Some ministers who served under former president Goodluck Jonathan have angrily reacted to some of the claims by him in his book, ‘My Transition Hours’, released on Tuesday.
Commenting on his acclaimed concession call to President Muhammadu Buhari while the final results of the 2015 presidential election were yet to be announced, Jonathan said he rebuffed advice from ministers and an aide not to concede.
Those he named as having advised him are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (then minister of finance), Mohammed Bello Adoke (attorney-general), Osita Chidoka (aviation), and Warpamowei Dudafa (senior special assistant on domestic affairs).
Jonathan wrote: “They were recommending sundry alternatives, but I was quiet in the midst of their discussions. I hugged my thought, 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 there, 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.”
However, a former minister, who spoke with TheCable, has described Jonathan’s version of the events as a “big lie”.
“Let him enjoy the euphoria of his book launch first, but those he has defamed will surely respond in due course,” the former minister said, adding that Jonathan, by his latest claims, may finally demystify himself over the concession speech “which had elevated his status internationally”.
Another former minster who spoke with the TheCable but also refused to be identified described Jonathan’s version of events as “most unfair and petty”.
“The impression the former president is trying to create is that the people came to tell him not to concede. In truth, Jonathan was being persuaded by a former south-south governor not to concede, so some ministers were quickly invited to come and counter them,” the former minister said.
“What would Okonjo-Iweala, Adoke and Chidoka be doing a the villa at that time if not that something was going wrong? Is Jonathan trying to say he was not involved in Elder Godsday Orubebe’s attempt to disrupt the announcement of the results? Is Jonathan trying to claim innocence of a plot to secure a court injunction to stop INEC from further announcing the results? Jonathan needs to be a man of honour.”
Here are the other versions of the concession story as narrated in books by Okonjo-Iweala, who was a witness; Olusegun Adeniyi, celebrated journalist and author; and Bolaji Abdullahi, former minister of sport.
Okonjo-Iweala said she whispered to Jonathan to concede
Okonjo-Iweala wrote that when she got to the villa on March 31, she found a group of politicians urging Jonathan not to accept defeat and another group asking him to throw in the towel.
“At the Villa, I was met outside the residence by Osita Chidoka, who collected my input for the (concession) speech and told me the president was in the residence. When I entered the Villa, the president was in one of the living rooms with the Vice President, some advisers, and a group of politicians who were arguing passionately about the conduct of the elections and irregularities of which they said they had evidence, such as videos of underage voting in certain parts of the country.
“They were urging the president not to concede the election. More politicians came in and joined them. On the opposite side of the room were the Minister of Aviation Osita Chidoka; the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke; and the Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina. They were relaying a dissenting view, arguing that the president should concede.
“I was immediately drawn into the argument as everyone turned to hear my views. I said I thought the president should concede and do so before the announcement of the vote count was completed. The Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Affairs, Dr. Dudafa Waripamo-Owei, a politician, whom I expected to side with the politicians, also said he sided with those who thought the president should concede.
“A heated argument ensued. Throughout the discussion, the president said not a word. He kept his own counsel and just kept welcoming guests and party loyalists who were joining us at the Villa.
“I sat next to the president and whispered to him that if he was going to concede, he probably should do so before the announcement of election results ended.
“Suddenly, he got up and left the room. We all thought he had gone off for a few moments of quiet. He returned about twenty minutes later and sat down without saying a word. I decided to take a chance and press him again on a timely concession. As I whispered again for a second time, the president responded to me out loud, “CME (Coordinating Minister of the Economy), it is done. I have called President-elect Buhari and conceded!”
OLUSEGUN ADENIYI’S ACCOUNT
Olusegun Adeniyi authored ‘Against the Run of Play’
Adeniyi, in his book, ‘Against the Run of Play’, said Dudafa knelt and begged Jonathan to concede.
He wrote: “Kneeling in front of Jonathan were his Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN; Aviation Minister, Mr. Osita Chidoka and Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Affairs, Mr. Waripamo-Owei Dudafa.
“The mission of the three officials was to persuade Jonathan to call and congratulate his opponent, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), even as the final results were still being collated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“Seated a few metres away in the room were Vice-President Namadi Sambo; Akwa Ibom Governor, Mr. Godswill Akpabio; Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission, Mr. John Kennedy Opara and the Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
“Chidoka had co-opted Adoke and Dudafa to make the plea after a conversation he had with Jonathan the previous day. The President had acknowledged that the results were going against him and that he was going to concede.
“This was at a period when Nigerians were unsure who would win, with many politicians within the ruling People’s Democratic Party still betting on Jonathan. He, meanwhile, had asked Chidoka and a few others, including his spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, to give him a draft concession speech.”
BOLAJI ABDULLAHI’S ACCOUNT
Abdullahi wrote ‘On a Platter of Gold’
Abdullahi wrote more comprehensively on the concession in ‘On a Platter of Gold’.
He said Jonathan had told Chidoka earlier in the day that he was gong to accept defeat, but things began to change quickly.
He wrote: “By the time he returned later that day, the sombre atmosphere at the Presidential Villa had become somewhat charged. The president’s media adviser, Reuben Abati had also brought a draft speech. He was asked to go and work with Akinwumi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture, to reconcile the two speeches. Several other people had also arrived, and now sat around the presidential living room like a delegation of mourners, each trying his best to surpass the other in a show of grief .Among them was the Vice President, Namadi Sambo and the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio.
“Jonathan had by now given indication of his plan to accept defeat. What they probably did not realise, however, was that by asking him not to concede, they were presenting him with a dilemma. He had roundly promised the country a credible election. And if there was one legacy he would like to leave behind in office, it would be that he conducted the most credible election in the nation’s history. Therefore, to contend that the election has been anything but credible was to rob himself the chance to leave even this imprint on history. The alternative of course was for him to simply accept defeat and walk away.
“In the battle for the president’s mind, Chidoka could see that he was hopelessly outnumbered. Many had even started to accuse him openly of working for the former Minister of Federal Capital Territory and APC Governorship candidate in Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai. Having taken in the atmosphere, the Aviation Minister quickly summoned two other people he knew could exert significant influence on the President: the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke; and the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. They soon arrived.
“A usually sedate President Jonathan, who appeared like he did not care only a while ago, was now fuming. He ranted about how the election was rigged. How children were used to vote. How Jega had compromised and betrayed his trust. Okonjo-Iweala, whose words normally carried weight with the President, was pleading with him, but he was not listening.
“Abati returned with an updated draft of the speech, which he had started by having the president congratulate the winner, Muhammadu Buhari. But the president said, no, he was not going to congratulate Buhari because he wasn’t convinced that he had won the election fair and square. Chidoka turned to Jonathan and asked, ‘Sir, but are you still going to give the address?’
“President Jonathan said he was going to give the address, but he was not going to congratulate anyone. He would only appeal to Nigerians to remain calm and await the announcement of the final results. It was obvious that the ‘rejecters’ had made an impact and were having the upper hand. And, sensing that they were winning, they pressed their advantage. They reminded President Jonathan of what Buhari was capable of doing to him,and argued that even if he was going to concede, the terms had to be negotiated.Vice President Sambo wanted Jonathan to wait until the full results were announced before he made a statement. Even then, he thought the statement should not be to congratulate Buhari but to say that the president had kept his promise to conduct the elections but the party would meet to review the results and then decide whether to accept the outcome or reject it. Some others argued that even if he must concede, the Peace Committee should be brought in to negotiate some kind of softlanding not only for him, but also his associates. No one gives away power so cheaply, they insisted.
“Okonjo-Iweala and Adoke however countered that if the president issued a statement conceding defeat as he had planned to do even before the final results were announced, he would be snatching a major victory out of the jaws of defeat.
“Sir, why don’t you even call General Buhari to congratulate him?” No one could recall who first made this suggestion. But this was a major tipping point that every one of the ‘persuaders’ would be happy to claim. They all agreed that if the President called Buhari to congratulate him, that would settle the matter and turn him to an instant hero, even in defeat. “You have lost the mortal game, this is the chance to claim immortality,” one of them.
“One person who had been listening to all the arguments but contributing very little was Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, the President’s long term aide. His only previous contribution to the debate was when he said to the president, “Daddy, no matter what, we are leaving here May 29.” He knew President Jonathan more than most. He knew that if all these people pressuring him to reject the outcome of the election had known him half as well, they would have realised the catastrophic implication of what they were advocating and would have known that this man did not have the stomach for carnage and blood. Dudafa knew that when President Jonathan said his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian, he meant it. He also knew what the president meant when he once said, that he was no Nebuchadnezzar. Therefore, the moment the idea of a phone call to General Buhari was mentioned, he started working with some other domestic aides to get Buhari on the phone. He soon got through.
“Your Excellency, sir. Hope I’m speaking with General Buhari, sir. President Goodluck Jonathan would like to speak with you, sir,” Dudafa said to the phone and handed it over to President Jonathan.”