President Goodluck Jonathan, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) must be commended for conceding defeat and subsequently calling to congratulate the president-elect even before the last result was officially announced, Jonathan did not only carve a niche for himself but also demonstrated that he is a true democrat.
The Director, Media and Publicity Directorate of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Organization, APCPCO, Mallam Garba Shehu, in Abuja Spoke with Sunday Vanguard, Shehu, who was central to the election of Buhari by way of information dissemination and management, said that the campaign was the fiercest he had ever witnessed since he debuted into partisan politics.
He said: “I can say that the President acted with grace. He surprised us because we never expected that they would accept defeat. In fact, the sense everyone had was that they probably had plan A, B, C or D. And in any case, with the kind of thing that Mr. Orubebe did at the collation center, you knew that even when the President had grace, given the chance with the community of people around him, they could have threatened this democracy.
“Look, I have been involved in presidential campaigns about three or four times in the past, the difference is that this is the most fearful campaign that I have ever experienced. This is the most life threatening campaign because we were dealing with opponents we thought would stop at nothing because they were throwing everything into it.
“So, we were not taking anything for granted. It affected our lives. Would you see me in a night club? You couldn’t risk it because you didn’t even know who was trailing you. And it came as a huge relief.
“Again, we were getting security reports from our own sources. Until the President said ‘I concede’ and congratulated Buhari, we felt every minute that something wrong would happen. There was a clear and discernible threat to democracy as a system of government.
“Look, everyone felt concerned because, what if, God forbid, he declared a coup? These scenarios had been laid before Nigerians. Mr. Okupe, the Special Adviser to the President, was he not on Youtube, recorded on video, saying that Buhari will never become President? What do you take that for? It means that Buhari would win and they will take it away from him.
Now that politics is over, would the president-elect embrace everyone or would there be some temptation to…?
No. Don’t even ask this question. There will be no temptation to go after anyone. There is no time for witch-hunt. He has said it. The enormity of the challenges ahead of him is such that he doesn’t need to spend one minute looking back to what has happened. There is enough to do looking forward. He has extended his hand of fellowship to all Nigerians and please take note of this: it includes Fani-Kayode, Governor Fayose, Chief Clark, Asari-Dokubo, all of them. Those outrageous people, he has extended his hands of fellowship. He will embrace them and they should be prepared to play their role in the reinvigoration of this country. That is my understanding of what he has said.
Now, assuming the election went the other way, would you have accepted it the way President Jonathan has done?
With the credibility all across, let me tell you one thing, APC, in accepting all of the results, I believe you will agree with me that we have blind-sided all of the outrageous things that happened. You know that in Imo, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Rivers States, no elections took place because two things happened: they sabotaged the card reader technology, insisted on the use of voters register for accreditation and that took the election back to the PDP’s manner of doing things. And that’s how those numbers came. It is incredible that all House of Reps seats, all senatorial seats in Rivers, they have been taken. They will go to court I believe and they will recover their seats. But you know that the card reader worked in the North, South-West and this is why elections were credible in those parts. In some parts of the South East, it did work. But in Imo State, it didn’t. But I am saying that, for us, we have chosen to show grace because by accepting those numbers from Akwa Ibom, Delta, Rivers, you could see that it only narrowed our margin. It didn’t stop us. So, what else do you want? You have won the elections fair and square. So, what do you want again? You know that kind of thing. Otherwise, there is a real case to be made with all of things that happened there. And it had a substantial effect on our margin. We knew we were going to win the election. It was clear between 65 to 75 percent.
But are you not surprised that most of the perceived hate speech campaigners turned around to congratulate your presidential candidate immediately he was declared the winner of the election?
No, I wasn’t surprised because if one says one is surprised, then one does not really know Nigerians. There will be bandwagon. People will ride on the bandwagon train. They would like it. And it tells you that the people who were doing all of that didn’t even believe in the kind of things that were going on. They were just led to it. Basically, they had gone there to fight and there was plenty of food and money for them, otherwise why was it that they couldn’t defend the positions? They couldn’t defend anything because they never believed in it. So, for us, we are very happy about it.
The other day, one security man was saying ‘Oga, NTA and AIT people were at the door, we must stop them with your permission’. I said no. If we do that, then we are not graceful. We have won this election, we must show grace. In any case, the president-elect has said that he will be president for all Nigerians. And I can assure you that it is the same way he said that President Jonathan will have nothing to fear. That speech has been closed as far as we are concerned. Those guys have done their own part and we still believe that a good number of them still have things to contribute positively to the new administration because this is their own country. They have no other country than this one.
Your party did say that the President’s action helped to douse any conceivable post-election crisis. Did you share that perspective?
Absolutely. Look, everyone had felt concerned because, what if, God forbid, he declared a coup? These scenarios had been laid before Nigerians. Mr. Okupe, the Special Adviser to the President, was he not on Youtube, recorded on video, saying that Buhari will never become President? What do you take that for? It means that Buhari would win and they will take it away from him. This careless talk, arrogant display of power, it had come from the Villa. Many sources with linkages to power: Asari-Dokubo, Chief E.K. Clark and all of them, were they not sounding words to the President? They said it that they would take away their part of the country from Nigeria if Buhari won. But for the President to have come and say ‘I accept accept defeat as the leader of the country’; that had an effect of really calming things down. And that’s why, whether they like it or not, President Jonathan has written his name in gold in so far as this is concerned.
But people may say that those statements were mere politics, that there was a time to play politics and they did play politics irrespective of what was said. Don’t you see it as that?
Let me tell you that even politics has norms. There is a bottom line. It should be said of somebody that this person cannot go beyond a given point. This is the most horrible campaign anybody could have run. It wasn’t politics. It was enmity. We saw it. It was hatred. And that was why when we took our case to the ICC, they were very quick to understand the import of our petition.
Find the complete interview here: VANGUARD