The Minister of National Planning in the immediate past Goodluck Jonathan administration, Dr. Abubakar Sulaiman, has disclosed that there was pressure on the former president to replace former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, just before the 2015 presidential elections.
The ex-minister, however, noted that the former president’s decision not to heed to such calls, inspite of glaring evidence of partisanship on the part of the Jega-led INEC, not only saved the lives of many Nigerians, but also ensured the sanctity of the ballot box.
The 2015 general elections was widely adjudged to be one of the most peaceful, transparent and credible polls in Nigeria’s recent history as the opposition, for the first time, defeated the ruling party.
Delivering a paper on the 2015 power transition in Nigeria at the annual Zik dinner lecture /award in Abuja, Sulaiman said that contrary to insinuations in some quarters, especially by the governing All Progressives Congress, APC, ex-President Jonathan did not hand over power to President Muhammadu Buhari because he was under external pressure to do so.
According to him, it was the “unparalleled” leadership style of Mr. Jonathan that informed his decision to allow a peaceful transition process.
He said: “Few months to the general elections, there were calls from some quarters for the sack of the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attairu Jega.
“There were sufficient grounds for such calls but President Goodluck maintained a position that taking such decision would altercate the process and create an impression which only an insider would understand. There were indeed cases of compromise on the part of the commission, but as the president so wished, let the sleeping dog lies.
“Invariably, the decision to maintain the status quo in the commission by the administration was one decision that further led credence to the peaceful outcome of the electoral process. We must not forget that the president in his exercise of his constitutional power has the authority to fire the chairman and replace him with any of the National Commissioners to preside over the commission.
“Nobody should be on the illusion that the president lacked the gut to exercise such power. After all, Gen. Babangida annulled the June 12 election, thereby depriving Chief M.K.O Abiola of his awaiting victory.
“It is within context of this remarkable gesture and unparalleled leadership style of the president that I found it disturbing when the APC led government sometimes grudgingly acknowledged this fact or believed that it was the external pressure that accounted for such political accomplishment”.
The ex-minister insisted that if Jonathan had wanted to scuttle Buhari’s election, he would have easily done so an incumbent.
He said: “The extent to which a political transition is peaceful and credible depends largely on variance of factors. We have however demonstrated the import of leadership factor has been consequential to the outcome of any electoral process. Is it the leadership that was out to tame the process or the one that respect the sanctity of the electoral body and other agencies?
“This paper has successfully argued that more than any government in the past, the Jonathan administration has demonstrated penchant for rule of law, freedom and untainted electoral process.
“The power of a president is such that if he had wanted to truncate the process or manipulate it, he could have”, he said.