The insinuation in some quarters that former President Goodluck Jonathan handed over power to President Muhammadu Buhari as a result of external pressure brought to bear on him has been debunked by a former Minister of National Planning, Dr. Abubakar Sulaiman, even as he said the move saved the lives of many Nigerians.
The ex-minister also disclosed that Jonathan could have sacked the then Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, over clear evidences of partisanship in the build-up to the 2015 general elections, but chose not to.
Delivering a paper on the 2015 power transition in Nigeria at the annual Zik dinner lecture/award in Abuja, Sulaiman maintained that there were cases of compromise by INEC under the leadership of Jega.
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 unparallel 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”.
According to Suleiman, if Jonathan had wanted to scuttle Buhari’s election, he would have used the incumbency factor.
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 done it. Contrary to the opinion of many that perhaps he could not have done it or had no option not to do otherwise”.