Former President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday revealed that politicians in the build up to the 2015 general elections used the kidnap of over 200 girls from Chibok in Borno State by Boko Haram sect to oust him from power.
He said the crisis of fuel subsidy removal was also designed to spoil his electoral chances in the election.
Speaking during the public presentation and launch of his book, titled: “My Transition Hours,” in Abuja, the former president said he was accused of inventing Boko Haram to reduce the population of the North so that he could win the 2015 presidential election.
Jonathan arrived the Congress Hall, Transcorp Hilton, alongside his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, at 11:30a.m. to a waiting crowd of admirers, who were drumming, singing and dancing.
Security operatives had it tough controlling the crowd and it took another 15 minutes before the stampede subsided, even as Jonathan acknowledged cheers from the crowd and was ushered to his seat.
The former president told the gathering that he wrote the book, which, according to him, is not his biography, because of pressure from Nigerians at home and abroad who wanted to know why he conceded defeat.
He said: “I just wanted to make a brief contribution of core things about the election because whenever I travel, even in Nigeria, especially the Diaspora, they start asking me: why did you concede defeat? Why did you make that phone call? Why didn’t you go to court?
“The book centres mainly on the election. But I decided not to mention a few negative things because the life of a government is like the life of an individual – some areas are positive and there are also some negatives.
“There are certain things in government that were used against me during the election – the issue of Boko Haram and Chibok girls.
“In fact, some people said I brought Boko Haram to reduce the voting population of the North so that I could win the election.”
The former president added: “So, I commented on the Chibok girls (in the book) and also the fuel subsidy that was really used by politicians from the opposition community. So, I don’t blame them. May be if it was myself, I would have probably done the same thing.”
Jonathan explained that he needed to explain certain things and why he took certain decisions.
The former president said he commented on the issue of corruption to enable young people understand it better.
“I also took the issue of corruption so that young Nigerians will understand the issue, where it started if anybody cares to know. I have made some suggestions to encourage future governments to tackle corruption,” he said.
The former president, however, lamented that vote-buying in the country has become scandalous and suggested how it could be tackled.
Jonathan said: “I also use the opportunity to make a little suggestion about our elections.
“The issue of vote-buying is becoming scandalous in Nigeria. While inducing candidates is wrong and criminalised in other countries, in Nigeria it is seen as normal and this is wrong.
“While in other countries, distributing T-shirt’s and faze caps will suffice, in Nigeria if you have not given out gifts, it’s like you have not started.
“My suggestion is that we should begin to look at the way we build polling booths, we should copy other countries that use public buildings like schools for elections. So, one school will be one polling unit and it will be easier for the police to monitor that unit. And it is difficult for someone who is in a classroom to show you his ballot paper. Because, you cannot pay somebody until you have access to see his ballot paper and if you have a polling booth that you cannot see the ballot paper, then the issue of outright vote buying will reduce.”
In his remarks, President Muhammadu Buhari commended the former Nigerian leader for his statesmanship and courage.
The president, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, said statesmanship was embodied in Jonathan “who in 2015, without any pressure, willingly conceded victory in the presidential election, even when collation of result was still in progress.”
He said that singular act doused and calmed frayed nerves in the country.
The president thanked him for being a good democrat and a patriotic Nigerian.
“Let me express my personal appreciation for what you have done for this country. You are leader of the past; you are leader now. Be rest assured, you are leader of the future. You will rise again,” Buhari declared.
President Buhari noted that prior to the election, he worked with the former president towards ensuring a peaceful election, recalling that Jonathan kept emphasizing that no Nigerian blood was worth the ambition of any man, adding: “History will judge you well as a patriotic leader.”
While noting that Nigerians would soon return to the polls, the president called on politicians to see election as a contest based on principle, programmes and aspirations that will outlive the nation.
“Election should never become a declaration of war. Rather, it should cement our brotherliness,” he admonished.
Chairman of the occasion, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, said Nigeria’s democracy was too important to be left in the hands of hooligans and thieves.
While congratulating Jonathan for enjoying a peaceful retirement, he said if the book was launched three years ago, Jonathan would not have mustered the kind of crowd that turned up at the book launch.
Obasanjo explained that there are four seasons in the life of democrats or politicians: “Campaign to election, when you take up office and came in with high popularity and it starts to dwindle; immediately after you leave office, you lose fair-weather friends; when you have weathered the storm and look up again.
“The post-office life, which you are now enjoying, is one that we must crave for. It is a life of continued service to humanity.”
He observed that past leaders, both in Nigeria and outside Nigeria, have residual responsibility to continue to serve people and God.
Obasanjo added: “There is still no substitute for democracy when all is said and done. It fosters peace. It builds and does not destroy. It unifies, rather than divide. But all these can only happen if democracy is in the hands of democrats. If it is in the hands of thieves and hooligans, they can abuse and misuse it as weapon. We should ensure hooligans don’t get it.
“Like Koroma (former Sierra Leone president) said, Nigeria has responsibility beyond its bothers, for West Africa, Africa and for the black race.
“At times when we do things and we get worried, but like Bitrus Gali said, when he was asked where he will like to be if not Egypt, he said Nigeria. When asked why Nigeria of all places, he said, ‘You will wake up in Nigeria and it will be as if heaven will fall, but before you go to bed, it will be cool and calm.’ Let’s continue to make it cool and calm.”
Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, on his part recalled that he was at the African Union meeting, in 2015, while awaiting the result of the elections.
He said the hall was tensed as they thought there would be serious trouble in Nigeria, but when they heard that Jonathan has conceded defeat, there was a huge relief.
Gowon said: “I was at the AU meeting and everybody was concern that there will be serious problem after that election and fortunately the news came that President Jonathan has conceded defeat and has rang to congratulate the winner. There was such jubilation at the AU meeting. You did something that nobody has done and you saved Nigeria from a bloody crisis and God will bless you for that.
“Many people said you should not accept the results, but you went ahead because you did not want anybody to die and you saved Nigeria and Nigeria’s democracy. Well done Mr. President.
“What you have done has saved Nigeria and Nigerians will forever be grateful to you.”
Former vice president and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said: “Today is a very historic day in this country. We have been fortunate enough to have had a president who followed the footstep of president produced by PDP.
“Former President Jonathan action’s in 2015 helped safeguard democracy and preserve our country. Without that singular action, only God know where we would have been.”
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, also described Jonathan’s famous phone call as a great step that safeguarded Nigeria and Africa democracy.
He added: “The title of the book is “My Transition Hours, is not only your transition hours, but Nigerians finest hours and Africa finest moment.
“For those of us who have read the book, we all learn lesson; the lesson is that you have taken democracy to the next level.”
Former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, also described the former president as a great leader, saying: “Jonathan gave Nigerians the peace they are enjoying today. His famous call and he became an example to Africa by showing that you love the country more than you love power.”
On his part, the former Ghanaian President, John Mahama, thanked Jonathan for his invitation, saying the former president was not a typical politician, but has a relaxed approach to politics, which is responsible for his success in office.
He said: “For Jonathan, politics was not a matter of life and death. His decision to hand over power peacefully in 2015 was not surprising to me.”
Mahama said the same scenario played out in Ghana when he too lost election to the opposition in the country.
He added: “This actions have consolidated the democracy in our countries and when the history of democracy is written in Africa, the name of President Jonathan would be carved in gold.”
The occasion attracted personalities in and out of government in Nigeria, former West African leaders, representatives of present West African leaders and diplomatic corps, among others.
The event later took a pan-Nigerian colour as it had in attendance the National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus and National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and a host of other dignitaries from across the political and regional divided.