Jonathan presidency will re-brand Nigeria’s national and international image

Goodluck Jonathan

By Ibrahim Shetima

Since former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan conceded power to the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari after the 2015 presidential election, his actions and activities outside of office have continued to attract national and international accolades.

Jonathan had surprised everybody, especially his political associates, when the results of the presidential election was being collated and it was obvious that the All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) was winning, called him and congratulated him for his envisaged victory.

That was the only time since Nigeria rejoined the comity of democratic nations in 1999 that an incumbent president had been defeated in an election by the opposition. Jonathan’s decision was actually a soothing balm, considering the tense atmosphere in Nigeria during the build up to the 2015 presidential election. 

It was, however, not shocking to many as the former president himself had during his electioneering insisted that his political ambition was not worth a drop of blood of any Nigerian. That singular act was applauded locally and internationally to the extent that Buhari, during his acceptance speech after being sworn in as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29, 2015, declared that Jonathan has set the standard for all politicians in the country.

Since then, he wears the glowing reputation of being the first incumbent president in Nigeria to accept defeat in an election. The ovation generated by the rare democratic statesmanship by GEJ then remains indelible in our country’s history.

Internationally, the former president has been honoured in various fields, as well as appointed peace ambassador across the globe. He was appointed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as a special envoy to lead the sub-regional body’s mediation mission in Mali.

As a special envoy, his task include, among others, to facilitate dialogue with all principal stakeholders in Mali, including President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, opposition leaders, civil society as well as religious organisations, towards resolving the worsening socio-political situation in the West African country, a task he promised to do his best to ensure that the mission achieves the desired result.

The West African nation has been hit by protests, sparked by the outcome of parliamentary elections in March and April, perceived discontent over the government’s handling of Mali’s jihadist insurgency and worsening economy.

The former president’s appointment was communicated to him in a letter signed by Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, President of the ECOWAS Commission, which says, “Given your position as the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the great role and contributions your tenure offered to the maintenance of peace, security and stability in our region, I have the honour, in consultation with the Chair of the Authority, H.E. Issoufou Mahamadou, President of the Republic of Niger, to communicate to you the decision to appoint you as ECOWAS Special Envoy for the socio-political crisis in Mali.”

While former President Jonathan was still basking in the euphoria of his appointment by ECOWAS, the United Nations appointed him the UN Global Crisis Envoy. Jonathan’s appointment reputedly makes him the first African former leader that the United Nations would honour with such an international role.

The former president’s new job compares to that of Britain’s former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who after leaving office as prime minister was named the envoy to the Middle East for the United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia.

As recognitions were pouring in from across the globe for his role in maintaining peace, Jonathan was yet appointed as Chairman of the International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP)-Africa.

The position was previously held by the late President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia as well as the late President Benjamin Mkapa of the Republic of Tanzania, because of his commitment to education and human capital development.

Jonathan was further appointed the Chancellor of Cavendish University Uganda (CUU). “Welcome aboard Goodluck Jonathan as you take over as the Chancellor of CUU. We look forward to this new era and achieving great things under your leadership. Success begins at Cavendish!” his appointment letter read in part.

The private university, in existence since 2008, is among the top-ranked in Uganda and in Africa. CUU held its first graduation ceremony in November 2011. Glad that since leaving office in 2015, Jonathan has been honoured with several appointments, awards and speaking events nationally and internationally, President Buhari described him as an “astute mediator” and congratulated him “for his uniting efforts” on the Mali situation.

Jonathan has continued to be hailed by individuals and organisations as a political game changer. One of them is Joseph Beasley, the South-east Regional Director of Rainbow/PUSH and an expert on African affairs who described Jonathan as “a global statesman” who set a political precedent for peaceful transitions among African leaders.

“Goodluck Jonathan is an extraordinary human being who comes from humble beginnings,” Atlanta-based international activist Beasley said, adding “Goodluck Jonathan could well become the President of the United States of Africa and a role model for the 250 million Africans living in the Diaspora.”

That fervent feeling about Dr. Jonathan, and his potential impact as a political force on the international stage, is what compelled Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference [SCLC] to honour him. He was awarded with the Presidential Award in recognition of his leadership in advancing human rights, social justice and the fight for universal freedom.

The SCLC was co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957. His sister-in-law Dr. Naomi King was present to greet and salute Dr. Jonathan. The event was part of the activities leading up to the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Former President Jonathan is the first African leader to be so honoured.

“While Dr. Jonathan has had his problems, as we all have, we believe his historic efforts to preserve peace and nonviolence during his nation’s presidential transition of power is a notable first for Nigeria, and a significant step for the continent over which it holds increasing sway,” said Steele.

“His actions then to step aside and not fight his defeat, and what he is doing now to promote peace and prosperity around the world with his Goodluck Jonathan Foundation reflects the spirit of peace, love and justice championed by Martin Luther King Jr.”

Jonathan responded that his vision is to help stabilise and promote democracy and peace in Africa, stressing that without peace you cannot have economic progress.

At the event, Jonathan expressed his gratitude to the SCLC for inviting him and declared that it was “virtually impossible to separate this worthy body from its founder, the late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or from epoch-making landmark events of the American Civil Rights movement.”

“My personal takeaway from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is service to God and the brotherhood and equality of all men before their Creator.

“In keeping with that, I have learned not to look up to any man, except he is taller than I or to look down on a fellow mortal, except I am admiring his shoes,” he said.

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jonathan said, “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.

“Those words helped me deliver on my stated promise to deepen democracy in Nigeria and in the process demonstrate through action that nobody’s political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian.”

On his part, Adesanya Adebayo Eniola said, “Dr. Jonathan’s exit from office may prove to be the tipping point for political change and the end of dictatorships throughout Africa.”

“Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is a good leader, he will be respected all over the world for a long time to come, because of the singular sacrifices he made to unite Nigeria and Africa at large by laying a good example for accepting the results of the 2015 presidential election. This has become a reference point when it comes to elections in Africa. Many believe that if Jonathan doesn’t accept the results of his election defeat, war might spring out in Nigeria.

“Dr. Jonathan has taught many aspiring African leaders and future world leaders to accept election results so as to sustain democracy in the entire world.”

With Jonathan’s continued recognition, globally, it is directly or indirectly helping to shore up Nigeria’s image at home and abroad. Based on these and many other uncountable and unreported or under-reported patriotic services to Nigeria, he is unarguably the biggest political and democratic image maker for the country. 

Therefore, Nigeria will ultimately benefit more if he returns in 2023, as the president once again. This is the expectation and prayer of most Nigerians from all walks of life. All hands should, therefore, be on deck with a view to ensuring that this big feat is achieved. 

Shetima, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lafia, Nasarawa state.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily