President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday reiterated his surprise that former President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat in the 2015 Presidential despite being the incumbent President with all state powers.
Buhari made this remark late on Thursday night while hosting 18 supporters comprising members of the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by its National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, party men and women and select senators of the APC in his residence in the Presidential Villa.
The President said he marveled that his predecessor cheaply conceded defeat “bearing in mind that having stayed for so long in the corridors of power, he could deploy all the arsenals within his reach to destabilise the system.”
Buhari said: “He (Jonathan) rang me and said, ‘Your Excellency,’ and l said, ‘Your Excellency sir.’ He said ‘l ring to congratulate you.’ I will not forget the time. He said ‘l ring to congratulate you that l have conceded defeat, congratulations.’ He said ‘did you hear me?’ I said ‘yes sir. Thank you very much for your statesmanship’ because after being a deputy governor, governor, vice president and president for six years, for him to take that decision… because he could cause some problems having stayed long enough in his capacity.’
The President also said that the persistent allegations that he hates Ndigbo always hit him below the belt, describing the allegations as unjustifiable.
Buhari who went down memory lane to recall his political experiences since 2003 when he began to run for the presidency, said he was usually pained by the allegation, stating that he had favoured the South-east zone which gave him meagre votes more than the North where he said got the bulk of votes at the 2015 presidential election in his cabinet.
Specifically, he said whereas the South-east gave him the total paltry 198,000 votes at the election, the president argued that such votes were only equal to the number of votes that he got in only one local government area of the North.
While attempting to assuage the minds of people of the notion of hate against Ndigbo, Buhari restated that in the North where he got the bulk of the votes which brought him to power as Nigeria’s president, seven states from the three geo-political zones of the region got ministers of state while four of the five states of the South-east got four substantive ministerial offices.
He therefore dismissed the allegation, saying it was untrue and those making such allegation could not have meant it.
“But to cap it all, let me tell you what hits me very hard. In the three geo-political zones of the North, seven of the states have junior ministers but in South-east where l got 198,000 votes which any local government in other geo-political zones gave me, l have four substantive ministers and l have junior ministers from seven states of the North.
“So, for the problem of this country, please look at the people more than yourself. Don’t allow anybody to bring that allegation of ethnic bigotry. It is not true. They don’t mean it,” he said.
Buhari, who narrated his ordeals from Appeal Court to the Supreme Court between 2003 and 2011, said he had chosen the group of 18, along with other notable party leaders, to help him brainstorm on how to solve Nigerian problems.
He appealed to them to help him reflect on all he went through before becoming president with a view to addressing the myriad of Nigeria’s problems.
Recalling how he was reckless as a military head of state by pronouncing former governors and ministers guilty and throwing them into Kirikiri Prisons in Lagos before giving them any right to fair hearing, Buhari pointed out that he eventually became the victim of the same punishment he meted to people as he was also arrested and held for three and half years.
The president also narrated how the introduction of permanent voter cards changed the equation in 2015 and ended his 12 years of struggle for the presidency, disclosing that the advent of PVC ensured that a voter could only vote where he registered.
He concluded that having gone through several ordeals before becoming president, he would never be hasty to take any decision but would rather act in clear conscience, assuring that he would never forget his guests particularly those who had supported his aspiration from 2003 till date.
“I will never forget the three times that l was in Supreme Court. l virtually refused to give up and l know what we all went through. So, this last one, with technology and determination of Nigerians, this PVC made sure that wherever you registered, you vote there and your vote will count there and the same time, you go for voter education.
“So, please, you are the side group of 60 persons that l felt l had to invite.
Let’s reason together and sit down here for the group to solve the problems of this country and l will want us to reflect on the historical scenes before l arrived here.
“When l was in uniform, l was reckless. I got all the ministers and governors. I put them in Kirikiri. I said ‘you are guilty and you can prove yourself innocent.’ But l too was put away for three and half years.
“I decided to drop the uniform and come back here. So, really, l have gone through it over and over again. That is why I’m not in a hurry to do anything but will sit down and reflect and continue in clear conscience. Thank you for accepting my invitation. Please, if l don’t ring you, if l don’t call for a moment, l never forget how you supported me at one stage or the other from 2003 till now,” Buhari said.
In his response, the party chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, who announced the endorsement of the party leaders for Buhari’s re-election in 2019, persuaded the president to throw his hat into the ring for a re-election next year.
Odigie-Oyegun said they were solidly behind the president’s return to power come 2019, revealing that some of them had already begun to work for him at the background.
According to him, if the president fails to run for a second term in office, all the ruling party had laboured for in four years would be in vain.
“I want to assure you that we are firmly behind you and that when you decide as l hope you will soon, you will find an Army behind you. Those that are interested are already working behind you. It is my hope that you will agree eventually that continuity is critical. Otherwise, all we have struggled for will come to nothing,” Oyegun said.
The chairman who expressed hopes that the fruits of Buhari’s labour since 2015 would begin to come into fruition this year, prayed that the president would leave a legacy as the builder of modern Nigeria.
“It has taken three years of foundation laying. Thank God the harvest will begin this year. My hope is that it will come early enough for people to see so that you can be called the architect of modern Nigeria, architect of a modern country whose economy is domiciled in this country based on the sweat of Nigeria, the sweat of men in every endeavour. I hope you ‘ll be seen as the architect of modern Nigeria.
Present at the meeting besides Odigie-Oyegun were former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Senators Rabiu Kwankwaso, Aliyu Wamakko and Abdullahi Adamu, former Abia, Enugu, and Ekiti State governors, Orji Uzor Kalu, Sullivan Chime and Segun Oni.
Others are Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and the National Secretary of the APC, Mai Mala Buni.