The world rises in honour of Goodluck Jonathan, Africa’s modern hero of democracy, By Peter Agba Kalu

Posted by News Express | 20 December 2015 | 3,623 times

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When Vince Lombardi (June11, 1013 – September 3, 1970) said, “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand,” he probably had in minds the likes of former Nigerian president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Since his emergence at the nation’s political firmament, starting as deputy governor, then as governor of Bayelsa State, vice president, and then president, Jonathan has always fixed his mind on the crown with dogged determination to weather the political roads strewn with thorns and thistle.

Having attained the highest political office in the country, he has etched his name in the Nigeria’s book of firsts. Jonathan is the first Nigerian to move from deputy governor to governor, from governor to vice president and then, hit the apogee, which is the president. He also made a history as the first incumbent president to lose an election in which he conducted. The loss of the presidential election, instead of diminishing his political career, turned him to a role model and searchlight for other African leaders to follow.

He became a man of history and an African hero when he averted the prediction by the Western nations that Nigeria was going to fragment by 2015. Jonathan, of course, held the key to that prediction coming to fruition. He had every power at the point that he realised the election wasn’t going in his favour to do like other African heads of state to disagree with the result, as there were many justifiable reasons for that based on the flawed manner the election was conducted in some parts of the country and the colossal failure of the card reader machines.

As a great sportsman, he accepted defeat, which is rare. Many African leaders cling to power long after their mandates have expired and what Jonathan did is uncommon and commendable. So, His concession of victory to Muhammadu Buhari, obviously, helped to abate any looming crisis or uprising as a result of his electoral loss to the opposing candidate in the fiercely contested election. During the elections, nerves had been frayed and the gossamer thread, which holds the nation together, would have broken, and the country would have been in inflames, thereby bringing to pass the prediction of the Western nations on the break-up of Nigeria.

The winner, President Muhammadu Buhari, was the first to heave a sigh of relief, and eloquently eulogised him for being magnanimous enough to initiate a telephone conversation where he conceded defeat even before the final votes were tallied, thus, saving the nation from a predicted Armageddon. While receiving the handover notes from the former president, Buhari said: “What I will say is since the telephone call you made, you have changed the course of Nigeria’s political history. For that, you have earned yourself a place in our history, for stabilising this system of multi-party democracy system and you have earned the respect of not only Nigerians, but world leaders.

“All the leaders that spoke to me and congratulated us for arriving at the point we arrived mentioned this and I could understand a lot of relief in their voices that Nigeria has made it after all and this is largely owed to you.

“If you had attempted to make things difficult, you could have made things difficult and that would have been at the expense of lives of poor Nigerians, but you chose the part of honour and may God help all of us. Thank you very much, Your Excellency.” Everybody knows the implication of war in Nigeria. The refugees would be difficult to manage, as they would overrun neighbouring West African countries. It is against this background that when he congratulated the winner, Buhari, that the international community that was apprehensive found breath again, and hung him a halo brass.

Since then, his image has continued to soar. His first assignment was when he led 54-member nations of the Commonwealth as part of the international observers to monitor the Tanzanian general election on October 25. He worked into the warm embrace of many Tanzanians, who were upbeat and confident that his presence would bring credibility to the polls, which analysts consider the toughest and closest elections in that country’s history. The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, which has been in power since the country’s return to multiparty democracy in 1992, was up against a united opposition that has increasingly been making significant electoral gains.

As Tanzanians prepared to vote in either side, they were happy that high profile observers, including Jonathan, who they consider as “a hero of free and fair election in Africa”, would be on ground to monitor the elections. They hoped that their presence would ensure a transparent and peaceful election process. Paying tribute to Jonathan in a recent editorial ahead of the elections, The Daily News of Tanzania commended the former president for taking his defeat in the last presidential election, “in all magnanimity,” adding, “Jonathan may very well have averted bloodshed that is characteristic of incumbent leaders who cling in power tooth and nail, fang and claw! What lesson is there in this for us in Tanzania?”

Similarly, the Guardian of Tanzania poured encomiums on Jonathan, describing him as a democrat who has pointed the way forward for the rest of Africa. In its own editorial comment entitled, “High profile figures among observers will add credibility to poll process, results”, The Guardian stated: “Jonathan’s voluntary handover of power to the opposition wrote a new chapter for Nigeria’s democracy, given the fact that it is rare for sitting presidents in Africa to hand over powers to winning opposition parties.”

More halos continue to come his way, as he has been chosen to present the keynote address at the 2016 Hope Global Forums conference that holds in the second week of January in Atlanta, United States. The Hope Global Forum is an annual event that convenes thousands of thought leaders, business professionals and public policy officials from many countries to brainstorm on ways of advancing the social and economic wellbeing of all people around the world. The 2016 meeting focuses on broadening inclusiveness for global economies.

As the keynote speaker, Jonathan succeeds President Bill Clinton, who performed a similar role at the 2015 event, which gathered over 3,000 leaders from 40 countries and was broadcast and live streamed internationally.

The letter of invitation, jointly signed by Amb. Andrew Young, Operation Hope Global spokesman, Honourable Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta, and John Hope Bryant, Operation Hope chief executive, urged the former president to lend his support to an entrepreneurship mentoring programme, by sharing his experience in office with a wider global audience.

With the theme, “Reimagining the Global Economy: Inclusive Economics”, the annual meeting is set against the backdrop of the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend and gathers leaders from government, community and the private sector to outline a vision for the modern global; economy. A vision where the undeserved, working poor, and struggling middle class are viewed as untapped assets for economic growth, entrepreneurship and job creation.

After this, he will also be honoured on January 21, 2016 at the yearly Dinner Gala night of Diplomatic Circle in Geneva, Switzerland. He is the first African leader in and out of office to be so honoured by this revered group for his democratic credentials and upholding human rights in Africa.

The Diplomatic Circle is a group of diplomats from all over the world. The former president, who will also be the guest of honour, is to deliver a keynote address. This goes to show that he has become not just a national asset to Nigeria but to Africa and the global community.

Yes, people talk much about how Jonathan handed over power to the opposition with magnanimity and serenity. That is true, but what people do not seem to take into cognizance is that he also embraced his presidency with similar humility and thoughtfulness.

For Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the sky is not his limit, but remains his starting point.

•Kalu writes from Abuja. Photo shows Ex-President Jonathan.

Source: News Express

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