By Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
The last has certainly not be heard on the behind the scene forces, intrigues, conspiracy and betrayals that characterised the 2015 presidential election and cost then incumbent president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan his second term bid.
Former Senate president David Mark alleged that a northern conspiracy worked against Jonathan.
Mark, a retired army general was quoted in a book, “Against the Run of Play: How an incumbent president was defeated in Nigeria” by chairman of ThisDay Board of Editors, that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) intentionally provided the president with unrealistic voting projections in the north.
“I saw it and at different times, I pointed out to him and the party that the projections being made by some people around the president about what the voting pattern in the north would be were wrong.
“I could see the conspiracy and the gang-up building up in the north against the aspiration of Jonathan but my voice was drowned out by those who took it for granted that a sitting president, and one from PDP, could not lose.
“Some people were deceiving the president with the kind of false scenarios they were painting for him. The VP could see the conspiracy but I don’t know how much influence he had on the campaign. Why Jonathan couldn’t see it until it was too late is what I find difficult to understand,” the book quoted Mark as saying.
Similarly, more facts have emerged on forces that convinced Jonathan to call Muhammadu Buhari and concede victory even before the last result was released.
The trio of former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke , his then Aviation counterpart, Mr Osita Chidoka and Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Affairs, Mr Waripamo-Owei Dudafa reportedly prevailed on him to conceded victory and congratulate Buhari.
“The drama unfolding at The Villa on 31st March 2015, four days after the presidential election, would have profound implications for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the nation he led. Kneeling in front of Jonathan were his Attorney General and Justice Minister, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN; Aviation Minister, Mr Osita Chidoka and Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Affairs, Mr Waripamo-Owei Dudafa.
“The mission of the three officials was to persuade Jonathan to call to congratulate his opponent, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), even as the final results were still being collated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In the room, according to the book, were Vice President Namadi Sambo; Akwa Ibom Governor, Mr. Godswill Akpabio; Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission, Mr. John Kennedy Opara and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
“Chidoka had co-opted Adoke and Dudafa to make the plea after a conversation he had with Jonathan the previous day. The president had acknowledged that the results were going against him and that he was going to concede. This was at a period when Nigerians were unsure of who would win, with many politicians within the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) still betting on Jonathan. He, meanwhile, had already asked Chidoka and a few others, including his spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, to give him a draft concession speech.”
The pervading atmosphere at the Aso Villa, the book said, was gloomy even as it disclosed that most residents of the seat of power believed that then INEC chairman, Prof, Athahiru Jega had conspired to rig Jonathan out of power.
“The general feeling within The Villa, a view fervently shared by Jonathan, was that the INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, was part of a northern conspiracy against him.
“Among the strongest arguments for a potentially rigged election were the results from Kano State. Jonathan himself admitted as much to me in the course of our lengthy chat, saying, “Go and check the results from Kano. The presidential election and that of National Assembly happened on the same day and same time. The National Assembly result reflected that about 800,000 people voted but that of the presidential reflected a vote of about 1.8 million. I had reports of what happened but I decided that for such to be accepted, it meant that those who called themselves my supporters must have colluded. I was betrayed by the very people I relied on to win the election.”
However, while Jonathan had resolved to accept the outcome of the election, the book claimed that some people close to him made effort to prevent him from conceding defeat.
“There were many around Jonathan who did not share his sense of magnanimity. Tuesday, 31st March 2015 was therefore a dramatic day, with the abortive attempt by the Niger Delta Minister and ally of the president, Elder Godsday Orubebe, to disrupt proceedings at the INEC collation centre, a spectacle that unfolded on live television.”
Orubebe’s histrionics were part of a grand plan to disrupt the election, a plot that failed essentially because other parties involved refused to play to the script.
“While Jega did not have the exact details of what would happen, he had nonetheless been alerted to the fact that there would be a disruption in the process, including a kidnap threat.
“On arrival at the collation centre that morning, we discovered that the gate between the International Conference Centre and NICON Luxury Hotel, which was always locked, had curiously been opened,” recalled a security officer detailed to work with Jega. A decision was immediate taken for the INEC chairman not to leave the collation hall under any circumstances.
“Jega’s handlers proposed a live television feed of the electoral commission’s activities so that whatever happened, the whole world would witness it. In the security official’s narration: “Of course, Jega is usually a calm person, but given what he already knew, there was no way he was going to (take) the bait of Orubebe who kept shouting, ‘Jega, go to your office!’ We knew what the whole plan was about and had resolved not to play into their hands.”
Meanwhile, at The Villa, the drama was also being watched on television. While the outcome must have deflated the hawks around Jonathan who were still looking for a way out of the looming defeat, it worked in favour of those who wanted him to concede before the final tally of the results.
With Orubebe’s antics dealt with by Jega, INEC continued to process the results from the remaining states.
Chidoka pleaded: “Why don’t you take the wind off Jega’s sail? By calling Buhari, you would have rendered whatever INEC is doing redundant.”
At one point, Dudafa stood still and said loudly to Jonathan, “Daddy, anybody can say whatever they like but we are leaving this house on May 29. You have done your best for Nigeria and the people will appreciate your sacrifices.”
Shortly thereafter, Jonathan got up from his seat and went into his study where he picked up the phone and asked ‘Control’! to get Buhari on the line. He spoke briefly with “Buhari, in a rather nervous tone, and then came out to announce to those in the room that he had conceded and congratulated the APC candidate on his victory.