Being the continuation of excerpts taken from the book, “My transition hour,” written by a former
president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan
Even though we were from different political parties, the major undertaking for me after the election was to demonstrate that our country was far more important than partisan considerations. My top priority was for a peaceful Nigeria. So, therefore, my relationship with General Buhari was more important than a political party. We needed to relate to the interest of the country to have a handover that was unique for 2015.
The former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, was most supportive; he encouraged us both to meet on different occasions with the sole intention of putting Nigeria first. By having these meetings we created a platform before the formal handover. The handover was just a ceremony; our meetings were important with the emphasis on pushing the country forward. We managed to have some friendly, productive talks. As part of the change over program, the incoming and outgoing governments set up a transition team designed to work together. Initially, there was a big misunderstanding; the incoming team wanted to bring in consultants to work with them. I declined the request, assuring them that when the take-over took place, the government's permanent secretaries, and directors would stay behind to brief the staff of the incoming President on all the details. I passionately opposed the idea knowing that it would send the wrong message and appear like they were investigating my government while I was still the President!
Coincidentally, I found out days later that the request didn't come from Buhari but rather from his overzealous party members. Consequently, both teams worked together effectively, except for the challenging way of retrieving detailed information needed to write the handover notes. It took weeks to gather all the data and statistics from the numerous agencies and departments of government.
You may be wondering if the transition was difficult for me having the the presidency? Honestly speaking, it was a mixture of feelings. On my part, as president, I had no ill feelings because I meant well and wanted to do the best for my country . Yes, there were some human errors along the way, as is the case with all leaders. The best thing that I could do was to preserve Nigeria's unity and ensure a
brighter future for my children, and all children of Nigeria. That remains my driving force. My party ruled the country for sixteen years, definitely, we had economic challenges, but, unfortunately, people didn't understand clearly that our country has serious foundational and structural problems. They blame their frustrations mostly on political actors.
I had no problem with the handover. My biggest concern was whether the incoming government would go on a persecution spree of those who supported me. The tremendous burden I carried was how political development would affect all the people who supported me. My fear was not necessarily from the incoming president, but having been a Governor and a President, I was very aware that many measures come from many different sources on our continent. Sometimes the intentions of people around you are unclear, and they take advantage of certain situations. I tried to have several discussions on this very subject with General Buhari in our various meetings.
MAY 25, 2015
Two days before handing over the mantle of leadership, I was invited to an elaborate send-forth event that attracted top Nigerians from all walks of life and held in Kpaduma Hills, Asokoro, located near Abuja. The invitation took me by surprise. I thought that people were supposed to be running away from someone who had just lost an election and here I was being honored and celebrated by Daar Communications .Surprisingly, I had accepted in good faith losing the elections, but some argued that I was disappointed in those people I had entrusted with my campaign. That was certainly not the case. I had no regrets about losing. In any political process, you will always hear various stories and conspiracies. I remember feeling most relaxed on the drive out to Kpaduma Hills, knowing that this event was good for me. I would have a chance to speak directly.
For me, my ambition has always been to see what contribution I can make for the ordinary people, and that is why their lives are unique to me and wouldn't do anything that would create a crisis to kill innocent people. The decision I made was for Nigeria—I could never be party to diminishing my country. Daar Communications appreciated my being there. They lined up speakers who made my evening among whom were their Emeritus Chairman, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Prof Jerry Gana,Y inka Odumakin who wished that my late aide Oronto Douglas were part of this closure, Mainassara Illo and Senator Ben Obi. There were also good renditions from musicians especially Eedres Abdul Kareem.
Daar Communications gave me more than they will ever know, for it helped weave the fabric so necessary for the Transition Hours ahead of me, and future life as a private citizen.
MAY 27, 2015
The historic day was quickly arriving. An inspection of the facilities at the Presidential Villa was scheduled. My Vice President, President-elect, his Vice President, and myself attended later that day a small ceremony that took place in the Council Chamber, where I handed over the briefs collected by my Ministers, Department Heads, and Agencies of government for the incoming administration.
President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, was first to acknowledge me, and I was extremely grateful."Since that telephone call you made,” he began, “you have changed the course of Nigeria's political history. For that, you have owned yourself a place in our history, for stabilizing the multiparty democratic system. You have earned the respect of not only Nigerians but also world leaders..You could have made things difficult if you wanted to"
The handover of notes presented consisted of our governance philosophy, strategies, policies, programs and activities of my administration for the period 2011-2015. In these notes were also the objectives, targets, tactics, achievements, and challenges of our key policies and initiatives, as well as the status of commitments and liabilities of the various MDAs. I spoke with conviction about our many achievements. I mentioned a few major successes like the improved revenue mobilization, electoral reform, revamping of the railroad system, remodeling of airports, privatization of the power sector and so on.
I handed over the mission statement and commitment of my government for the past five years. I wanted it to serve as directions to help navigate where the country seemed headed.
One other document that I gave to the President-elect was of most importance to me—and, even more, important than the other hand over notes. It was a document compiled by an array of distinguished Nigerians, and it contained the report of the 2014 National Conference I was clear in asking that this must not be allowed to end in the dustbin, as it was very close to my heart and represented what I stand for as I go forward. Let me quickly recap the significance of the document.
On March 17, 2014, approximately five hundred Nigerians gathered in Abuja from all walks of life to attend a conference that government had no influence on in any way. After a very dynamic look, most of the recommendations and suggestions were based on the need to give our country a working architecture of governance. The findings resulted in ways that our politics could run more smoothly. Unfortunately, we were unable to implement the report, because of the shortness of time, as we already entered the election season at the submission of the report .
I did emphasize the importance of the conference the day I inaugurated it when I said:"The conference is being convened to engage in intense introspection about the political and socio- economic challenges confronting our nation and to chart the best and most acceptable way for the resolution of such challenges in the collective interest of all the constituent parts of our fatherland.
This coming together under one roof to confer and
build a fresh national consensus for the amicable resolution of issues that still cause friction amongst our people must be seen as an essential part of the process of building a more united, stronger and progressive nation. We cannot continue to fold our arms and assume that things will straighten themselves out in due course, instead of taking practical steps to overcome impediments on our path to true nationhood, rapid development and national prosperity.”
And when I accepted the report on August 21, 2014, I made the following remarks among others:
"I I am very satisfied that the Delegates navigated these obstacles in a very mature manner. There were those who set out to input ulterior motives to our modest efforts at reshaping and strengthening the foundations of our nationhood to deliver better political cohesion and greater development agenda. The naysayers raised false alarms over some phantom hidden agenda and called to question our sincerity and did everything possible to derail this noble project.”
"The success of this conference has proved the cynics wrong in many respects. Those who dismissed the entire conference ab initio as a “diversion” have been proved wrong as what you achieved has contrary to their forecast diverted our country only from the wrong road to the right direction.”
"They said the conference would end in a deadlock as Nigeria had reached a point where the constituent parts could no longer agree on any issue. We exploded that myth by suggesting that you should arrive at your decisions by consensus or 75% majority threshold.”
"That was the first challenge you had at this conference when it appeared you were going to break up. There were suggestions that we should intervene as government to “save” the conference at that dicey moment but I insisted that beyond the inauguration we were not going to intrude into the conference in any manner. We kept our promise.”
"One of the many reasons for our non-interference is this: we have at the conference, 492 delegates and six conference officials who all in their individual rights are qualified to lead our great country and if they were unable to agree on how to take decisions, we would be in real trouble! Acknowledging the quality and patriotic content of the delegates, I was confident, the right thing will be done.”
The chairman of the conference Justice Legbo Kutigi in speech emphasized clearly that this was a free discussion by Nigerians about the future of Nigeria when he said: "Let me state here categorically and with the fear of Almighty Allah in my heart, that not once did you interfere or dictate to us in the course of this Conference. The only time we tried to consult the President during the conflict over voting percentages at the very beginning of the Conference we were told that the issue was for us to resolve. At no time after that did you meet with us or speak to us."
The President-elect took the material graciously from me, and I felt confident of its success for a better Nigeria if implemented. I ensured also that the report was laid before the National Assembly as I firmly believe that in those 600 recommendations lie a good future for our country.
“The best advertisement for good governance is its positive expressions of happiness in the lives of the governed.”
~ Goodluck Jonathan
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