Former President Goodluck Jonathan is a role model who should be respected across Africa and beyond, retired military officer and social critic, Abubakar Umar, has said.
Mr. Umar, a retired colonel, said Mr. Jonathan deserved praises for his timely concession call to his major challenger in the 2015 presidential election.
He said that “personal sacrifice” and display of sportsmanship during the contentious poll has made him a “beacon of hope for the growth of democracy in Africa.”
He said that was a clear departure from the norm across Africa, where leaders in times past refused to willingly relinquish power after being defeated at the ballot box.
Mr. Umar made the comment in an interview he granted Abuja-based The Interview magazine, published this March.
“My interpretation of personal survival in this kind of situation is to tenaciously cling to power irrespective of the harm this may cause the nation and of course the incumbent,” the retired colonel said. “Our African experience has been for incumbents to choose this injurious option.”
Although he stepped down almost a year ago, the circumstances under which Mr. Jonathan conceded defeat have remained a subject of intense public debate till now.
While many still argue that the former president conceded defeat because he was left with no choice, having failed to garner enough votes required to remain in office, others see his action as heroic, because he could still have used the powers at his disposal as an incumbent to either sway the election his way or force an outright cancellation of the poll, which could have plunged the country into chaos.
Mr. Jonathan, in the evening of March 30, 2015, placed the historic call to his challenger and now president, Mr. Buhari.
That gesture relieved many Nigerians following anxiety that had gripped the nation for weeks leading up to the polls.
“The act alone has crowned him as a statesman,” Mr. Umar said. “He should be respected and used as a role model for his personal sacrifice.”
Mr. Umar, who was a military governor of Kaduna State between 1985-1988, also used the interview to descend on the State Security Service for what he described as the agency’s “wicked attempt to besmirch my image.”
The Director-General of the SSS at the time was Ita Ekpeyong. He has since been sacked by President Buhari who replaced him with Mamman Daura.
He said the agency attempted to frame him and other northern leaders as sponsors of the notorious Boko Haram sect.
Mr. Umar said himself, Ango Abdullahi, a professor, and other northern leaders were accused of plotting to arm 2000 northern youths against the state in a security report submitted to Mr. Jonathan by the SSS.
“Well no evidence was found to warrant any further action by the Office of the President and so it was discarded or overtaken by more serious national security challenges. But I was incensed by that wicked attempt to besmirch my image by the DG.
“It was simply a case of giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it. What made it more shocking was the timing, coming a few days after the first Nyanya bombing.
“The attention of the DSS (SSS) ought to have been fully focused on trying to identify the perpetrators and collecting actionable intelligence to secure the nation from these sorts of attacks. Instead, the DSS (SSS) was more preoccupied with fabricating mischief and creating more enemies for the President,” he said.
He said all these acts were the reason the “DSS (SSS) has been found the most wanting in the war against the Boko Haram insurgency.”