President Muhammadu Buhari took a moment on Friday to hail his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, describing him as a patriot.
The president’s speech at the LEADERSHIP conference and awards in Abuja sometimes appeared detached from reality. For instance, Buhari said the “participating actors” in the 2015 elections were led by the “higher ideal of the future of our great country and the well being of our people rather than the mere desire of politicians to win elections.” That’s a statement that not many Nigerians would agree with.
The part of the speech which will definitely garner the most attention however was his praise of Jonathan, whose government has frequently come under criticism by Buhari over the way they piloted the affairs of the country when they were in charge.
Buhari credited Jonathan’s “patriotic zeal,” INEC’s “impartiality,” the “exemplary conduct of the political parties,” and “foreign pressure” amongst others as the reason Nigerians collectively disappointed the “prophets of doom who had predicted the disintegration of the country after the 2015 general elections.”
Buhari, Jonathan, and the former Cameroon Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were jointly recognised by the paper as the Persons of the Year. Buhari and Jega were present to personally receive their awards, but Jonathan sent a former minister in his cabinet, Tanimu Turaki, to represent him at the event.
In arriving at the decision, the organisers of the award said in a statement that the 2015 election “had all the elements of a do-or-die affair,” but the tide was turned as a result of “providence and three key personalities – Jonathan, Jega and Buhari.”
“They jointly midwifed and protected the people’s mandate and the nation’s democracy from the pernicious machinations of contending interests,” the statement said.
Buhari congratulated the other award recipients encouraging them to remain committed to good behaviour.
“Democracy has been strengthened by the outcome of the 2015 elections as our people now have more faith in the electoral system in the sense that their votes would count when choosing political leaders at various levels,” he said. “We, the political class should build on the experience of the 2015 elections to nurture our democracy.”