By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North; Ben Agande, Levinus Nwabughioguand Emmanuel Elebeke
ABUJA —”Since the telephone call you made, you have changed the course of Nigeria’s political history and for that you have earned yourself a place in our history, for stabilising multi-party democratic system and you have earned the respect of not only Nigerians but world leaders”.
These words from the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari to out-going President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, summed up the mood at the council chambers of the Presidential Villa as President Jonathan presented hand-over notes to his successor, Buhari, who will be sworn in today.
Speaking at the Presidential Villa after receiving the hand-over notes as well as the report of the National Conference from President Jonathan, Buhari said by the singular phone call that Jonathan made to him conceding defeat, he has changed the course of the nation’s political history.
According to Buhari, by choosing to concede defeat, President Jonathan saved the lives of many Nigerians that would have been lost if he had insisted on sitting tight.
He said President Jonathan was capable of using the power of incumbency to scuttle the electoral process at the expense of the lives of poor Nigerians, but he chose to toe the path of honour and selflessness.
Buhari continued: “All the leaders who spoke to me and congratulated us for arriving at the point we arrived, mentioned this and I could understand a lot of relief in their voices that Nigeria has made it after all and this is largely owed to a situation.
“You could have made things difficult and that would have been at the expense of lives of poor Nigerians, but you chose the path of honour and may God help all of us. Thank you very much, Your Excellency,” he said.
The hand-over notes
On his part, President Jonathan told Buhari before handing over the notes as well as the report of the National Conference that “this will give you (Buhari) a mission statement of the commitment of this government for the past five years and the directions we are going that will help you to navigate.
“It is my pleasure, on behalf of the Vice-president, members of the executive council and other senior functionaries to formally hand over these notes to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the President-elect who will assume office tomorrow (today). Congratulations.
“There is another document that I will hand over to you; to me this is more important than the hand over notes. The hand-over notes contain the activities of an administration, showing where we started, where we are going. In some of the cases you may follow, in other cases you may take a different approach.
“This is a document that was compiled by Nigerians, the report of the National Conference 2014. We gathered almost 500 Nigerians from all walks of life, and they were not influenced by government in any way.
“And if most of the recommendations here are followed, most of the grey areas, even in our politics will be smoothened. This document deals with most of the areas where people complain bitterly, such as corruption. Some of the people here were members of that great body of about 500 egg heads.
“We were unable to implement the report because of the shortness of time. However, we have sent a copy to the National Assembly and this is a document that we are very hopeful that your government will look into and give it the attention it requires.
“It is also my pleasure, on behalf of the Vice-president, members of the executive council and other senior functionaries and especially the conference members that developed this report, the baby of the nation, to hand over this also to you.”
The President in his address enumerated the achievements of his administration in all sectors of the economy.
He equally spoke on the challenges his administration had been facing, occasioned by the violent activities of the terrorist group, Boko Haram.
He acknowledged that the Boko Haram menace preceded his administration, but expressed hope that it would be eradicated.
Jonathan also noted that he was optimistic that the abducted Chibok schoolgirls would return safely.
Before presenting the hand-over notes to Buhari, Jonathan had taken the President-elect on a guided tour of the Villa.
No regrets losing Presidency to Buhari — Jonathan
Meanwhile, in a related development, President Goodluck Jonathan has said that despite the painful loss of the presidential election to his opponent of the All Progressives Congress, Muhammadu Buhari, he has no regret over his defeat, describing the development as an act of God.
The President, who is handing over the mantle of leadership to Buhari today, spoke at a grand House Reception organised in his honour on Wednesday by Chairman Emeritus of DAAR Communications Plc, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, owners of AIT and RayPower.
The elaborate send-forth event, which attracted top Nigerians from all walks of life, was held at the Daar Communications Headquarters, Kpaduma Hills, Asokoro and was attended by many top Nigerians, including the Vice President, Namadi Sambo; Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko and Chairman/Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Sam Amuka.
Jonathan, who was also presented with rare mementos by Dokpesi, said: “By this time people are supposed to be running away from someone who has lost an election but I am being celebrated by Daar Communications Plc. For me, whatever happened in the election I have accepted it in good faith. Even though, some have argued that those I entrusted with my campaign disappointed me but I have no regrets for losing because in any political processes, there are all kinds of stories and conspiracies.
“We are a very religious society; whether Christians or Muslims or some other religions, I believe it is the will of God that the election went the way it did. I have always maintained that for the ordinary Nigerian, what is important is the style of governance, not who is even the president.
“Anybody can be the president any day but if the country is peaceful, and economic activities are going on smoothly, our children are going to school, hospitals are okay and they can eat what they want to eat, then, of course people will be happy.
“I believe the incoming administration will toe that line and Nigerians will begin to see that there is no difference between political parties because even as we see there is no difference between the PDP and the APC. If you look at the number of people that moved from PDP to APC, then you will really see that both parties are almost the same.
“What is important to us as Nigerians is what the government is bringing to bear and I have always maintained that politicians must learn to put the people first. If our aspiration is really for the interest of the people, then you wouldn’t want to hurt these people, you wouldn’t want anybody to be slapped because of your own ambition.
“For me, my ambition is to see what contribution I can make for the ordinary people and that is why their lives are special to me. And I wouldn’t do anything that would create crisis, to kill innocent people. People should not be surprised for the decision I took in Nigeria. I wouldn’t want to be a party to anything that will diminish this country.
“There is combination of bad and good in my administration just like in any other administration, but what should be uppermost in the mind of the leader is to make sure that the bad is not more than the good. One thing I must always ensure is peace and unity of this country.
“We must have a nation before aspiring to hold any position: without a nation, you can’t be elected to any post. I charge all politicians to consider the people first before self. You can losetoday and win tomorrow but anybody that dies in the process can’t be revived again. While looking for political offices, we must conduct ourselves in a way that will not halt the lives of innocent people,” Jonathan said.
Jonathan, a rare leader — Dopkesi
DAAR Communications Chairman, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, described Jonathan as a rare leader, who has made Nigeria and Africa proud because of his exemplary leadership, outstanding achievements that would be difficult to erase, despite bowing out of office.
Dokpesi explained that the event was specially organised by his company to pay tribute to the President for the sacrifice he made for peace to reign in Nigeria and for the numerous contributions he made in the area of infrastructural development.
Dokpesi said Jonathan had made history as the first African incumbent President to concede defeat.
While thanking the President, Dokpesi said the whole world will remember him as the one who laid foundation of democracy in Nigeria.
He is a selfless man — Amuka
Speaking at the grand event, Chairman of Vanguard Media Limited, Mr. Sam Amuka, who presented the star gift to President Jonathan, described him as a selfless man, who put Nigeria’s corporate interest above all other interests by conceding defeat just as the elections results were announced.
Amuka said: “God has used you to preserve Nigeria by one singular action you took. You saved this country by giving them peace. You are not only a national hero, you became an African hero and that made you a world statesman. Nigeria will not forget you for what you did, that moment you called the president-elect, Buhari, and conceded defeat. We will always thank you and appreciate you, Mr. President. God will bless you and go with peace of God”, the veteran Nigerian journalist and publisher, said.
Speaking at the ceremony, a member of the PDP’s Board of Trustees, Prof Jerry Gana, questioned the audacity of the critics of Jonathan’s administration, describing them as pathological cynics who had refused to admit the unprecedented achievements of President Jonathan spread across the country.
Gana asked such critics to learn to give due credit to President Jonathan and his administration, which he said had made a mark in the country. He also said that Jonathan had by his leadership style proved to the world that it is possible for a leader to be endowed with enormous powers but yet remain humble and human.
While reacting to the allegation by the APC that the PDP had failed in the last 16 years, Gana said the ruling party had succeeded in restoring democracy and confidence of Nigerians in the electoral system.
May 29: Eagle Square wears new look
Meantime, ahead of today’s inauguration of the president-elect, the popular Eagle Square, venue of the event in Abuja is already wearing an impressive new look.
Vanguard correspondent who visited the arena located at the central business area of Abuja metropolis yesterday saw that massive decoration of the place was still ongoing.
The VIP stand wore very exquisite look with the decorators still putting finishing touches to it.
There was a platform located some 100 meters away from the stand which appears to be where the rituals of the swearing in and indeed all other official protocols would be observed.
Flags of over 20 different countries of the world also adorned the outer part of the area that faced the National Assembly.
It will be recalled that over 50 different Heads of States and Governments would be witnessing the occasion.
The careful lavishing of the Green-white-green, colour of the Nigerian flag would surely convince any passer-by that a great Nigerian event was in the offing.
Most public buildings such as the Office of the Head of Service and a flank of the Federal Secretariat buildings also had a touch of green-white-green colour. Some broadcast media organizations were also seen setting up their equipment while security presence was high.
A combined team of soldiers, police and Department of State Service, DSS and Civil Defence Corps was visible within and outside the square.
Police patrol vehicles also littered the place just as the adjoining roads to the place had been cordoned off and movements restricted.
Heavy security at Abuja Airport as more guests arrive
Security at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja was strengthened, yesterday, as more guests arrived for the inauguration of President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari today.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Nigerian Air Force has taken over the entire security network at the airport to ensure smooth movement for the guests.
NAN observed that all the car parks at the airport have also been cleared, pushing all the cab operators away from the terminal.
Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, Deputy General Manager, Public Affairs, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) told NAN that the entire airport security had been taken over by the military.
Yakubu said that the measure was to ensure that adequate security was provided for both the local and international guests trooping in for the presidential inauguration.
She said that the clearing of the car parks was to ensure that there were no hitches in the movement of foreign guests during the period.
“You can see that the Air Force has taken over the security in the airport here; this is to ensure adequate security for all the invited guests to the presidential inauguration tomorrow.
Even taxi operators have been moved out of the car parks because we don’t want any traffic jam when the foreign dignitaries start arriving and it is for security reasons too,” she said.
Yakubu said that the airport however witnessed normal movement of passengers, adding that there was nothing unusual regarding the number of travellers at both the departure and arrival wings.