Less than three weeks before leaving office, I was invited to a Sunday Thanksgiving service organized in my honour at the headquarters of the Anglican Church, Life Camp Cathedral, in Abuja. I was asked to speak, and in doing so, I found myself reflecting upon what the future might hold for those who had served with me.
Addressing the congregation, I found myself speaking sentimentally about my departure and the people I would be leaving behind. Suddenly, the impact of what may take place tugged at my consciousness. I mentioned to my audience that I was more than likely expecting serious persecution from the incoming government. Jokingly, I gave an example of when F. W. De Klerk took the bold decision to abolish minority rule in South Africa . . . ”Yes, his wife divorced him! I know that was the height of it but I am sure that my wife will not divorce me. The good thing however is that the decision stabilized South Africa and solidified the country's position as a global player recognized today. Let's not forget that if we still had a minority rule there, nobody would be talking about South Africa in the manner we do today.
When a government is bent on persecuting an individual, it takes very courageous people to stay with you, and most of your associates may abandon you. While, in office, you would never be able to know your true friend as you are like a honey pot. It is after leaving office, especially when you are under persecution that those who were friends of the office and not your person just melt away like a piece of butter placed on a hot plate.
Knowing I had lost some allies as a result of the March presidential election, I realized that certain decisions I took, even though right for the polity also affected others adversely. So for my ministers and aides, who served selflessly with me, I felt empathy and pray that God will give them the strength to bear the persecution. And when all said and done, I wish my ministers and aides exactly what I wish for myself, and that is, “You will have hard times, we will all have hard times, and our ways will be rough but the rougher the road the greater servants we become to the people for peace , stability and democracy” What consistently reflects in my memory is that no matter the victimization we go through, we have collectively saved Nigeria from disintegration.
As I write My Transition Hours, I know the hard decisions as a leader most probably cost me the re-election. Therefore, I owe it to the people to accurately express my thoughts and feelings for the first time in this book. I ran the government to stabilize certain issues, like the electoral process which allowed opposition parties to win elections with me congratulating them. A former President called my passion for a deep democratic culture "anti-party" activities .But for me a democratic culture is superior to partisan consideration as "do-or -die" is not my philosophy of life.
I supported Nigerian women to find their voices elevating them to heights that were hitherto restricted .I ensured proper education for our children including the "Almajaris" as I believed in equal opportunities for all citizens. I did all I could to bring stability into the country. They were tough decisions that I had to remain accountable for yet we managed to succeed. I came across a quote that expresses my sentiments, and I would like to share it with the reader, and then pen some of my reflections:
“A battle lost or won is easily described, understood, and appreciated, but the moral growth of a nation requires reflection, as well as observation, to appreciate it.”
~ Frederick Douglas
REFLECTING BACK ON MY DAYS
As Nigeria's 5th President of the Forth Republic here are some of my feelings while in office that I want to share with you the reader:
''My ambition past and future (was) and is to see what contribution I can make to the ordinary people . . . their lives are unique to me.
''Yes, there was a combination of bad and good in my administration, just like in any other administration, but what was uppermost in my mind as a leader was always to make sure that the wrong did not outweigh the right. As I go forward I will continue to ensure the peace and unity of this country.
“I still maintain that to the ordinary Nigerian, what's important is the style of governance, not who is the President. When the country is peaceful, and economic activities are running smoothly—like people having jobs, our children going to school, hospitals operating efficiently, and people eating what they want to eat (when they want to eat) then, of course, people will be happy. Hunger has no religion and poverty has no tribe.
“I will continue to work for what is important to us as Nigerians—and what the government can bring about to the country! Future politicians must learn to put the people first. If our aspirations were really in the interest of the people . . . Then who would want to hurt these people?
“The Boko Haram Insurgency remains a horrendous force. I only pray that we are learning valuable lessons, they are with us for reasons unknown, one day looking back we shall learn, maybe not in my time, but all that bloodshed has to be for something. I believe that we will conquer and achieve respect, for in my belief system, one either believes the Christian story of God's creation, or the scientific theory of evolution, or even the Big Bang Theory. There will always be positive and negative forces, and in circumstances through time the positive forces have always won.
“Our contemporary negative, Boko Haram, who kill innocent people. Their belief is to destroy man when beliefs differ. They want to cause terror, fill people with fear. Their negative, evil forces still prevail, but nowhere in the world has history shown that evil overwhelms good. Evil can tarry for sometime, it could be years—ten, twenty and even last for a generation, but over such periods, the positive forces will overpower the negative ones. I have never seen in human history where evil forces can persist forever. When it comes to Nigeria as a nation, the development of the country supersedes everything . . . It is not about Jonathan, or Buhari, or any other; it is for the collective good of the people
“Lastly, as I reflect back over my tenure, the unity and peace of the country are essential, irrespective of our religious beliefs or what part of the country you live. Without a peaceful country you cannot do well in whatever you set your sights on. The key thing is the nation first! You must have a nation before you can have any ambition, so whatever we do, anything that threatens the survival of our nation should be jettisoned, because when we dismember the country, one can never be the president of Nigeria, and at best you will be president of one tiny part.”
“Economic diplomacy does not need to be a zero-sum game where the gain of a partner automatically translates to the loss of another.”
~ Goodluck Jonathan