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Goodluck Jonathan ‘There was a plot to stop Buhari through military takeover

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Former President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat to Muhammadu Buhari in a phone conversation as the 2015 election results poured in; but behind the scenes, he asked his political party to contest the result in court.Goodluck Jonathan

That’s according to a new book titled “On a platter of gold: how Jonathan won and lost Nigeria” by current APC spokesperson Bolaji Abdullahi who served as Sports Minister in the Jonathan cabinet.

An advance copy of the book was made available to TheCable.

The online platform has been serialising excerpts from the book all week

APC spokesman, Bolaji Abdullahi
Author and APC spokesperson Bolaji Abdullahi (Signal)

According to the author; “many in President Jonathan’s circles were still convinced that he had moved too quickly to congratulate Buhari. As they saw it, he should have tarried a while and possibly consulted more.

“In spite of what had happened however, it was still possible to salvage something. Jonathan’s call had more or less shut the door on everything. However, so long as Buhari had not been sworn in, there would still be cracks that sheer grit and guile could blow wide open”.

The book also states that the idea of a military coup to stop Buhari’s inauguration was mooted.

Military takeover

“Another meeting was quickly summoned. Again, the idea of military takeover was mooted. The two most senior military officers at the meeting held to deliberate on this however advised that it was too late in the day.

Former President, Goodluck Jonathan and former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki
Jonathan chats with former NSA Sambo Dasuki (IB Times)

 “The ideal moment would have been before the six weeks postponement. If they had taken over at the time, they would have sacked (INEC chairman Attahiru) Jega as part of the military intervention and announced a new date for the election.

“While they might not be able to keep Jonathan in power, they would have been able to guarantee that Buhari would not be president. As things stood, no one would be able to withstand the bloodletting that could follow a military takeover after a clear winner had emerged.”

Top ranking PDP officials also held a meeting with Jonathan; where the decision to contest the election results–even after the concession phone call was made—was reached.

However, the PDP Chairman at the time, Adamu Mu’azu, refused to buy the plan, writes Abdullahi.

“By 6:00pm, all the President’s men and party bigwigs began to gather at the banquet hall of the Presidential Villa. Many had rushed back to Abuja for the meeting, anxious to know the next line of action. They had all heard the audio of the phone call, but opinions were sharply divided on whether the president had thrown in the towel too soon,” Abdullahi writes.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan (middle)
Fani Kayode and Jonathan during the campaign (Premium Times)

“One South-South governor disclosed that this banquet hall meeting was not the president’s original idea. He said soon after the president made the telephone call to Buhari, some Governors had gone to him to express their reservations about it.

“They felt he had conceded too cheaply. Their argument was that if the president and the party had rejected the outcome of the election, they would have gained a stronger platform to negotiate their exit.

“If the case had gone to court, probably going all the way to the Supreme Court, the Buhari government would have remained tentative until the matter was decided and this would have also bought Jonathan more time, or even more security out of office.

“They all agreed that all these were now merely academic. It was at this point that they decided to call a meeting and see if anything could still be done to salvage something from what at the time had effectively become a lost cause.

“Present at the meeting were Vice President, Namadi Sambo; Senate President David Mark and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; as well as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, who had also just contested and lost the governorship election in Imo State and was challenging the results. Others included: the People’s Democratic Party Board of Trustees Chairman, Tony Anenih;

ADAMU MUAZU
Former PDP Chairman Adamu Muazu (Leadership Hausa)

 “Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim; Governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke; Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, and former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi. All members of PDP National Working Committee (NWC) were also present, led by the party chairman, Adamu Mu’azu. The meeting was chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan.

“The back-slapping, generous banter and raucous laughter that usually preceded such meetings were missing on this day. The banquet hall of the Presidential Villa held several memories of more exciting days for most dignitaries. But what was about to happen was anything but a banquet.

“There would be no feasting. In the last four days, a funereal gloom had descended on the entire Villa, and the few people that could still be sighted went about with faces turned to the ground. The mood this Tuesday afternoon was not any different. Some made courageous attempts at humour, but these fell flat like a joke made at a burial ground.”

‘Stolen Presidency’

The author writes that Jonathan was the first to speak at this meeting.

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“Gentlemen, about an hour ago, I called General Buhari to congratulate him,” President Jonathan began. He explained that he did not make the call because he believed that the PDP lost the election, but rather, following advice from many people, he decided to concede in order to restore calm to the nation and avoid chaos. He added that, based on information at his disposal, he believed the election had been massively rigged and INEC was complicit in the fraud.

President Goodluck Jonathan, flanked by his Deputy, Namadi Sambo (left) and the PDP Nation Chairman, Adamu Mua'zu during a Presidential election campaign in Sokoto State.
Jonathan, Sambo, Muazu during the 2015 presidential campaign (Information NG)

 Jonathan thereafter urged his political party, PDP, to issue a statement saying it would contest the results of the vote in a court of competent jurisdiction.

“While I have done my bit as a statesman, I believe the party should issue a strong statement to reject the results and say that PDP will challenge it in court,” Jonathan said.

It was suggested that the National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, should issue the statement, writes Abdullahi.

Apparently, the lot would fall on party chairman Mu’azu to carry on with the plans reached at the meeting.

“At first, many did not know what to make of this. How was it possible to concede defeat and not accept the results? Was the president asking the party to overrule or disown him? And if they went along with his suggestion, would the end result not be the same chaos that he said he was trying to avert by making the phone call?

From left: PDP National Chairman, Adamu Mua'zu, President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo during a Presidential rally in Abakaliki.
Muazu and Jonathan during campaign (Punch)

 “Anenih had the answers. He said the precedent for this had been set a few months earlier by the opposition party itself. When Ayo Fayose was declared winner of the governorship election in Ekiti State, the incumbent, Kayode Fayemi, promptly accepted defeat and congratulated his opponent.

“Even though Fayemi believed the election to be flawed, he said he conceded in order to save the State from chaos. However, this did not stop the APC from challenging the results in court. Anenih expressed the view that the National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, should issue the statement.”

“Conscious that some others in the room also had their own battles to fight and were not primarily interested in Jonathan’s predicament, Anenih further stated that discussions on other elections and candidates should wait until the ‘stolen presidency’ was reclaimed.

Former PDP Chairman, Adamu Mu'azu
Adamu Muazu (Premium Times)

 “Anenih’s position was adopted and a team was put together, chaired by Metuh, to draft a statement for the party chairman. Others in the team were the party’s National Secretary, Adewale Oladipo; the National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon; Pius Anyim and Liyel Imoke. They went to work immediately and by the following morning, the statement was ready. However, the unexpected was about to happen,” Abdullahi writes.

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“When the draft statement was presented to Adamu Mu’azu, he declared that he would not release it. He said he had reflected on the idea of issuing a statement and was convinced it was not the way to go. Words soon got the Villa that the party chairman had backed out of the plan. Another round of panic began. The President himself called Mu’azu’s mobile number several times, but the party chairman did not answer the phone.

Mu’azu a traitor?

“Many around the president had suspected all along that Mu’azu was not altogether committed to the Jonathan project. They started grumbling openly that his appointment, as Chairman, was another mistake by Jonathan because Mu’azu himself wanted to be president. When the Chairman failed to show up for some campaign events, the public saw this as evidence that things had finally fallen apart. The party had to move quickly to deny that there was any crack in the PDP ranks.

Goodluck Jonathan flanked by his Deputy Namadi Sambo and the PDP Chairman, Adamu Mu'azu
Jonathan, Sambo, Muazu campaign for votes

 “Therefore, for those who had questioned Muazu’s loyalty, here finally was the clear evidence. If he had any objections to the decision taken at the previous day’s meeting, why didn’t he say so? they wondered. How could he have turned around to sabotage a plan that he was technically part and parcel of? But this was not the time for retribution. That could wait a few more days. The party chairman was still critical to their plans. An emissary was immediately dispatched to persuade him to have a rethink”.

Mu’azu tells Akpabio he is no bastard

Former Governor of Akwa Ibom and current Senate minority leader, Akpabio, was asked to meet Mu’azu and persuade him to head to court with the results of the election.

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But Mu’azu still wouldn’t budge, writes the author.

Jonathan hands over to Buhari
Transition between Jonathan, Buhari (Presidency)

“Godswill Akpabio marshaled all the arguments he could muster, but Mu’azu would not budge. It was also an opportunity for the party chairman to vent some of his grievances. ‘Look, Akpabio,’ he said, ‘I am not a bastard. I have honour to protect. The man who contested the election had conceded defeat. I should now be the one to say that the party would not accept defeat? When the candidate was picking his phone to congratulate the winner, did he consult with the party?’

Senator Godswill Akpabio and Gov Ayodele Fayose
Akpabio and Fayose share a laugh (The Whistler)

 “And in case anyone was thinking of blaming him for the president’s defeat, such person should think again. After all, didn’t he warn against the use of religion and ethnicity by the President’s wife and some of his other supporters like Ayo Fayose and Fani-Kayode? Didn’t he also warn that the personal attacks on Buhari would backfire, especially in the North? If no one listened to him then and allowed things to go pear-shaped, how could they now turn around and ask him to fall on his sword for sins committed by others?

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“He insisted that asking him to issue a statement that would most likely throw the country into turmoil was tantamount to asking him to commit suicide – if not literally, then certainly politically. If Akpabio liked, he could sign the statement himself. After all, he was the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum.  A few days after this encounter, Adamu Mu’azu left the country for Singapore.  Some said on medical grounds. Some said for security reasons. Others said both.”

Abdullahi’s book hits the shelves on November 30.

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