By Ismail Abdulaziz
‘’I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace’’ –Helen Keller
The place of peace for an individual, community and society is a significant one that overshadows every other requirement of man. Without it the enjoyment of all other needs is relegated. In Nigeria, the quest for peace has been a common denominator over time. The question comes to the fore consequently during most intense political situations like the elections period when a general election is to be held at all the levels, including the presidency.
Nigeria witnessed different challenges in her political history during the elections that it had often come to the verge of toppling over. In the words of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria will always take itself to the edge of the clip and almost go over, but a particular event or ‘hand of God’ would bring it back to peace. In the First Republic, the country was thrown into panic by political gladiators, same with Second Republic before the advent of then General Muhammadu Buhari, as also the case of the time General Ibrahim Abacha who died to leave office for General Abdulsalami Abubakar. Similar incidents played out in 2014 to 2015 during the general election that brought back Muhammadu Buhari as civilian president.
The scene was most pronounced after the second term of a ruling party, after eight years in office. In 2015, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) were coasting home to victory with the general belief that it would be difficult to win an election over a ruling party and the fact that the PDP was already clamouring for ruling Nigeria for like forever. The APC was therefore in the forefront of a challenge that may be lost. A candidate was picked that suited the challenge of the time. Buhari was judged to be a man that can rectify the corruption monster that was seen as the major deterrent for national development. Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP was the sitting president, who took over from the late Umaru Yar’adua who had died while in office during the first tenure of their administration.
The whole country was on heat; ordinary Nigerians were thrown into confusion of not grasping the real intention of the ruling elites of the time. Here is a block of people that had just recently left the ruling PDP to form alliance to challenge their former party, the PDP. Nigerians saw this as still voting for birds of a feather. But the personality of Buhari gave some Nigerians confidence that things would not be business as usual.
Some major events shaped and saved the country from this seemingly historical antecedence of what follows after a change of guards during elections. One of those events was the famous telephone conversation initiated by President Goodluck Jonathan to Buhari even before the final counting of the votes.
The previous evening before the telephone call, a PDP chieftain was seen on national television challenging the validity of the votes at the secretariat of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office during the counting. This created tension as the ruling party was giving signal that it would challenge the election. But as usual, the hand of God came into Nigeria’s affairs once again.
Then President Jonathan called Buhari to congratulate him. A former BBC staff and now Director General of the FRCN, Dr Mansur Liman, described it thus:
‘’By making that call the president (Jonathan) saved Nigeria a great deal of pain. If the PDP had insisted that they had won the election, and the APC had said the same, the country would have been in chaos.
‘’Lives would have been lost and property would have been destroyed. That call showed that in Nigeria, people can put the country first.
“I have heard from PDP supporters that the president took the decision to make the call without consulting anyone. They told me that if he had talked to some of his advisers, they would have objected.’’
This is what Goodluck Jonathan did for the country and the people at a critical time in its history. A simple telephone call that saved Nigeria from going over the cliff as it was wont to do, taking cognisance of the prevailing situation at that time. With that he joined the leagues of the likes of General Yakubu Gowon that saved the country during the civil war, General Abdulsalami Abubakar who did a peaceful transition from military to civilian rule as well as Olusegun Obasanjo who came back to assuage the wounds of the annulment of Moshood Kashimawo Abiola’s election victory. These three personalities came back at the time Nigerians needed a personae that would bring back the much needed peace in the country.
The Goodluck Consensus Group, like all others have been campaigning for the return of Goodluck Jonathan to bring back the needed peace in the land in order to move the country back on track of economic prosperity and development.
Jonathan served as the President of Nigeria from 2010 to 2015. He lost the 2015 presidential election to Buhari, and was the first incumbent President in Nigerian history to concede defeat in an election. He conceded before the results from the 36 states had been announced. Jonathan said in a statement he issued on March 31, 2015, that “Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian.”
If many would recall, some Nigerians and other experts in 2002 attended a conference at Harvard. They suggested possible resolutions to Nigeria’s nine critical governance problems: over centralisation, lack of transparency, lack of economic diversification, corruption, sharia (imposition of Islamic law), lack of human security, human rights, a national conference to debate constitutional reform, and leadership.
In recent times, Nigeria is faced with a myriad of socio-economic/political issues bedevilling the peace, security and progress of the nation. Electoral irregularities, such as disruption of electoral processes (ballot box snatching), vote buying, falsification of election results, corruption, restiveness amongst youths, kidnapping, terrorism (Boko Haram attacks), farmers/herders clashes, resulting in shortage of food for the growing population, unemployment, lack of economic diversification, and general violence which are undemocratic have been on the rise.
A political interest research group known as Fourth Dimension Cloud Poll (4-DCP) revealed in its Second Quarter Special Report (1) signed by the Lead Researcher, Dr Richard Audi, that: “Based on coordinated research undertaken by our field specialists to determine Nigeria’s political direction and Nigerians’ expectations in the 2023 Presidential Election with special reference to behind the scenes happenings among political parties, groups, ethnic and religious groups and the permutation is obviously in favour of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ).
“The political actors are all waiting. Leaders of ethnic nationalities and religious groups have expressed their willingness to lay aside every difference and work with GEJ because he is a man of peace and he can also be trusted,” the report stated.
The report added: “One thing that is not, however, certain in the behind the scenes engagements among political actors is the final outcome of the entire permutations, and that is, whether Jonathan will eventually succumb to pressure, accept and declare to run.”
Many Nigerians have, however, publicly expressed their sincere convictions that the country is in a big political and economic quagmire and it requires a leader and statesman like Jonathan to reconcile and unite the people again.
In 2011, he won about 59 per cent of the vote, securing an outright victory and avoiding the need for a runoff election. Reforming Nigeria’s electoral process had been one of Jonathan’s goals, and international observers praised this election as being largely transparent, free, and fair.
Jonathan’s first full term as president was dominated by an insurgency primarily in the northeast, led by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram. Its acts of terror escalated during Jonathan’s administration and, in spite of the government taking such action as declaring states of emergency in the areas most affected and attempting mediation, the group’s violence continued unabated until a regional force was formed and pursued the group in earnest beginning in February 2015.
The call for Jonathan, though yet to receive any response from him, may seem to be like that of Obasanjo who said he was once reluctant to be in political power.
“I was trained as a soldier. One of my training is that soldiering and politics don’t go together and I stuck to that. While I stuck to separation between soldiering and politics, power started chasing me. I ran and ran until I could not run out of the reach of power,” he said.
Ismail Abdulaziz is a Deputy Editor-in-chief with NAN.