President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday x-rayed the tension-soaked 2015 general elections in the country which enthroned his presidency, saying not only was it a watershed in the nation’s political history, it also strengthened the nation’s democracy with many Nigerians now having more faith in the electoral system.
Speaking at the LEADERSHIP annual awards and conference with the theme: Democracy, Political Transition And The Challenge Of Leadership In Africa, he again singled out the patriotic zeal of his predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan, the impartiality of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the exemplary conduct of the various political parties, the commitment of Nigerians to democratic ideals as working together to make nonsense of the predicted disintegration of the country as the aftermath of the elections.
On the well- attended occasion at the prestigious Transcorp Hilton, which attracted high level dignitaries comprising several past and present leaders of the country, captains of industry and members of the business and diplomatic communities, among others, the president expressed happiness that the doomsday prophecies which had kept many citizens on edge did not see the light of day.
“Our democracy has been strengthened by the outcome of the 2015 elections as our people now have more faith in the electoral system in the sense that their votes would count when choosing political leaders at various levels. We, the political class should build on the experience of the 2015 elections to nurture our democracy,” he pointed out.
“It is, therefore, our commitment to this ideal, the patriotic zeal of President Jonathan, the impartiality of the electoral umpire, INEC and exemplary conduct of the political parties, foreign pressure and other actors that we collectively disappointed the prophets of doom who had predicted the disintegration of the country after the 2015 general elections,” he noted.
Buhari remarked that those who were actors in the elections were led by the higher ideal of the future of our great country and the wellbeing of the people rather than the mere desire of politicians to win elections.
He also commended the LEADERSHIP Newspapers for being in the forefront of promoting democracy and positive values in the country, saying his presence and participation in the award ceremony was a mark of confidence in the brand of journalism practised by LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group. He equally commended the publisher of the newspaper, Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah for standing firm on the path of patriotism, justice and fairness.
“The LEADERSHIP Newspapers have been in the forefront of promoting democracy and positive values that are necessary to achieve national consensus on the issues that tend to challenge our unity and progress as a nation.
“Our participation in today’s ceremony is therefore, a mark of confidence in the brand of journalism practiced by the LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group. It is a public acknowledgment of the contributions of the media to our administration’s agenda to defeat terrorism and violent extremism in the country, fight corruption and diversify the economy to create jobs for our teeming population and generally improve the standard of living of Nigerians,” he stated.
The president along with former President Goodluck Jonathan who was represented on the occasion by the former minister of special duties, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki and former INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, was honoured with the 2015 LEADERSHIP Person of the Year award.
He felicitated with the other award winners for the recognition accorded them, expressing the hope that “the awards will encourage all those recognised today to remain committed to good behaviour in their various endeavours to justify this recognition and serve as inspiration to others.”
Urging the media to not just criticise as a way of proving their independence but to join his administration in the pursuit of its goals, he said the media must continually see itself as true partner in the task of nation building and thus act in the spirit of patriotism at all times in the important role of informing the people of the country.
“On our part, our doors are wide open to media inquiries in line with the transparency and anti-corruption stance of our administration,” he pledged.
Nigeria has cause to celebrate – Gen Abdulsalami
Former Head of State, General Abubakar Abdulsalami, who was chairman of the occasion, extolled the virtues of the trio of Buhari, Jonathan and Jega, describing them as great Nigerians.
In a speech titled “Half Full, Not Half Empty”, the elder statesman, who incidentally served as the chairman of the Peace Committee during the 2015 general elections, noted that all efforts toward a peaceful presidential election would have been in vain but for the cooperation of the gladiators – Jonathan and Buhari, who were the leading presidential candidates of their respective political parties.
Abdulsalami said although societies have different kinds of people, the trio chose the class of patriotism and love for their country above their personal interests. Hence, Nigeria has a cause to be joyful and celebrate.
“In every society, individuals abound who sometimes are satisfied with the status quo or simply remain as critics or do nothing to improve the fortune of their community or country.
“However, happily, society as the same time produces these other individuals who chose a different path and become agents of change in education sector, in cutting-edge inventions, in the literary field, in industry and in the political space e.t.c. Nigeria I am proud to say has several such individuals and for this blessing, we have cause to be joyful.
“Your Excellencies, the tireless and modest contributions of several individuals and groups to make the general elections a success would have been in vain if the dramatis personaes – former President Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari – were not willing to cooperate with us and think of Nigeria first ahead of self or if the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission at that time, Prof. Attahiru Jega, who is also being honoured, failed to execute his statutory tasks with firmness. Congratulations to all of you,” Abdulsalami said.
He continued: “From the global perspectives, Nigeria has been applauded for achieving a sustained democracy spanning over 17 years, and very recently for a successful and peaceful political transition. Going the memory lane, recall the widespread predictions of chaos and doom and possible breakdown of Nigeria as the aftermath of 2015 elections. Thanks goodness, Nigeria survived, so we have a cause to celebrate.
“How did Nigeria survived and how did we not only survived bit have become example to countries in transition both in Africa and other parts of the developing world?
“I believe that in this hall we have individuals who can tell the story and who have the obligation to tell the story. For in understanding the roles played by these great Nigerians and in taking lessons therefrom, we secure the future of our country as one indivisible progressive and democratic Nigeria. In doing so, we consolidate the gains that we have made and deepen the values of democracy.
“Your Excellencies, I believe that in the pursuit of this quest for the ties that bind us together, the quest for a common ground and for the values that we share and we must continue to hold dear, that LEADERSHIP has identified key actors in the last elections for commendations and awards.
“The newspaper deserves our admiration for this steadfast pursuit year in and year out, well done. It is important to emphasise that each of us have the responsibility to imbibe and maintain the standards set by these great Nigerians and to always ensure that the labour of our heroes past will never be in vain.
“Your Excellencies, let us not look back or take the gains we have made for granted. Let us please ensure that peace reigns in our lives because if there is no peace, there will be no country, if there is no country, people cannot go about eating their daily breads and living their lives.”
Gov Udom condemns identity politics
While speaking at the event, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, who was the keynote speaker, called for a paradigm shift in governance, stressing that identity politics must be discarded for the promotion of tendencies that unify Nigerians along lines of common destiny and growth.
He further canvassed support for the Buhari-led administration, noting that a political party should be a platform for service. Udom also called for the development of a national narrative to change the negatives about the country.
Speaking on the topic: “Democracy, Political Transition and the Challenge of Leadership in Africa”, Udom identified deep sense of apathy and isolation, cleavage in our polity, identity politics, security and sectarian challenges as some of the problems in the body polity.
While he canvassed for the eradication of hunger in the country, the governor added that he aligns with President Buhari’s plans to engage in agricultural revolution.
He stressed that a situation where the number Sports Utility Vehicles on the roads are more than the tractors in the farms is worrisome and calls for urgent action. The Akwa Ibom State governor called for the building of institutions that will outlive generations and deepen democracy further, underscoring that “strong institutions and not strong people are the foundations on which nations rise to greatness.”
He said: “Our democracy has definitely come to stay and we should all be very proud, but there are still lots of job to be done. There are challenges that come with leadership and we should keep our eye on the ball.
“Some of the challenges I have seen in our body politics and indeed the whole of the Continental Africa can be grouped along the following lines: deep sense of apathy and isolation, cleavage in our polity, identity politics, security and sectarian challenges.
“As our democracy consolidates, there is the need to constantly engage the people on what government is doing to address their issues and problems. An engaged electorate is an informed electorate and this will eliminate apathy and a feeling of isolation.
“As our nation is going through economic challenging times, a narrative that is as hopeful as it is reassuring should be developed and pushed aggressively. We should give our people the reason to be hopeful. That was what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the American President during the Great Depression did, when he rallied the American people who were broken and forlorn and had consequently began to distrust the very foundational principles and values of the American Creed and gave them a reason to believe and be hopeful.
“Through a very popular radio programme, he called ‘Fire Side Chats’ which he personally hosted, Americans were reassured by the soothing voice of their President telling them tough times will not last for ever.
“Ours is a deeply cleavage society where the main allegiance and interest is first to our ethnic blocs over the larger national interest. We must do all we can, not to promote identity politics, but rather promote those tendencies that will unify us as a people of common destiny and growth. We have seen the destructive side of this kind of politics in several African countries -a major case in point being the civil war that is currently ravaging Africa’s newest Republic -South Sudan, where the nation has been unable to come together after decades of struggle to have a country of their own. We fought a 30-month Civil War in our country because of our inability to reassure our people that our diversity is a strength rather than weakness.”
He however called on Nigerians to give “support to and offer prayers for leaders. That is what we are taught to do. We are to practice it because they bear the responsibility of making decisions and choices for the common man. The success of this country is our collective success.”
He lamented that the problem with leadership are usually those persons around the leader, stressing that; “people around leaders what role are you playing as change agents.”
The governor further pointed out that there is a difference between leaders doing well and doing good, arguing that; “what we need are leaders that are doing good.”
The governor however decried the sectarian and security challenges that have threatened the foundation of most countries in Africa, which he noted are deeply existential.
He said; “Here in Nigeria, the activities of Boko Haram have ravaged the North Eastern part of our county and disrupted economic and human capital development of the area. The Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) are agitating for a separate state based on perceived marginalization. In my region of the county -the South South, several groups have emerged – the prominent being The Avengers, and they have taken their frustrations out on oil installations, blowing them up with a view to weakening the economic strength of the country.
“Our nation is at a crossroad, even as we mark the 56th anniversary of her independence. We are challenged by daunting economic and political problems, which are surmountable, but we must all collectively resolve to work together. I often tell our people that what we have is all we need to get to our desired destination.
“What then should and can be done to change the negatives about our country? We must develop a national narrative –in the mould of the American Exceptionalism. Every American is socialised into believing that their nation is the most exceptional county on earth which God specially created to lead the rest of the world.
“We can develop this national narrative and put teeth and resources to promote, project and distil all that is great and endearing about our country. It can be done, it should be done, because we are an exceptional people and the Nigerian spirit will continue to rise and soar.”
He stated that his state, Akwa Ibom, has “engendered this new attitudinal and moral rebirth. We have all arisen to greatness through our Dakkada Philosophy. We have imbued in our people the spirit of enterprise, of the abiding faith in their capacity to be all that God had destined them to be, and that government alone cannot be the only way to achieving self-actualisation, and they have all internalized this new narrative.
“As a pragmatic step, we have identified three gateways to global development, namely road, air and water. And today, we are developing all of them simultaneously. To reduce unemployment and enhance our human capital, we have revolutionised our agriculture, through cocoa production, coconut plantation and refineries, in addition to youth skills development programmes.
“We must collectively decide to banish hunger from among our people. Any nation that cannot feed its citizens is headed for disaster. This is where I align my thoughts with Mr. President that we must engage in agricultural revolution. Collectively, we must decide to replace the SUVs on our roads with tractors. On this wise, I charge Nigerians from all walks of life to engage in farming on whatever scale possible. Our school curriculum must make agriculture a compulsory subject at the basic and secondary levels.
Recalling the significance of last year’s power transition from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to All Progressives Congress (APC), he said; “After 16 years of uninterrupted dominance at both the national and regional levels, the People’s Democratic Party, my dear party, was defeated in the March 28, 2015 Presidential elections. The margin of defeat was not extraordinary and most people had expected the then incumbent President Jonathan to use the instrument of power at his disposal to influence the outcome of the election or challenge the outcome in the law court.
“In a moment that stands out as the crowning glory of our democracy, then President Goodluck Jonathan, putting the interest of the nation above his personal or group interest, conceded defeat to the current President Buhari, then of the opposition and now ruling party – the APC even before the final figures were tallied. The world stood still as what was once thought to be an impossible development manifested its beautiful colours before us. May we please all rise up and give President Jonathan a standing ovation for this rare feat.”
He added that from 1999 to the present, Nigerian democracy has withstood all internal fissures, noting that it’s culture has been internalised by Nigerians and a process of consolidation achieved.
He said; “Professor Huntington had posited that if elections took place in two cycles and the process was seen to have been transparent and free, then a consolidation may have taken place. If the Huntingtonian model were to be applied, Nigerian democracy has not only consolidated but is growing and deepening in a profound manner.”
Jonathan lost 2015 presidential election and won at the same time– Nda-Isaiah
The chairman of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group, Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah, yesterday said by conceding defeat in the 2015 Presidential election before the final results were announced, former President Goodluck Jonathan lost the 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,” Nda-Isaiah said.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain named Senator Ben Bruce; Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State; the then director general of the Department of State Security, Ita Ekpenyong; former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka and a handful of others, as persons who encouraged Jonathan to concede defeat against the wishes of persons he described as “criminals who wanted Jonathan to rig the election no matter how many people would die as a result.”
Nda-Isaiah, while making this revelation, added that the former president’s singular action made it easier for several state governors to concede defeat.
His words: “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.”
While congratulating the then chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega for “simply doing his job courageously”, LEADERSHIP chairman said he has “set a standard for all his successors.”
President Muhammadu Buhari, he said, became the first opposition candidate to unseat a sitting president even when many including many in the present government who had said the day would never come, adding that the story of the 2015 elections will be told to many generations.
“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,” Nda-Isaiah added.
by Jonathan Nda-Isaiah, Chibuzo Ukaibe, Andrew Essien and Bode Gbadebo , Abuja