Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Thursday said countries across the African continent are happy over the outcome of the presidential election in Nigeria, which saw Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) of the All Progressives Congress floor incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
Mr. Obasanjo said his checks in a number of African countries suggested they were as happy over the result of the election as majority of Nigerians are.
The former Nigerian leader referred to his estranged political godson, President Goodluck Jonathan, as a moving train, who was providentially stopped from collapsing Nigeria.
“I have visited six countries since the election, they are as happy about the results as we are in Nigeria. It is good not only for Nigeria, it is good for Africa and I believe it is good for the world”, he said.
Mr. Obasanjo, who led the African Union Observation Mission to the April 2015 General Election in Sudan, spoke on Thursday at a Washington DC event.
The former president described Nigeria as a country that obsessively plays “a dangerous game of moving close to the precipice”.
He noted that the country came close to disintegration in the run-up to the 2015 elections but switched swiftly to the path of redemption after the polls.
“I hope we will not fall over one of these days”, he said.
Mr. Obasanjo said one month to the election, no one believed “we will have a peaceful election that is reasonably free and fair”.
Describing his role in the election as that of a person standing on the track of a moving train, the former Peoples Democratic Party Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman said during the countdown to the elections, he faced the option of “jumping off” the tracks or “be crushed” if the train did not providentially get “derailed and stop”.
He, however, said he did not jump and was not crushed adding that “at every stage, there must be leaders imbued with sufficient courage and will to stand firm when you have to stand firm”.
He described the results of the elections as what Nigerians “deserve” though some Nigerians “did not want it”.
The former Nigerian president was the featured speaker at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) event titled, “What is Right with Africa: Reframing Africa’s Leadership Challenges”.
He made these remarks in response to a question by Princeton Lyman, a former Ambassador to Nigeria.
Mr. Obasanjo observed that Nigeria’s tendency to flirt with near-death experiences scould be traced to the days of colonial rule when it almost cost the country the chance of gaining political independence from Britain.
Recalling colonial-era disagreements over self-rule, the former president said at a stage, advocates of self-rule from the Eastern and Western Regions decided to “let the North go” since their leaders were reluctant to accept regional autonomy back then.
“But reason prevailed”, he said. “East and West got internal autonomy in 1957, North got same in 1959 and the whole country got independence in 1960”.
Listing the 1964 post-election violence in the south west and the 1966 coup d’etats, which led to “pogrom and civil war” as other self-destructive phases in the country’s history, Mr. Obasanjo remarked that Nigeria emerged from all of these as “one entity” in spite of contrarian speculations.
“Not only did we survive the civil war but, within nine years, somebody from the rebel side, as we called them, and somebody from the vandal side, as they called us, became president and vice-president of Nigeria. Not many countries achieve that”, he said.
He went further to describe the 2015 election as “almost in the same category” as other near-death experiences in Nigeria’s history.
He said one month to the election, no one believed “we will have a peaceful election that is reasonably free and fair”, but “I think we are now building institutions that can withstand what we may see as danger to good governance in Africa”.
The ex-president opined that the 2015 polls has moved Nigeria one very important step up in our democratic dispensation, process and practice.