising what everyone feared.
Evil people planned so many things that Nigerians did not – and perhaps will not – know about. But what all of you saw was the Orubebe show. A lot more would have followed the Orubebe spectacle.
But something else was happening on that day. President Goodluck Jonathan told then Senator-elect Ben Bruce and other party faithful who saw him that Monday morning that he would be conceding. Some of the party faithful didn’t understand what he meant because that had never happened before. He went on to say that if he didn’t concede, 10,000 Nigerians would die by the end of that day.
Ben Bruce encouraged him. Others who played major roles in encouraging him included Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, Ita Ekpenyong, the then DSS DG and Osita Chidoka, the then Minister of Aviation and a handful of others. These people had to battle the criminals who wanted Jonathan to rig the election no matter how many people would die as a result.
By 5pm on that day, President Jonathan had called the then Candidate Buhari to concede, thus becoming the only presidential candidate in Nigeria’s history that lost an election and won at the same time. He won by simply doing what had never been done before. And by that he changed Nigeria, and set a standard for future elections. Did we not all notice that after President Jonathan conceded, it became easier for several state governors to concede defeat? While history will continue to remember some president for third term, President Jonathan will forever be remembered for this statesmanship.
Professor Attahiru Jega actually triggered this all by simply doing his job courageously. And for showing that courage, he has also set a standard for all his successors. How would we ever forget Jega’s classy response to Orubebe?
President Muhammadu Buhari also became the first opposition candidate to unseat a sitting president. Before it was done, nobody thought that was possible. I know many Nigerians, including many serving in government today, who had said that day would never come. PMB’s victory has also changed presidential politics in Nigeria forever.
These three statesmen are jointly our Persons of the Year 2015. That is why today’s occasion is historic. The story of the 2015 election will be told to many generations. If you think this is no big deal, you only need to listen to Donald Trump stumping for the American presidency. Maybe we should send Orubebe to go and advise Trump.
I want to congratulate all award recipients and to thank them for their services to our country and to humanity.
We remain yours: For God and Country.