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'It takes a man who has the fear of God to relinquish power so easily' - former President Jonathan

'It takes a man who has the fear of
God to relinquish power so easily' -
former President Jonathan
On the 28th of March, 2015, after a tension filled
presidential election, Muhammadu Buhari emerged
as the new president of Nigeria and Goodluck
Jonathan conceded victory to his successor. In a
dinner organised in his honour in Geneva,
Switzerland last week by Cercle Diplomatique,
Jonathan poured out his heart concerning a lot of
issues ranging from his foray into politics,
Nigeria's well being and why he conceded to
President Buhari immediately after the election. He
talked about why he made that historic telephone
to congratulate Buhari even when the results were
still being tallied.
His full statement during the dinner has just been
released and its very revealing! Read it after the
He began: “As you can see, I have not come
here with a prepared speech, since what I
consider appropriate for this occasion is to
just thank you all, members and everyone
else in attendance, in a few words, for the
dinner and the award, in order not to make
the evening look boring. But having said
that, I am still tempted to note that if I were
to present a written speech, the title, would
probably have been “Power Tussle in Africa:
A Stumbling Block to Economic Growth.”
When Mr. Robert Blum, your President,
made his very interesting opening remarks,
he introduced me as the former President of
Nigeria. He was absolutely correct.
"However, I believe that not many of you
here know that the story of my foray into
politics has a peculiar ring to it. I entered
politics in 1998 and, barely one year after, I
got elected as the Deputy Governor of
Bayelsa, my state. I later became Governor,
Vice President and eventually got elected as
the President of my country. I remain the
only leader in my country to have travelled
that route.
"As the President, I served out my first term
but, as Mr. Blum had pointed out earlier, I
lost the bid to be re-elected. I am
encouraged by the fact that many of you
here appreciated my decision not to reject or
contest my loss at the polls, not even in the
courts as many people had expected.''
"Again, I have to agree with Blum that it was
not an easy decision to take. This is
because the allure of power and the worries
about what would become of you after
leaving office constitute an irresistible force.
It has an attraction so controlling and
powerful that it takes a man who has the
fear of God and who loves his people and
nation to relinquish power so easily in
"I was actually in that valley on March 28,
2015. I never knew that the human brain
had the capacity for such enhanced rapid
thinking. One hundred and one things were
going through my mind every second. My
country was at the verge of collapse. The
tension in the land was abysmally high and
palpable, in the months leading to the
election. The country became more
polarised more than ever before, such that
the gap between the North and the South and
between Christians and Muslims became
quite pronounced.
"In fact, it became so disturbing that some
interest groups in the United States began to
predict indeed, many Nigerians did buy into
this doomsday prophesy as they began to
brace themselves for the worst. As the
President, I reminded myself that the
Government I led had invested so much
effort into building our country. I worked
hard with my top officials to encourage
Nigerians and non-Nigerians to invest in our
country to be able to provide jobs and
improve the lives of our people.
"We worked hard to grow our economy and
to improve and bring Nigeria up as the
biggest economy in Africa, with a GDP of
about half a trillion dollars”. “Should I then,
for the love of power, watch Nigeria slide
into a theatre of war, with my fellow country
men and women dying, and many more
pouring into other nations in Africa and
beyond, as refugees? Should I hang on to
power and tussle with my challengers, while
the investments of hard working citizens of
the world go down the drain? I then said to
myself, NO!''
I promised my God that I will not let that
fate befall Nigeria under my watch, hence the
historic telephone call I put through to
congratulate my challenger even when the
results were still being tallied. I believe that
for a country to be great, both the leaders
and the led must be prepared to make
sacrifices. This is why, everywhere I go, I
always advise that the new generation of
African leaders must think differently. We
can no longer afford to wilfully sacrifice the
blood of our citizens on the altar of
dangerous partisan politics. It is not worth
This reminds me of one of my campaign
statements to the effect that my ambition
was not worth the shedding of the blood of
any Nigerian. Some people took it then as
mere political slogan but I knew that I meant
it when I said it. ''We must all fight for the
enthronement of political stability in Africa,
for in it lies the panacea for sustainable
growth and development. For Africa to
record the kind of advancement that will be
competitive and beneficial to our citizens, we
must have stable states supported by strong
institutions. That appears to be the
irreducible minimum that is common to all
developed societies. Africa’s political
odyssey can distinctly be categorised into
three eras, and probably another that would
later signpost its classification as a
developed continent”.
"Some may doubt this, but it is no fluke that
Africa is growing and rising. However I will
admit before you here that we still have
challenges. That is why people like us did
all we could to ensure that Nigeria, the
biggest black nation on earth, would not drift
into anarchy because such a situation would
have spelt doom for the rest of the
continent. It would have affected not just
Nigeria alone, but the GDP and economy of
the entire West Africa. And if the economy of
West Africa crashes, it would definitely affect
the performance of the economy of the whole
of Africa.
As you know, the GDP of Africa is less than
three trillion dollars, with only six African
countries able to boast of nominal GDP
above $100 billion. Even for those in this
‘elite’ category, you can’t really say that
they are rich countries. Apart from maybe
South Africa that has an industrially
competitive economy, the rest are still
mainly commodity exporting countries. Even
the case of that of South Africa is not very
encouraging, because we have a situation
which we could refer to as a first world
economic performance, yet the ordinary
people live the life of the people in the so
called third world.''
In the case of Nigeria which is even the
biggest economy on the continent, the reality
is that we have an unenviable per capita
GDP of $3,203, which is the World Bank
average for a period covering 2011-2015.''
“Even then, I still believe that Africa has a
bright future; a promising prognosis that is
supported by the fact that the continent
remains a very fertile and attractive territory
that yields irresistible returns on
investments. I believe that in the next few
years many more big investors will be
jostling to come to Africa, if only we will do
the right thing. The process of getting it right
has already started with a democratic and
increasingly democratising Africa. But we
have to deepen and strengthen our
democratic credentials through regular, free
and fair elections. This will in turn bring
about the stability necessary to improve the
infrastructure that promotes rapid economic
growth. These are the guarantees that would
lead us into the next period which I would
like to call the era of a developed Africa. I
have no doubt in my mind that we will get
there some day.
"I will be applying myself diligently to two
key areas. First, is to work for good
governance by promoting credible and
transparent elections. This will bring about
the strengthening of our institutions and the
enthronement of stability. I also believe that
there is the urgent need to create jobs for
our teeming young population. This is
another area that will be receiving my
I recall that the Vice President of your
association made reference in his speech to
my achievements in that regard through
what we called Youth Enterprises with
Innovation (YouWin) and the Nagropreneur
programme which encouraged young people
to go into agriculture. I believe more
programmes like that should be established
to promote youth entrepreneurship. That
way, we reduce their reliance on paid
employment. We will not only teach them to
become entrepreneurs, they will also acquire
the capacity to employ other people. We will
be paying special attention to this segment
of our society, especially young people and
We will develop programmes that will
inculcate in them business skills to be able
to set up micro, small and medium
enterprises. We shall assist them to access
take-off grants when they acquire the
relevant skills and capacities. There are
many areas that they can go into; food
processing, light manufacturing and the
services sector are just some of them. I can
tell you from experience that this works. As
we speak, Our Nagropreneur programme, to
promote youth involvement in agriculture
value chain, is being scaled up by the
African Development Bank presently. It is
already being replicated in 19 African
countries because of the success of the
programme in Nigeria.
I invite all of you here today, cabinet
ministers, diplomats and private sector
people to remain committed to the cause of
improving lives, especially those lives in
Africa, and making our world a better place.
For those of you that will be sharing in this
vision for Africa, I assure you that you will
not be disappointed. I am very optimistic
that if we encourage young men and women
in this continent to develop businesses of
their own, the story of Africa will change
within 10 years”.

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