OUTGOING President Goodluck Jonathan lost his re-election bid several weeks before the March 28 poll to a web of plots hatched at home and honed abroad, Saturday Tribune has reliably learnt.
Information also in possession of Saturday Tribune revealed a last-minute contest between forces that wanted him to bow out and those that wanted him to hold out for as long as necessary even when it was evident that the news from the field pointed at a possible defeat.
It was learnt that as of 5.00 p.m. on Tuesday, hawks around the president were still at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, piling pressure on him not to concede defeat.
Those working on him to concede and bow out, reportedly led by a former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, were also said to have stayed put in the same Presidential Villa, persuading him that it was the most honourable way to go since it was clear that figures from the field were not in his favour.
The drama in the Presidential Villa was also said to be closely monitored by combined international forces that had concluded on post-Jonathan presidency, reportedly led by the United States of America and the United Kingdom.
One of those around the president persuading him to stay put was said to be a General in the army from a not-too-core Northern state, reportedly assuring him that the alleged irregularities in the North, underage voters, among other issues, which were beamed live by a national television station and shown on the Cable News Network (CNN) would be enough ground for him to reject the outcome.
The president was also allegedly told that he would be making General Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) heroes by conceding to them, because all the good works he had done which were nearing fruition would blossom during their reign and would count as their achievements.
He reportedly told them that no matter how long he stayed in office, he would still leave one day and since crisis was certain to herald his opposition to the outcome, he would be reneging on his promise that no Nigerian blood would be worth his political ambition.
Convinced that it was the way to go, the president reportedly took “his own” by surprise by making the now-famous phone call to Buhari without telling them, although they were present at the president’s abode.
He was also said to have played a fast one on the hawks by making the call before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced Buhari as the winner, following his assessment of the figures available to him, while those pressurising him to hang on reportedly thought the concession would be after the announcement by the electoral body as is usually the practice.
The western world, according to available information, keyed into the Buhari presidency project months before the election and the refusal to sell arms to Nigeria to fight the Boko Haram insurgency by Washington was said to be mainly predicated on the likelihood of Jonathan’s administration using same to quell possible civil disobedience if he manipulated the results to remain in power.
With political forces in the nation led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo reportedly concluded on getting him out at all cost, the western world, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom, were said to have been persuaded into the project on two main planks; corruption and insecurity.
Settled that Jonathan’s administration had been underwhelming in performance in those two critical areas and convinced that the incumbent was bent on retaining his job, the international coalition allegedly undermined his administration as much as possible, with allies elsewhere, including Africa, also allegedly brought into the Jonathan-must-go project.
A source pointed at two main happenings in the course of the election to show how deeply the international community was involved, while making the outgoing president to be at ease, despite the rug being pulled off his feet.
The US and the UK had been at the forefront of peace pacts across the nation, starting with Jonathan and Buhari in what came to be known as Abuja Peace Accord, with Jonathan’s government having to react angrily at a point at the perceived temerity with which top diplomats from the western world were handling peace pacts and activities regarding the electoral process.
“They almost became a parallel government in Nigeria. That is what you get when a leader is too pacifist,” a source in the government said.
The unprecedented joint statement by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, overtly accusing Jonathan’s camp of moves to tamper with the incoming results of the presidential election was seen as the final move by them to show the side they were on in the contest.
The government source noted that APC was always calling on the international community to wade in when accusing Jonathan’s government of plots to manipulate the elections, because an understanding existed between them after Buhari’s appearance at Chatham House and his famous interview with the CNN.
After the field job was done and figures confirmed Jonathan’s loss, those behind the plot to ease him out and save the country from chaos were said to have moved to the last stage in the presidential contest, which was to persuade him to accept defeat, since his refusal of same could ignite the South-South and South-East and possible bloody attacks on Northerners in such states.
A predictable reprisal in the North was projected as possible fulfilment of the feared break-up. The oil interests of those western nations in the Niger-Delta also reportedly necessitated a negotiated peaceful exit for him by persuading him to accept defeat and assurance obtained from Buhari that Jonathan would face no harassment out of office.
Having fulfilled his own part, Buhari had also fulfilled his with public pronouncement that Jonathan had nothing to fear under his administration, while engaging in peace preachment to his supporters.
Apart from obtaining assurance from Buhari, the western world would also lead in global praise of Jonathan, aimed at attenuating the pains of making the wrong history of being the first defeated incumbent, while leading opposition figures were also said to be under firm instruction not to attack him in any ways until he steps down on May 29.
The US and UK were particularly said to have completely bought into the anti-Jonathan project following his decision to turn to Russia for purchase of arms, with a diplomat in foreign service saying that it would have been better for Jonathan to completely move over to Russia’s side instead of playing in the middle.
According to him, “whoever advised him to purchase arms from Russia when a real war was on with the United States misled the president. You don’t even do that during the Cold War, let alone during this “Hot War.” There was no way US intelligence circle would forgive a big nation like Nigeria making such diplomatic faux pas.
“These security experts have serious leverage over American presidents. Regardless of any friendship that could be between (American president, Barack) Obama and Jonathan, when such security goons say it is time for a leader of a nation to go, American presidents hardly say no and, obviously, Jonathan had no serious pact with (Russian president, Vladimir) Putin, beyond buying arms.”
Since the presidential election result was announced, President Obama had issued about three press statements on the outcome, Jonathan’s concession and the need for the two leaders to keep preaching peace to their supporters as well as asking that finest democratic ideals should be upheld in the conduct of the April 11 governorship election.
A government source explained that Obama’s unusual interest in the governorship election was borne out of fears that Jonathan might take his frustration of loss out on the process and tamper with it in a way to give his party, which would be in opposition from May 29, an edge in governorship spread by winning as many states as possible.
In days ahead, it was gathered that beyond the phone calls, Jonathan may be visiting the United States as a special guest of Obama which, an insider said, is aimed at retaining him as the face of peace offering to the Niger-Delta, which is feared could become the breeding ground for fifth columnists that would make the nation’s economy unmanageable for Buhari.