Mike Ozhekhome is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria…and this article of his is a must read! Culled fromVanguard. Read below..
The Presidential election has come and gone. I write the morning after; I see peace, tranquility, joy and democracy at work. Contrary to doomsday prophets, soothsayers and seers of fortune who predicted crisis of monumental proportion. God has shown that He is indeed a Nigerian. Rather than blood, pains and pangs, there is merriment, friendship, back slapping and hugging. In a most unconventional, uncommon and uncharted manner not known in Africa, nay the black world and third world countries, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had called his main challenger, the APC presidential candidate, at 5:15pm (16:15 GMT). Not only did he concede defeat, he went ahead to congratulate Buhari. This, even when the result of Borno state was still being awaited, and the final tally of the states results had not been taken. Jesus Christ!!.
A siting President of the largest black nation and the seventh most populated black country in the world conceding defeat and congratulating his opponent, even before the final results had been declared ? This is incredible! Jonathan, take a bow, feel proud, raise your head and shoulders high and savour these times of redemptive messianism that you rightly epitomise. GEJ’s grace even eclipsed the triumph of the victor, General Muhammadu Buhari, himself.
Historical Examples Mahinda Rajapaksa , the 6th president of Sri Lanka (November 2005 – January 9 , 2015 ), of the Sri Lanka freedom party, was the commander –in –chief of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces. After two terms in office , he was defeated by Maithripala Sirisen on 9th January, 2015 , in the presidential elections. Mahinda was standing for a third term re-election against one of his closest allies and ministers in his Government, Sirisena, who had united a fractured opposition and promised to wipe out corruption and undo unpopular reforms that had concentrated humongous powers in the presidency.
While Sirisena was leading with 51.3% to incumbent president Rajapaksa’s 46.9% of votes cast by about 15 million voters, with campaign marred by about 400 incidents of violence, fraud, intimidation, with predictions of disruption of polls, the president surprisingly met the incoming Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, to concede defeat. He requested him to facilitate a smooth transition.
In the United States of America, John Kerry, the US Senator from Massachusetts, who was the Democratic Party presidential candidate, had challenged incumbent President George W. Bush, in the US election of November 2, 2004. In a surprise move that caught the entire world unaware, Kerry conceded defeat in a telephone call to Bush at about 11am EST, on the morning of November 3, 2004.
RATIONALE FOR CONCEDING DEFEAT
Many reasons have been adduced as to why candidates concede defeat to their opponents. Some claim it is a duty owed to volunteers and supporters who have put in huge amount of work, to say “thank you”. Sooner is better than later. It’s better to tell them face-to-face to clean up the war room and go home in peace.
Skipping that early concession alienates your supporters and lowers your prestige and dignity. It affords you a rare opportunity to reinvigorate them and make you look less of a twerp or twit. Although to lose sucks, having it linger on without end sucks more.
In the words of Lewis Rothchild (“The American President”): “People want leadership, they are so thirsty for it, they will crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they will drink the sand.” It is, therefore, wrong for a true leader to allow his staff to drink sand. In times of uncertainty, the people need leadership, direction, strength of character, courage and encouragement. It enables the leader tell his troops that though the battle may have been lost, there are chances of winning again in the future.
The Winners, The Losers Those In The Hall Of Fame
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan President Goodluck Jonathan epitomised the above leadership qualities in conceding defeat. At a time Nigeria was on the edge, precipice, when Nigerians and the international community expected blood, chaos, anarchy, war, schism and a total breakup, Jonathan bestrode the Nigerian political firmament like the colossus that he is. He poured oil on troubled waters. He displayed rare state manly behaviour, elbowing out sit tight kitchen cabinet proponents. He thus put himself squarely in the hallowed Pantheon of international statesmen and women of iconic credentials.
Jonathan is surely the undoubted prodigy of our own new democratic experimentation. History will judge him so fair, he would be surprised at his own achievements by this singular decision, which pales to insignificance, whatever he may have achieved as president for five years. He can rightly be proclaimed as the father of Nigeria’s nascent democracy.
It was George Woodberry who once theorised that “defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure”. By imbibing Winston Churchill’s cliché that “in war, resolution, in defeat, defiance, in victory, magnanimity”, Jonathan literally walked into the hall of fame as a global citizen of the world, who for many years to come would be in hot demand across international community to teach leadership, democracy, governance, statesmanship and Rule of law.
Jonathan had maintained since 2011 that no one’s political ambition was worth the blood of any Nigerian. No one had believed him. Everyone thought he was simply playing politics of Polemics and that when shove becomes the push, he would not be able to walk the talk. He shamed and diminished the traducers by his exemplary conduct and rare spirit of sportsmanship.
The violence that erupted after Buhari lost in 2011 is matched in reverse, in equal measure, with commensurate peace and tranquility that enveloped the Nation when Jonathan lost to the same Buhari.
This is a lesson for all that no one should attempt to throw away the baby with the bath water. Step into the Hall of Fame, father of the modern day Nigeria, President Jonathan.
Chief Mike A. A. Ozekhome, SAN, is a Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist