Ahmed Adamu Mu’azu, chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the historic 2015 presidential poll, furiously reacted to suggestions that he should reject Muhammadu Buhari’s victory after President Goodluck Jonathan had openly conceded.
Jonathan, after congratulating Buhari in an unprecedented telephone call while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was yet to officially announce the winner, told party members that although he had conceded to Buhari in his personal capacity, PDP was free to reject the result.
Before Jonathan conceded, however, Mu’azu had threatened to do so on behalf of the party.
He even stopped picking Jonathan’s calls at some point.
All these are snippets of the intrigues that followed Jonathan’s defeat — as narrated by Bolaji Abdullahi in a new book, ‘On a Platter of Gold: How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria’, which will go on sale nationwide from November 30, 2017 after launch.
In the advance copy, the author said many of Jonathan’s supporters believed he was too hasty in congratulating Buhari and were looking at ways to undo the gesture.
It was then suggested that the PDP could still challenge the election in spite of the concession statement by Jonathan — but they had to move quickly. A meeting was scheduled for 6pm of Tuesday, March 31, three days after the election.
“By 6:00pm, all the President’s men and party bigwigs began to gather at the banquet hall of the Presidential Villa. Many had rushed back to Abuja for the meeting, anxious to know the next line of action. They had all heard the audio of the phone call, but opinions were sharply divided on whether the president had thrown in the towel too soon,” Abdullahi wrote.
“One South-South governor disclosed that this banquet hall meeting was not the president’s original idea. He said soon after the president made the telephone call to Buhari, some governors had gone to him to express their reservations about it. They felt he had conceded too cheaply. Their argument was that if the president and the party had rejected the outcome of the election, they would have gained a stronger platform to negotiate their exit.
“If the case had gone to court, probably going all the way to the Supreme Court, the Buhari government would have remained tentative until the matter was decided and this would have also bought Jonathan more time, or even more security out of office. They all agreed that all these were now merely academic. It was at this point that they decided to call a meeting and see if anything could still be done to salvage something from what at the time had effectively become a lost cause.
“Present at the meeting were Vice President, Namadi Sambo; Senate President David Mark and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; as well as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, who had also just contested and lost the governorship election in Imo State and was challenging the results. Others included: the People’s Democratic Party Board of Trustees Chairman, Tony Anenih; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim; Governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke; Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, and former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi. All members of PDP National Working Committee (NWC) were also present, led by the party chairman, Adamu Mu’azu. The meeting was chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan.
“The back-slapping, generous banter and raucous laughter that usually preceded such meetings were missing on this day. The banquet hall of the Presidential Villa held several memories of more exciting days for most dignitaries. But what was about to happen was anything but a banquet. There would be no feasting. In the last four days, a funereal gloom had descended on the entire Villa, and the few people that could still be sighted went about with faces turned to the ground. The mood this Tuesday afternoon was not any different. Some made courageous attempts at humour, but these fell flat like a joke made at a burial ground.”
Abdullahi narrated what transpired at the meeting, beginning with the opening speech of Jonathan.
“Gentlemen, about an hour ago, I called General Buhari to congratulate him,” President Jonathan began. He explained that he did not make the call because he believed that the PDP lost the election, but rather, following advice from many people, he decided to concede in order to restore calm to the nation and avoid chaos. He added that, based on information at his disposal, he believed the election had been massively rigged and INEC was complicit in the fraud.
“While I have done my bit as a statesman, I believe the party should issue a strong statement to reject the results and say that PDP will challenge it in court,” he said, and suggested that the National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, should issue the statement.
“At first, many did not know what to make of this. How was it possible to concede defeat and not accept the results? Was the president asking the party to overrule or disown him? And if they went along with his suggestion, would the end result not be the same chaos that he said he was trying to avert by making the phone call?
“Anenih had the answers. He said the precedent for this had been set a few months earlier by the opposition party itself. When Ayo Fayose was declared winner of the governorship election in Ekiti State, the incumbent, Kayode Fayemi, promptly accepted defeat and congratulated his opponent. Even though Fayemi believed the election to be flawed, he said he conceded in order to save the state from chaos. However, this did not stop the APC from challenging the results in court. Anenih expressed the view that the National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, should issue the statement.”
An agreement was reached on the way forward, Abdullahi narrated, and all seemed set for the change of tune by the party that had been in power for 16 years.
“Conscious that some others in the room also had their own battles to fight and were not primarily interested in Jonathan’s predicament, Anenih further stated that discussions on other elections and candidates should wait until the ‘stolen presidency’ was reclaimed. Anenih’s position was adopted and a team was put together, chaired by Metuh, to draft a statement for the party chairman. Others in the team were the party’s National Secretary, Adewale Oladipo; the National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon; Pius Anyim and Liyel Imoke. They went to work immediately and by the following morning, the statement was ready. However, the unexpected was about to happen,” Abdullahi wrote.
“When the draft statement was presented to Adamu Mu’azu, he declared that he would not release it. He said he had reflected on the idea of issuing a statement and was convinced it was not the way to go. Words soon got the Villa that the party chairman had backed out of the plan. Another round of panic began. The President himself called Mu’azu’s mobile number several times, but the party chairman did not answer the phone.
“Many around the president had suspected all along that Mu’azu was not altogether committed to the Jonathan project. They started grumbling openly that his appointment, as Chairman, was another mistake by Jonathan because Mu’azu himself wanted to be president. When the Chairman failed to show up for some campaign events, the public saw this as evidence that things had finally fallen apart. The party had to move quickly to deny that there was any crack in the PDP ranks.
“Therefore, for those who had questioned Muazu’s loyalty, here finally was the clear evidence. If he had any objections to the decision taken at the previous day’s meeting, why didn’t he say so? they wondered. How could he have turned around to sabotage a plan that he was technically part and parcel of? But this was not the time for retribution. That could wait a few more days. The party chairman was still critical to their plans. An emissary was immediately dispatched to persuade him to have a rethink.
“Godswill Akpabio marshaled all the arguments he could muster, but Mu’azu would not budge. It was also an opportunity for the party chairman to vent some of his grievances. ‘Look, Akpabio,’ he said, ‘I am not a bastard. I have honour to protect. The man who contested the election had conceded defeat. I should now be the one to say that the party would not accept defeat? When the candidate was picking his phone to congratulate the winner, did he consult with the party?’
“And in case anyone was thinking of blaming him for the president’s defeat, such person should think again. After all, didn’t he warn against the use of religion and ethnicity by the President’s wife and some of his other supporters like Ayo Fayose and Fani-Kayode? Didn’t he also warn that the personal attacks on Buhari would backfire, especially in the North? If no one listened to him then and allowed things to go pear-shaped, how could they now turn around and ask him to fall on his sword for sins committed by others?
“He insisted that asking him to issue a statement that would most likely throw the country into turmoil was tantamount to asking him to commit suicide – if not literally, then certainly politically. If Akpabio liked, he could sign the statement himself. After all, he was the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum. A few days after this encounter, Adamu Mu’azu left the country for Singapore. Some said on medical grounds. Some said for security reasons. Others said both.”