Former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, yesterday disclosed that Nigeria was able to escape the numerous doomsday prophecies surrounding the 2015 general elections because former President Goodluck Jonathan, his main rival in the election, President Muhammadu Buhari and Prof. Attahiru Jega, the then Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) jointly placed the interest of the nation above their personal interests in the decisions they took at critical moments.
Abubakar, who gave this verdict at the 10th Leadership Awards organised by Leadership Newspapers in Abuja, said the efforts by other stakeholders would have been in vain if these three principal actors were not willing to respect the sanctity of the ballot box and the will of the electorate.
The ceremony, which attracted top government functionaries and dignitaries from all walks of life, was designed to honour the contributions of Jonathan, Buhari and Jega whom the Leadership Newspapers have chosen as Leadership Personalities of the Year 2015. In the build up to the said elections, many political pundits had predicted that there would be anarchy and chaos, which could lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.
However, the reverse became the case as Jonathan promptly conceded defeat even before the final results were announced by placing a phone call to congratulate his main challenger in that election. According to Abubakar, the much-publicized gloomy narratives, which were sometimes unsubstantiated, turned out to be untrue. He said that Nigeria’s survival from that episode has made her an example to other countries in transition both in Africa and in other parts of the developing world.
“From the global perspective, Nigeria has been applauded for achieving sustainable democracy, spanning over 17 years and very recently for achieving a peaceful and successful political transition. “We are aware of the turbulent and violent political transitions in some African countries which metamorphoses into full scale civil war.
“The tireless and modest contributions of several individuals and groups to make the last general election a success would have been in vain if the key dramatist personae, 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 INEC at that time, Jega, who is also being honoured, failed to execute his assignment with firmness. “Having been involved in several continental and international peace initiatives, I can tell you that most of the problem of warring factions in African countries would have disappeared if the actors had the dispositions of the actors being honoured today.
“Going down memory lane, we recall the widespread prediction of chaos and doom, as well as the possible break-up of Nigeria in the aftermath of the 2015 general elections.
Thank goodness, Nigeria survived. So we have good cause to celebrate,” he said. Abubakar, who paid glowing tributes to Jonathan, Buhari and Jega for their historic roles, also acknowledged the contributions of other Nigerians to the success story, adding that the lessons therefrom was that they were able to secure the future of Nigeria as one indivisible, progressive and democratic country.
Buhari, who was present at the event and personally received his award, described the 2015 election as a watershed in the political history of Nigeria. He said that he and the other principal actors in the elections were led by the higher ideal of the future of Nigeria as great country and the well being of its people rather than the mere desire of politicians to win elections.
He affirmed that it was 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 collectively helped Nigeria to disappoint the prophets of doom who had predicted the disintegration of the country after the 2015 general elections.
“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 said. Buhari congratulated the other award winners for the recognition accorded them by the Leadership Newspapers and expressed hope that the awards will encourage all the awardees to remain committed to good behaviour in their various endeavours to justify this recognition and serve as inspiration to others.
He urged the mass media to join hands with the government in the pursuit of the goals of nation building instead of just criticizing the government to prove their independence.
But, Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson said only Jonathan should take the credit for conceding defeat in the 2015 presidential election. Dickson, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, called on Nigerians at home and in the diaspora to always accord Jonathan the respect and honour of a true statesman that he is, while also calling on him to always stand up and show leadership.
The governor noted that democrats all over the world would continue to appreciate Jonathan for his exceptional display of sportsmanship in the 2015 election as an incumbent president, stressing that, that singular action puts him miles apart from other leaders, within the African continent and beyond. Dickson believes that the action taken by Jonathan saved thousands of lives that would have been lost and kept the unity of Nigeria intact, particularly against the backdrop of predictions of the nation’s disintegration.
Chairman of the Leadership Group Ltd, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, said the annual awards ceremony was to recognise and reward personalities that make significant contributions to the socio-political development of the country. Other awardees at the event included Chibok schoolgirls; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, and Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State.
Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi, the Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), received the Leadership Public Officer of the Year 2015 award, while Korede Bello, the singer of the popular song `God Win’ emerged Leadership Artiste of the Year 2015.