Fresh from his recent role as chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group to Tanzania, President Goodluck Jonathan has called on retired African leaders to encourage sitting presidents to follow their country’s rules on tenure limit.
The former president spoke last Thursday as the sole featured speaker at a Washington DC event.
Tagged, “Presidential elections and democratic consolidation in Africa: Case studies on Nigeria and Tanzania,” the event was co-hosted by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The former President said “democracy is being institutionalized in Africa” at a pace which guarantees that the continent would be rid of present electoral challenges within the next decade.
Mr. Jonathan said his foundation, which would be launched mid-2016, will work with other African statesmen to “consolidate the gains of electoral democracy” throughout the continent.
Commenting on Africa’s place in the world, Mr. Jonathan acknowledged that historical reticence of the western world about positive developments in Africa is still evident in present day reports about the march of democracy on the continent.
“America was called new world when it was discovered but Africa was called the dark continent,” he said, adding that the world does not get to hear “the best stories about Africa’s electoral progress” because “they are not told” by global media leaders.
President Jonathan said that Africans across the continent are rejecting leaders “who do not see themselves as elected representative of the people” but rather as kings.
He cited the example of Burkina Faso and Senegal, the former where President Blaise Campaore was exiled after an unsuccessful attempt to elongate his tenure, the latter where President Macky Sall reversed the constitutional term limit for presidents to five years from the seven year limit that his predecessor imposed.
Talking about his own experience, Mr. Jonathan said in Nigeria, some “people believe that when you lose an election, you must go to court” as his opponents did after the presidential election in 2011, “but I insisted on transparent and credible election” because I did not want anyone to question my mandate, he added.
“Five justices of the Appeal Court and all Supreme Court justices ruled that the election was free and fair, in fact the 2011 election is widely acknowledged to be the freest and fairest election since Nigeria got independence.”
The former president said he could have contested the results of the 2015 presidential election given the prevalence of card reader malfunction across the country but he chose to move on because “I have served and I think it is enough”.
Ambassador Johnnie Carson, who introduced the former President to the crowd that came to hear him speak, lauded Mr. Jonathan for not holding Nigeria hostage to his ambition when results of the 2015 presidential elections did not favour him.
“He put his country before his own interests and desire,” Mr. Carson said