Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
Contrary to the claim in some quarters that the former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, was pressured into conceding defeat after the 2015 presidential election, he said yesterday that he took the decision based on a conviction that it was the right thing to do. Jonathan spoke at the graduation ceremony of Bingham University in Nasarawa State, where he and ex-head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, were awarded honorary doctorate degrees. It was his first public or formal reaction to the insinuation that there was a great deal of pressure on him to concede defeat.
The former president said, “I understand from the Vice Chancellor’s speech and the citation that I was selected for this award because I ensured a peaceful and united country during my tenure as President, especially during the 2015 general election.
“I thank the university for appreciating that single act. It is my belief that no one’s political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. And I am fulfilled knowing that my conceding while the votes were still being compiled, which was born out of my personal principles and convictions, is generating positive impact in other nations.
“Let me make it clear that I was not persuaded to do so by anyone within or outside the country. I know it was the right thing to do.
“My mantra: ‘my ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian,’ is my vow. It was not just a political slogan.
“One of the reasons I convened the 2014 National Conference was to come up with a polity devoid of tension and crisis. A polity that will bring unity to this country. A polity that will not divide us along tribal, ethnic or religious lines.”
Jonathan had called his main challenger at the March 28 presidential election last year, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, in the evening of March 30 to congratulate him on his victory, in a historic gesture, the first by a sitting African head of state. But there were insinuations that he bowed to pressure from some prominent Nigerians and world leaders.
But speaking publicly for the first time on the matter, Jonathan said it was in his nature to toe the path of peace for the general good of society. He condemned the actions of some politicians who he accused of sending their own children abroad, only to recruit the children of other people as thugs to fight and die during elections because of their greedy ambitions. He said such acts were against human dignity.
According to Jonathan, “I believe in a peaceful Nigeria and since my award today is based on my commitment to peace, I have a simple message to my fellow graduands and, indeed, the entire student body.
“For the young men and women that are receiving their degrees and certificates in this convocation, we are handing over the baton of leadership to you. You must unite and embrace peace for us to have the Nigeria of our dreams.”
On his acceptance of the award, the former president said, “During my service as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I had many invitations from national and international institutions to be honoured, but I declined because I believe one is better honoured after service.
“The only honorary doctorate award I accepted in the country was from my alma mater, the University of Port Harcourt, when I was a Vice President.”
Jonathan praised the authorities of Bingham University, saying, “By imparting knowledge through this institution, you are saving lives and advancing the course of education in Nigeria. I was mindful of this duty during my time in office, which is why my administration made it a practice to give education the highest sectoral allocation in the federal budgets between 2011 and 2015.
“It was also for this reason that we made sure that we established 12 federal universities in the 12 states that had none. Incidentally, nine of such states are right here in northern Nigeria.”