Editor's note: Ujim Eni, a commentator on public affairs based in Lagos, in this piece, argues that former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is the best option for Nigeria as the country's citizens return to polling units to elect a new leader in 2023.
Ever since 2015 when he ceased to be president following his defeat by incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, the domestic and international profile of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has risen astronomically. The man has since then become a much sought-after statesman and diplomat to mediate in crises. No former leader or president, especially in the West African region, is relied on as much to help create or build peace the way Jonathan is now looked up to.
When ambitious military personnel stage a coup anywhere in the sub-region, you can trust that in the next few days, the personality the regional bloc ECOWAS will dispatch to the troubled country will be none other than former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
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When an election is to be held in an African, Latin American, or Asian country whose credibility the country’s organisers want to assure the world of, you are most likely to have Jonathan as a leading member of the observers' mission/team.
All of this is happening to Jonathan because he is a rare breed among African leaders who have shown honesty even to his own hurt and shown exceeding love for his country at the detriment of his political and financial interests.
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Jonathan voluntarily relinquished power when he was defeated at the polls in 2015. In other climes, what he did might not be a big deal at all. He did what he ought to have done without being told by anyone to do so. But here in Africa, what Jonathan did was a mighty big deal. How can a sitting president lose in an election he organised? A fellow head of state somewhere in Africa is said to have mischievously asked that question in wonderment at the ‘folly’ of anyone who will organise an election and not bend the rules to ensure his re-election. It is a rare thing to happen in this strange continent to be in office and organise an election in which the opposition is declared victorious.
Countries, organisations, and individuals have continued to shower encomiums on Jonathan for saving his country from the blood that would have flowed freely if he had behaved like some others before him who failed to leave when the electorate said they preferred someone else to him. Hundreds of thousands of people would have been killed in Nigeria as happened in some unfortunate African countries whose stubborn leaders chose to sit tight when they were asked to vacate their seats in a free and fair election.
When you read the thinking that informed his concession call to General Buhari in his autobiography, you will surely salute Jonathan as a statesman and not a small-minded politician who is more concerned about politics, election, and his survival in office. Jonathan knew, and more importantly, cared, about what will happen to his country if he failed to concede to Buhari. Some others may not have cared so long as he would remain president. In that simple but singular decision lies his greatness. And it is the reason many who know the consequences of things are today clamouring that Jonathan should be rewarded for that good thought he harboured for his country.
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Some commentators lament that our democracy lacks true democrats to pilot her affairs which is why we are not making good progress. Jonathan has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that he is a true democrat who respects the wishes of the people even if what the people decide hurts him personally. We surely need a man like him to come and deepen our democracy even if it will be for only four years. Four purposeful years in the life of a nation means so much.
This man is today most remembered by a famous quote that ‘’my election is not worth the blood of any single Nigerian’’ as Nigerians have, most painfully, become living witnesses or victims of gruesome deaths in the hands of political thugs, election riggers, kidnappers, assassins, ritualists, armed robbers, nursery school proprietors and many other men and women of violent disposition who seem to kill for joy now.
Dr. Jonathan today reflects the wishes and aspirations of all sections of Nigeria. Nigerians look back and remember with nostalgia that so many newly born children from across the country were named after him in honour of the fact that he had lived by his name Goodluck and brought unprecedented good luck to his country by conceding defeat at a time when many people thought it was impossible.
Philosophers have posited that time is the greatest healer and the greatest and most authentic revealer of the true state of things. It is amazing that Jonathan who used to be cruelly dismissed as an ineffective leader is now better remembered as a companionate, extremely tolerant, and caring president. This man who said he is the most criticized of presidents in the world is today one of the most idolized of all Nigerian presidents right in his lifetime.
Time has revealed Jonathan as a man of sterling character who is willing to compromise where necessary so that peace can reign. That is not the quality of a weak man or leader rather, it is the strength of a wise man or leader. At a time when the nation looks severely divided, we need a man like Jonathan to unify the people in our quest for development for what can any people do if they are torn apart by many divisive forces assailing them on many fronts? In Jonathan, all sections of the country will have a fair deal.
A man who has been tried and tested is better than a million inexperienced ‘’experts’’ who fit into the desired geography of our quota president. Having been asked to step aside for some observed weaknesses, a re-voted Jonathan will now go back fully certain and much more confident of what exactly to do to correct his errors and move this lumbering giant of a country forward.
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