By Oji Odu
The recent revelation by former President Goodluck Jonathan during the launch of his book, “The Transition Hours”, that former United States of America (USA) President, Barrack Obama meddled in Nigeria’s 2015 general elections which threw him out of office speaks volumes of foreign interference in the country’s elections. Can Nigeria be free from this monster of neo-colinalism as the country counts down to the 2019 general election?
In the excerpts of his new book, Jonathan said Obama’s decision to send then-US Secretary of State, John Kerry, to press on the government after the elections were postponed by a few weeks was the height of electoral and political interference in the affairs of a sovereign nation.
Jonathan’s government had postponed the 2015 presidential election from February 14 to March 28 due to security threats arising from the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east region. The decision was unpopular and many speculated that it was an attempt by the former president to prolong his tenure.
“I can recall that President Obama sent his Secretary of State to Nigeria, a sovereign nation, to protest the rescheduling of the election. John Kerry arrived in Nigeria on Sunday January 25, 2015 and said ‘it’s imperative that these elections happen on time as scheduled’.
“How can the US Secretary of State know what is more important for Nigeria than Nigeria’s own government? How could they have expected us to conduct elections when Boko Haram controlled part of the North East and were killing and maiming Nigerians?
“Not even the assurance of the sanctity of the May 29, 2015 handover date could calm them down. In Nigeria, the constitution is very clear. No President can extend his tenure by one day,” he said.
The former President further noted that Obama’s ‘unusual’ video message of March 23, 2015, where he spoke directly to the Nigerian people by the use of a subliminal language to open ‘the next chapter’ was a subtle attempt to influence the votes in favour of the opposition at the time to oust him from office.
“The message was so condescending, it was as if Nigerians did not know what to do and needed an Obama to direct them.
“In his message, he said, ‘All Nigerians must be able to cast their votes without intimidation or fear,’ yet his government was vehemently and publicly against the postponement of the elections to enable our military defeat Boko Haram and prevent them from intimidating voters. This was the height of hypocrisy!”
Jonathan said Obama’s actions as well as that of other foreign powers like the United Kingdom’s then-Prime Minister, David Cameron, were fueled by “deeper political interests”.
He noted that all of Nigeria’s relevant stakeholders were present when the decision to postpone the elections was taken including all living former Heads of State. Therefore, the foreign interference was designed to humiliate him.
Former President Jonathan ended up losing the election in spite of alleged irregularities to Buhari by over than 2.5 million votes, the first time an incumbent lost a presidential election to an opposition candidate in Nigeria. He conceded defeat to Buhari in a phone call before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officially announced Muhammadu Buhari the winner of the election.
With about three months to the 2019 general elections, is Nigeria free from foreign interference in the elections? Will the outcome of the elections be determined by the Nigerian electorate, rather than deeper political interests of these foreign powers?
In a chat with the Magazine, Samson Onyedika, a political pundit opines that the foreign nations have a lot of influence in every election conducted in this country. Making reference to recent visits of French President, Emmanuel Macron, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and Prince Charles and his wife, he believes that there is more to their visit than meets the eye.
“ Of course Macron did not just come to dance at Femi Anikulapo Kuti’s Shrine, neither was he just a cultural ambassador on a mission to promote Nigerian culture. Also, the visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby may not just have been to preach religious tolerance and free and fair elections in 2019. What about Prince Charles who many believe is preparing to takeover from the mother as head of the Commonwealth and the wife? Their recent visit speaks volumes to those who can read in-between the lines.
“ The West have shown severally that they are no ‘Father Christmases’. Nigeria is so strategic to the achievement of their deeper national interests, and they will do everything possible to ensure that they do not lose grip on her, which is possible by swaying electoral votes to their preferred candidate. After all, he who pays the piper, dictates the tune,” he said.
Speaking in similar vein, Mark Udom, stated that the unending Legislative/Executive face-off may not be far away from having foreign sponsors. He told the Magazine: “ See how the issue of change in the date of the elections raised much dust, which led to the delay in the approval of money for INEC to conduct the election, including the passing of budget. What about the use of hi-tech in terms of cyber attack by these foreign countries on 2019 election results? Are we on ground to checkmate them?
Former President Jonathan’s revelation may well be a pointer to Nigerians of the strong powers that may determine who their next leaders will be, and not necessarily the people’s votes. This is because power belongs to these foreign nations with deep interests in Nigeria. Power does not belong to the people.