Nigeria would have disintegrated along ethnic and political lines but for the patriotic zeal of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and Prof. Attahiru Jega, President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday in Abuja.
Jonathan is the immediate past president who handed over power to Buhari, while Jega was the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) when Buhari won the 2015 presidential election.
President Buhari said the commitment to democratic ideals exhibited by political players in the 2015 presidential election shamed prophets of doom who had predicted that Nigeria would disintegrate.
He stated that the success of the 2015 election also contributed to deepening democracy in the country and made the people to have faith in the electoral system, believing that their votes could actually count.
Buhari, who spoke after being conferred with the award of “Leadership Person of the Year” by Leadership Newspapers in Abuja, specifically identified Jonathan and Jega as the critical stakeholders who made the election a success.
Buhari who was honoured alongside Jonathan and Jega as “Leadership Persons of the Year” said: “The events of 2015 which the Leadership Newspaper has chosen to bring to the fore today, marked a watershed in the political history of our country.
“Those of us who were participating actors in the elections were led by the higher ideal of the future of our great country and the well being of our people rather than the mere desire of politicians to win elections.
“It is, therefore, our commitment to this ideal, 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 we collectively disappointed 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.”
In his opening remarks earlier, former military leader, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar (rtd), who served as the chairman of the event commended the awardees for their roles in the elections. He urged Nigerians to be proud of the three leaders.
In his speech titled “Half full, not half empty,” Abubakar enjoined Nigerians to celebrate their nation in the light of the outcome of the election, noting that many countries had been thrown into violence after elections. He said their effort as members of the National Peace Committee would have come to naught without the collective cooperation of the three leaders.
“Our efforts would have been in vain if President Buhari and former President Jonathan were not willing to cooperate with us and think about Nigeria first or if Prof. Jega had failed to perform his statutory role well.
“We must all embrace this standard set by them and ensure that the labour of our heroes’ past are not in vain. We must ensure peace because if there is no peace, there is no country,” he said.
The Chairman of Leadership Newspapers, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, in his welcome address said the three men were deserving of the awards due to their critical roles in the election.
He recalled the mood of the country as the results of the election were being collated, submitting that Jonathan’s decision to concede defeat saved the country a gargantuan crisis that would have claimed about 10,000 lives.
“Today’s event is basically to celebrate our democracy because there is a hell of a lot to celebrate. It is easy to forget the fright, trepidation and panic that attended the buildup to the 2015 presidential election and how several doomsday pundits concluded that the election might spell the end of Nigeria as we know it. The tension was so high that the United States president felt so genuinely concerned that he had to address Nigerians in a televised broadcast in the fashion that colonial powers used to address their colonies.
“A few thought there was no way we could get out of the presidential election alive as a country. And there was actually the augury for such dire doomsday prophecy.”
In his reaction to the event, Bayelsa State governor Seriake Dickson said only Jonathan should take the credit for conceding defeat in the presidential election.
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