President Goodluck Jonathan assured Wednesday he will hand over power May 29 if he loses the forthcoming presidential polls billed for March 28.
Speaking on a televised interview with a panel of journalists, including a PREMIUM TIMES’ Editor, Ibanga Isine, Mr. Jonathan sought to dispel speculations that he will not surrender power should he lose the polls.
“Even in 2011, I said that I will conduct free and fair elections and if I lose, I will happily go home. As that time, no sitting African president had lost election. But within this period a number of sitting African presidents have lost elections,” Mr. Jonathan said. “But I said I wanted to create history to be the first African president that will lose election. But let the world know that the elections are free and fair.”
President Jonathan has been accused of plotting to scuttle the transition process should he be defeated by his closest rival, former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari.
The speculations intensified in the last one week after the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, postponed the elections earlier scheduled for February, amid claims Mr. Jonathan has vowed to rather hand over power to the military than Mr. Buhari, should he lose.
But speaking Wednesday, Mr. Jonathan said he believed the institution of the presidency and the Nigerian nation are too important to be weighed against the political fortunes of an individual.
“Anybody who holds this office and thinks that the office is more important that the nation, then that’s not quite fair,” the president said.
Should he voted out on March 28, Mr. Jonathan said he will stand down.
“So if as at that time I was ready to conduct free and fair election and if I lose I go, what about now that Nigerians have given me the opportunity to be here for four good years,” he said. “So if the elections are conducted and I lose, of course, we’ll inaugurate a new government. By saying if I lose I will not handover, those are the unnecessary insinuations.”
The president however did not specifically speak on whether he would be prepared to surrender power to Mr. Buhari if the former military ruler wins, a point at the centre of the controversy.
Amid concerns over the military’s role in the electoral process, after INEC blamed the security forces for the polls shift, the Nigerian defence headquarters on Wednesday said in a statement the military will not interrupt the democratic process.
Defence Spokesperson, Chris Olukolade, said neither the military nor any of its service chiefs will engage in any act that could pose a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
Mr. Olukolade said Nigerians and its friends should be “reassured that the Nigerian Armed Forces believes strongly in the prospects of the country under a democratic rule and will continue to discharge its responsibility to support our democracy as constitutionally guaranteed”.