How Obama, UK, Defectors Plotted My Defeat in 2015
Past president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has said that he would have won a re-election in 2015 but for the plots of former U.S. President, Barack Obama, and some Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governors and leaders, who defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, a few months to the election.
For the first time, Jonathan said the 2015 presidential election was flawed and that he had many grounds to challenge the outcome but chose to side-step his personal ambition to avert bloodshed for the sake of democracy and Nigeria’s unity.
With a margin of 2.5 million votes, Jonathan lost the 2015 presidential election to Retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari of the APC. It was the first time an incumbent president lost a re-election in Nigeria.
The Obama role in 2015
In the book, a piqued Dr. Jonathan described Barack Obama’s message to Nigerians ahead of the 2015 general elections as overbearing and ‘condescending.’
According to Jonathan, the former U.S. president was very biased during the 2015 elections, by issuing a video appeal to Nigerians and almost advised them on which candidate to vote for.
He wrote: “On March 23, 2015, President Obama himself took the unusual step of releasing a video message directly to Nigerians all but telling them how to vote.
“In that video, Obama urged Nigerians to open the ‘next chapter’ by their votes. Those who understood subliminal language deciphered that he was prodding the electorate to vote for the opposition to form a new government.”
He berated Obama for saying “all Nigerians must be able to cast their votes without intimidation or fear,” but was reluctant to allow the Nigerian security forces drive Boko Haram insurgents away from the Nigerian territories they had been occupying in order to free Nigerian citizens there ahead of elections.”
Also, Jonathan did not spare the former U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, concerning the decision to postpone election in the overall interest of Nigeria.
“How can the U.S. Secretary of State know what is more important for Nigeria than Nigeria’s own government? How could they have expected us to conduct elections when Boko Haram controlled part of the North-East and were killing and maiming Nigerians? Not even the assurance of the sanctity of May 29, 2015 handover date could calm them down. In Nigeria, the Constitution is very clear: No President can extend his tenure by one day,” he said.
Intense foreign pressure
He continued: “The foreign pressure on the issue of election rescheduling was intense. They maintained the curious posture of one who had been deceived before and, therefore, had every reason to cede no credence to our position. But there was no reason for such posture.
“The United States and the United Kingdom were especially agitated. David Cameron, then U.K. Prime Minister, called to express his concern about the election rescheduling, just as John Kerry came from the United States to express further worry. It was at best unusual and sobering.
“In fact, John Kerry did not accept our reasons for the rescheduling. It was unbelievable because at the back of our minds, we knew why the agitation was beyond what meets the eyes.
“There were deeper political interests. In attendance at the meeting of the Council of State where the decision to reschedule the election was taken were almost all the living former Heads of State in this country. That should have convinced John Kerry of the good intentions of the government.
“He cannot claim to love and defend Nigeria more than all our former heads of state present at the meeting. I have stated earlier how Kerry’s visit was designed to humiliate a sitting Nigerian president and clearly take sides in the country’s election.
“Anyhow, the six weeks served us well. We received the military equipment we were expecting within that period and our Armed Forces commendably dealt a deserving blow on the terrorists and repossessed all territorial areas of Nigeria previously occupied by the terrorists. Boko Haram was deflated up to the point I handed over to my successor on May 29, 2015.”
Real reasons I lost 2015 presidential election
Jonathan revealed how former PDP governors, who defected to the APC because they were “blinded by ambition” and a barrage of “fake news,” cost him his re-election quest.
The former President also blamed northern leaders who wanted power returned to their region for sabotaging his re-election bid.
He wrote: “This time around, there were governors who were rounding off their eight years tenure and were blinded by ambition. Some governors wanted to be Vice President whilst others strove to be the President. If I contested, none could realise his ambition. This muffled implosion would fully manifest in the build-up to the 2015, which each ship-jumper calculating how much he or she would take from the PDP or the most opportune moment to cause maximum damage and based on that, plot their exit.
“As they jumped ship in preparation for the 2015 elections, only very few of these lots, if any at all, bothered about what the PDP did or did not do in terms of delivering our campaign promises. Their opposition to my re-election was principally driven by personal ambition. They, therefore, played up the issue of where I come from and the faith I professed to fuel their burning ambition. My performance mattered quite little, if it mattered at all.”
In a twist of fate, Jonathan said that most of the governors and other prominent members of the PDP, who plotted against him were now being victimised in the APC.
The former President also said he faced a barrage of opposition from Northern leaders and socio-political groups who felt he was usurping power from the region. He said these northern power blocs had tried to deny him of his constitutional right of replacing the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, who died in office, in 2010.
He said despite the threats and opposition, he was able to win the 2011 election.
“In spite of the threats and provocations to make the country ‘ungovernable’ for me, I had the overwhelming support of Nigerians in the run-up to the presidential election in 2011. I was able to win the election to the grace of God and the love of Nigerians. The election was all but won even before the whistle was blown for some strong factors. To mention a few, the pressure to preclude me from contesting in 2011, met with solid indignation from majority of Nigerians.”
He said in 2015, some northern leaders continued to oppose his Presidency and his bid to seek a second term in office, but a new element was added to the opposition: “Constant fabrication of damaging stories.
“Many reasons make the onslaught in this context very suspect, especially as it was being managed by foreign experts, mostly from the United States.
“Throughout my tenure in office as President, there was constant barrage of what Donald Trump has now termed ‘fake news’ coming from a well-oiled media propaganda machine. I can say as a matter of fact that there were never any sniper in training or already trained. There were no lists of political enemies to be taken out.
“There was no missing $49.8 billion and more importantly, I can say that even those who made these and other allegations, knew that they were false. This probably explains why many of these allegations died a natural death even as the echoes of my retreating footsteps still resounded nationally and globally,” he wrote.
He said he faced unending insults during his tenure, adding that the one that was particularly bemusing to him was the tagging of his Presidency as “clueless” despite a number of firsts the country recorded during his tenure.
He said his tenure heralded “phenomenal economic growth” for the country, the most prominent of which was the 2013 declaration of Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa.
Jonathan said it was no ordinary diplomatic feat for the country to be elected into the Security Council of the United Nations twice during his tenure.
He added that it was during his administration that a Nigerian, Akinwumi Adesina (his Minister of Agriculture), became the president of African Development Bank for the first time.
The Presidential Election Results
Jonathan said of the 2015 presidential election result: “I knew what was coming the day before I called General Muhammadu Buhari. I had reports on the polls around the country. It was clear the results were not going to favour me. Apparently, there were many instances of irregularities. There were series of problems with card readers, resulting from widespread technical hitches leading to the non-uniform application throughout the country.
“For some inexplicable reason, INEC had been able to achieve near 100% distribution of Permanent Voter Cards in the North, including the North East, which was under siege with the Boko Haram insurgency but failed to record a similar level of distribution in the South which was relatively more peaceful.
“Social media was filled with all manner of stories, pictures and videos. I was settled in my mind that I was not going to be the sitting President pointing out these infractions and accusing the opposition and the very INEC I helped to strengthen.
“The world saw my ordeal at the polling unit in my community in Bayelsa State, where the card reader refused my PVC, even after we tried repeatedly during accreditation. And it was the same with my wife and my mother. It was a moment that exposed the shortcomings of INEC.
“However, I was heading towards peace. Stopping the election on voting day would have been like detonating an atomic bomb. After we managed to vote upon filling the Incident Forms, I left Bayelsa for Abuja to monitor the elections and collation of results all over the country from the 29th to 31st March, 2015.
“The country was tensed. I had to do something. I could no longer wait for the collation of the final results. The pressure on the country was palpable. In Lagos, people were ready to burst loose on the streets and in the North; the stage was set for envisaged violence. One of my party’s agents at the INEC National Collation Centre in Abuja, Elder Godsday Orubebe eventually got into a heated argument with the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega. That further raised the tension in the country. Everyone was expecting the worst. I knew it was time to douse the tension.
Why I conceded defeat
“I was fully informed about the manipulations, intrigues, intimidation and betrayals. The consequences of not conceding were only better imagined. My natural instinct for peace automatically surfaced. I was going to make a decision which reflected my commitment to that ideal. This is the foundation of my essence. In my periodic projections into the future, I did not see how I would be presiding over any kind of chaos. I was prepared to promote the peace, unity and progress of Nigeria.
“This is a huge sacrifice, but I hope my readers believe me when I say it turned out to be one of the easiest decisions I ever took while in office. With my mind made up, I knew it was time to inject peace into the tensed polity, especially before INEC completed collation.
“I was in my living room with some ministers, aides and friends. Among them were the Coordinating Minister for the Economy/Honourable Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, the Honourable Minister of Aviation, Mr. Osita Chidoka and Waripamowei Dudafa, my Senior Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs.
“They were recommending sundry alternatives, but I was quiet in the midst of their discussion. I hugged my thoughts, figuring out how to do that which was best for the country. My personal interest was receding rapidly and the interest of Nigeria looming large. I excused myself and left the sitting room. I walked into my study. Even here, my mantra was a strong circle around me, supporting and comforting me. Let the country survive. Let democracy survive. My political ambition is not worth people being ‘soaked in blood’.
“More reports flowed in and I could not wait anymore. The announcement of the final result could take issues out of all our hands. It was time for me to take action and bring peace to the nation. I felt I was destined by God at that point in time to inject the peace serum and douse the palpable tension in the country.
“I reached for the telephone and placed a call through the State House operators at about 4:45 pm. A peace I had never felt since my political sojourn, descended on me. It showed me where I had been in the past 16 years and where I was then. I smiled at the thought of what I was about to do. I waited calmly for the person at the other end of my call to answer.
Buhari: “Hello Your Excellency!”
Me: Your Excellency, how are you?”
Buhari: “I am alright, Your Excellency”
Buhari: “Thank you very much Your Excellency … ”
“For several seconds the line was seized by the loudest silence I have ever known. Then we had a brief discussion. I could sense his relief too. He knew what could have been. Here is a man who had contested three times and lost. Maybe my gesture humbled him against his expectations because he thanked me and we talked about the handing over processes.
“Everywhere all over Africa, Asia and other parts of the world, countless deaths have been recorded on the scores of elections and power disputes. I mentioned Cote d’Ivoire earlier, where people died in their thousands during post-election violence. A similar scenario had unfolded in Kenya. African nations are more prone to post-election violence than other parts of the world. Only very few African nations have not experienced post-election violence on a very grand scale or some bitter power tussle fed by tribal or ethnic sentiments.
“I hung up the phone, confident that my decision was right for Nigeria and would probably have a great impact on Africa. This may well be the beginning of a new perspective to power; a perspective which places national interest above personal preference. It should not always be about winning.
“After my conversation with Muhammadu Buhari, which lifted my spirit greatly, I felt better and lighter; it was time to break the news to my Ministers and aides. I wandered back into the living room. These are people I came to know after a period of time. I anticipated what their response would be.
“In my new found calm, I stood before them and told them what I had just done. The elections were over. I had called and congratulated Muhammadu Buhari on his victory. It was time for all of us to move on. Stunned silence greeted the room for some time and after they overcame their shock, they all congratulated me.
“My Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka, sought my permission to tweet my phone conversation with Muhammadu Buhari. I obliged and he did. The country was no longer waiting for the declaration of the election results. The nationwide tension automatically dissipated as though a red hot piece of iron had been dipped in a bowl of water.”
Sleepless nights before the poll
The former president lamented that many persons within and outside his party aided and abetted his loss at the poll because of their actions and utterances, which tended to give the opposition an edge over him and the PDP.
Jonathan recalled with pains: “The previous six weeks had been the longest of my life and the climax finally came that cool morning of the 28th of March, 2015, the Presidential Election Day. Skeptics and mischief makers had flown the non-existent kite of tenure elongation, interim government and all the other shenanigans they could come up with to blackmail my administration and make us look bad in the eyes of Nigerians and the international community.
“As is customary, I flew to my community, Otuoke in my State, Bayelsa, to cast my ballot. Some hours into the election, I received some disturbing signals. INEC officials in Southern Nigeria were insisting on the use of card readers while in the Northern part of the country, the decision to use card reader had been de-emphasized. It was clear that something was wrong somewhere. Tension was brewing in the country because the card readers were malfunctioning.
“The intelligence report I had received also carried the spectre of the fabled American intelligence community prediction about the collapse of the Nigerian nation state. The disintegration of Nigeria was a possibility if I contested the results of the election, no matter how justified. There were justifiable grounds but I was determined that Nigeria will not disintegrate during my tenure.
“The fate of thousands of Christians and Southerners in the North and my other Northern supporters, who were at the risk of being slaughtered if I took a selfish decision, lay heavily on my mind. Reprisals were certain to follow in the South. What rang persistently in my mind was the futility of vanity.
“What would it profit me if I clung on to power and let my country slide into an avoidable crisis? Who would stop the impending crisis? Too many things were bound to go wrong!
“The multiple massacres which characterized the aftermath of the 2011 elections were still fresh in my memory. I was neither willing nor ready to look grieving children and parents in the eye and explain to them that they lost their loved ones because of leadership struggle. Already some Nigerian citizens and external forces had plans that were not good for our country.
“I had every reason to contest the results, starting from educational qualification for elections and electoral malpractices. These were the facts in my hands, but there was also the question of worth. Was it worth it? I reflected on some details. My country had been under colonial rule and our fathers mounted a struggle for freedom from the colonial masters. Without shedding blood, we gained our independence. How could I now be party to a decision that would result in rivers of blood which would flow across the land?
“I thought deeply about the hand it had pleased God to deal me. My rise to the pinnacle of power in a country of 180 Million people (in 2010), most of whom would give anything to be where I had been, was already cause for eternal gratitude.
“I thought about the economy to which we dedicated long hours and hard labour which had only recently officially become the largest economy in Africa. Every three months, I had chaired the meetings of the Economic Management Team involving the top players of the organised private sector and key government officials. Those meetings of the economic management team usually lasted upwards of three hours. How could I jeopardise all our joint efforts?
“I thought about the policies my administration had put in place just to convince genuine foreign investors to invest in Nigeria. I imagined all those huge investments simply coming to ruins. Could I sincerely let all those investments go to waste? We toiled to make the Nigerian economy the number one destination for foreign investment in Africa, as published in the World Investment Report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), 2013. Could I then watch the destruction of that same economy?
My choice of peace
“In my capacity as Nigeria’s President, I worked with other Presidents to resolve the political crises in some West African countries. In Cote d’Ivoire alone, thousands of human beings were killed in post-election violence. There were other crises in the sub-region which we helped resolve. How would I discuss Nigeria’s stability with my colleagues from ECOWAS? What do I tell them?
“From 1967 to 1970, Nigeria fought a very bitter civil war in which millions of lives were lost. That war was fought over a secession attempt by a region which was the culmination of unsettled issues stemming from the disputed 1965 Western Region of Nigeria election which eventually led to the first military coup in Nigeria on 15 January 1966. The consequences of the civil war are still haunting us till date. Did I want history to repeat itself? Could I partake in the reincarnation of that war which sent hundreds of thousands of Nigerians to an early grave? A war which razed down my own very community!
“From the interim report before me, youth had been armed and mobilized to unleash mayhem. Provisions of guns, petrol bombs, knives and other incendiary substances had been made in full readiness for maelstrom on a massive scale.
“This was not surprising given the threat by the main opposition party, to form a parallel government if the elections were “rigged”. Every election that had not been won by the opposition in the past was considered rigged.
“An eerie comment was made two years before by the then main opposition candidate, threatening that “if what happened in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.”
“Of course what happened in 2011 was that the opposition had lost the Presidential election that was unanimously adjudged free and fair by both international and local observer missions. The former Botswanan President, Festus Mogae, who led the Commonwealth Election Observer Group, returned the following verdict, describing the election to be “orderly and transparent and therefore a pleasant surprise given the fact that this country has been notorious for flawed elections.” Mr. Mogae, said further he was “very impressed” by the election stressing that other observers had adjudged it the most credible election since Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999.
“When I met with then President Obama after the 2011 elections, he told me that from the information they had, the elections were free and fair. Yet here was the opposition threatening to “soak” the country in blood if the same thing occurred in 2015. Indeed when my opponent challenged the results of the 2011 elections in the Court of Appeal, all five Justices unanimously upheld the results of the election. The same happened at the Supreme Court where all seven Justices again unanimously upheld the results of the election. There was no minority judgment in both appellate courts.
“As I said earlier, recalling 2011 was too easy. I won the election but the nation lost many lives. Youth were mobilized to cause havoc in the North despite the fact that there were no genuine disputes about my victory. That victory ended up tasting like ash in my mouth because of the loss of lives and mindless destruction of properties. The murders were as many as they were foul; properties worth billions of Naira of many Nigerians in the North perceived to have sympathy for me were destroyed.
“By the time the 2015 elections came, it was practically impossible for my supporters in some parts of the North to go out and canvass for me; and in fact, on election day, to go out and vote. Threats of violence against them were palpable and real. This was particularly so because of the bitter experience of the 2011 elections in which more than 500 people in Kaduna were killed including the brutal murder of the 10 NYSC members in Bauchi in the aftermath of the declaration of the elections.
“The fact that I got only 16% of the votes in Bauchi State was an indication that the reasons for the killings went beyond the results of the election from the state.
“The alleged sin of those NYSC members was serving their fatherland as INEC ad hoc staff on Election Day. It had since stuck to my memory. Hundreds of thoughts flashed through my mind in each round of reflection. Could we ever play politics without bitterness in this country? The phrase raised the image of one of our great leaders in my mind, late Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim. His advocacy was “politics without bitterness.”
“Nigeria was at the brink of a major explosion. Many who could afford airline tickets had already sent or were planning to send their families overseas. Those who could not afford to leave the country were sending their loved ones to neighbouring nations, or their villages and towns. The flight from this unseen but impending catastrophe was happening more in the big cities like Lagos,Abuja, Kano and Katsina.
“I felt so sad for the youth prepped to kill and destroy. I was apprehensive of human lives that would be lost, properties and investments worth trillions of Naira going up in flames. I had genuine fears that my country would no longer be one if I took to serve my personal interest.
“It was at this point that the breakthrough came to me as something in my spirit recalled the single phrase I was noted for saying, ‘my ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.’ This was my mantra when I ran for election into the office of the Governor of Bayelsa State in 2006 and it gained a prominent echo during my Presidential campaign in 2011 and 2015.
“I knew instantly that if I clung on to power, latching on to some of the identified infractions of the elections, there was a possibility that Nigeria may have imploded. If it was just that perhaps some people may have been pleased but it was not just that Nigeria’s corporate existence would be threatened, it would have first been” soaked in blood.”
“I had worked hard to consolidate and protect the independence of INEC that conducted an acceptable election in 2011. Can I tell the world that the same INEC had changed because of some interest? It was a burden for me as a sitting President to tell the world that the same INEC had performed differently in the 2015 elections.
“The division along religious and ethnic lines was sharp. The positions were firm and decided. It was a very dangerous moment which could not be taken for granted. The prediction of the U.S intelligence community on the disintegration of Nigeria was an additional concern. Such intelligence is not to be ignored. Not that all their predictions come to pass but indicators pointed to a great likelihood that this one may have been a correct call.
“The spill over scenario of Nigeria’s population throughout the West African and Central African sub-regions was always the nightmare of Heads of Government and everybody involved in the vigil for peace in the region and far beyond. I refused to bear that burden. I knew I had to act swiftly,” Jonathan explained.