More details have emerged on the events leading to the concession of defeat by former Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, during the 2015 general elections.
Previous accounts showed that opinions were sharply divided among top officials on what to do when it was apparent that Mr Jonathan was losing the March 28 election.
Various actors have narrated how the former president eventually agreed to make a concession call to Muhammadu Buhari, his challenger.
But a key player in those events, former justice minister Bello Adoke has now given a new hint.
In an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Adoke gave a graphic account of how the then chairperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ahmed Muazu, wanted to announce the acceptance of the result before a decision was reached by the president.
Mr Adoke said the PDP chief wanted to halt the endless wait and anxiety in the country before Mr Jonathan was prevailed on to place a call that ended the tense situation.
The former minister said he feared that Mr Muazu motive would have been misunderstood as he was being suspected of nonchalance towards Mr Jonathan’s campaign.
“On that day (March 31, 2015) in the morning, the PDP national chairman, Ahmed Mu’azu had come to see me in the office. He said ‘my brother, look, this is the situation on the ground. I am looking at the likely consequences of the president not conceding defeat or not doing this. In the interest of the nation, if by 5 p.m. this evening the president does not concede defeat, I as the national chairman of the PDP will concede defeat on behalf of the party’.
As the attorney general, a member of the national security council and as a frontline member, or if you permit me to say, part of the kitchen cabinet of Mr President, I knew the implications for the country and implications for the party. It will also further divide the gulf that existed in the country at that time.
“Don’t forget that Ahmed Muazu was already being viewed with a lot of suspicions, that he was not committed to Jonathan’s second term election. His coming out, irrespective of the motive, which could have been a very good motive from what he explained to me, would further confirm what those campaigning against him were saying,” he explained.
He said Mr Muazu’s planned concession would have escalated the Christian/Muslim dichotomy and the North/South schism in the country.
Mr Adoke said the information spurned him to step in and ensure that Mr Jonathan concedes in line with the suggestion of the party chairperson.
“I went straight to the National Security Adviser and informed him that we had a situation at hand. This is what we are faced with, how do we approach the president? How do we get the president to do the right thing because the figures we were waiting for, even if it goes in favour of the president is not enough to alter the result in favour of the president?
“It was while I was with the National Security Adviser strategising on how we should approach the president that Osita Chidoka, the then minister of aviation called me. He asked about my location. I told him I was with the National Security Adviser. He said ‘You need to come down to the Villa immediately’.
“While I was trying to round off with the NSA, his call came in again. He said you need to come. So I went to the Villa. He met me by the Red Carpet and said there are too many hawks here. We need to move fast, to save the country. That is one man that is not given due credit, nobody recognises the role he has played. I could have cheaply told you that I was responsible but it is not true. A lot of people played a lot of roles that led to the concession by Mr President.”
Mr Adoke said he and others that were in favour of the president’s concession acted based on Mr Jonathan’s commitment to bequeath a free and fair election.
“Mr President himself had said that we wanted to be a guinea pig of having a free and fair election. He wanted to be remembered for reforming the electoral process. He wanted to be seen as a champion of free and fair elections, and I think to a large extent he achieved that. And then the hawks were not looking at the larger interest. They were not even looking at the interest of the man.
So, at the end of the day, when myself and Osita had compared notes, we went in. We met the president sitting down between Ngozi (Okonjo-Iweala) on his right-hand side and the vice president on his left-hand side. We had my good friend, Godswill Akpabio, the then chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and governor of Akwa Ibom state. There was Kennedy Okpara who was Executive Secretary of the Christian Pilgrims Board and about two other people.
Yes, the president was visibly agitated like any other person would be; no president wants to be defeated because that is a referendum on his tenure. Of course, Ngozi was there trying to talk to him; there was a collation of voices, everyone proffering advice. Yes, the president was right to say that he held on to his thoughts because there were so many people offering one advice or the other. Some were saying, ‘No, don’t call him’ and so on.
It was at that point that I approached the governor of Akwa Ibom and said ‘Sir, you are the chairman of PDP governors forum, I think we should tell the president at this point he should call President Buhari to concede defeat’. Probably for reasons best known to him at the time he said ‘I think we should wait for a while’. In fairness to him, he didn’t say ‘no’, he didn’t say don’t do it; he said we wait for a while. I think he was looking at the tensed situation.
Then I approached the Vice President and spoke to him in Hausa and said, ranka dade I think we should tell the president to concede. He said ‘No, no, no. Let them announce the result!”
I knew what they didn’t know. I knew the conspiracy and cocktail of events that could destroy the country. So, I was racing against time. I knew the ultimatum. I knew the game plan. I knew some people were talking to several people within the system, some people were talking to security agents. I knew that that morning, Ita Ekpenyong had come to see the president to tell him that the result was not looking good. I knew that Ita Ekpenyong, another fine gentleman, had advised the president to put a call to President Buhari. Nobody says all these. So, you can see in that government, like we say in the law of the house of jurisprudence, there are many mansions.
So, it was at that point, when the president was still agitated that a fine young man, the special assistant to the president on domestic matters, Dudafa shouted from the back and said ‘Daddy, we are leaving here on the 29th of May’.
That gave us the impetus to now approach the president; myself, Osita and Dudafa. We stooped before him and started counselling him; we said Mr President what do you want to be remembered for? So, he stood up crisply, went to his study and placed the call to President Buhari to make the concession.”