The career of most politicians tend to be defined by a single moment. For former President Goodluck Jonathan, it was the telephone call he made to his challenger (and current incumbent) on 31st March 2015.
Given the pervading tension in the country at that time and the ethno-religious dimension to the contest, the concession saved the nation the crisis that could have ensued had Jonathan rejected the result as some hawks around him were urging him to.
At the end, Jonathan kept his own counsel that his election was not worth the blood of a single Nigerian.
In his final moment of loneliness, as I wrote in a post-election column in 2015, Jonathan finally found himself—unencumbered by the hidden motives of the army of power merchants and ethnic salesmen who had held him hostage. But it could not have been an easy decision for him.
In a piece she contributed for the UK Guardian in September 2013, former Prime Minister of Australia, Ms Julia Gillard, spoke about the regrets and pain that come with losing power.
Gillard, who was Australia’s first female prime minister, was ousted by long-term political rival, Mr. Kevin Rudd, in June of that year, because the Labour Party felt she had become unpopular and might lose the general election.
Notwithstanding, Labour still lost the election to the conservative party. Losing power, according to Gillard, “is felt physically, emotionally, in waves of sensation, in moments of acute distress… know too that you can feel you are fine but then suddenly someone’s words of comfort, or finding a memento at the back of the cupboard as you pack up, or even cracking jokes about old times, can bring forth a pain that hits you like a fist, pain so strong you feel it in your guts, your nerve endings…”
I am sure President Jonathan must have felt all that, and perhaps more, in the past four years. But history will be very kind to him because when it mattered the most, he made the correct judgement call.
As someone who has researched into what happened before, during and after the 2015 general election, I am quite aware that the story of the concession is not straightforward.
But the fact also remains that the decision to concede was Jonathan’s to make. And he was the one who made it, even before all the votes were tallied.
More remarkable is that Jonathan conceded to a man who lost three previous presidential elections (including one against him) but never for once accepted that he was defeated.
This is why concession, an act of subordinating personal ambition to national aspiration, is not only for the incumbent, it is also for the opposition where they are defeated.
In this context therefore, Nigerian politicians must come to terms with the fact that in an election in which only one person can win, others will have to deal with defeat – and how they do that have serious implications for democracy and the rule of law in our country.
I hope the example already set in 2015 will become the norm so that whoever loses between Buhari and Atiku will have the grace and decency to accept the outcome of the poll, as the will of the Nigerian people. Just as President Jonathan did four years ago.
A Humbling Feedback
As a rule, I don’t publish ‘fan mails’ in my column even when I receive many on a weekly basis. I, however, crave the indulgence of readers to publish a recent admonition that I found both uplifting and humbling at the same time.
I am posting it because it may also benefit someone, especially in a season when encouragements and kind words are in short supply.
Upon receiving a particular video clip about a public official, I forwarded it to some of my contacts with a pithy two-line comment about the level to which our country had been reduced. But not long after, I got a reply from Mr. Ferdinand Agu, an architect but easily one of the most profound Nigerian thinkers around.
Agu’s comment: “Ordinarily, it would not be difficult to agree with your comment on the video. In fact, I could well have said what you wrote or I could accept it from some other persons; but not from you, Segun.
“You have to realize that at this moment in time, you cannot afford to join the rest of us in despair or cynicism about Nigeria.
“You are one of the few people with the capacity and platform to lift our national gaze to a vista beyond this south-bound course of the present state of affairs.
“You can make a lot of us to look at the stars instead of bemoaning the gutter in which we are all stuck.
“That is why I endeavour to send you inspirational clips or pieces of writing. You must keep your aim high, your heart pure and your head focused on the best there is in us.
“With that spirit, and in that mode, you will continue to inspire us as you are uniquely gifted to do. That is your calling. Be faithful to it.”
I thank my brother, Ferdinand Agu for that inspiring and uplifting message. I won’t forget!
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