By Ikechukwu Eze*
Our attention has been drawn to regurgitated discredited comments by John Campbell, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, who in a recent article on political developments in Nigeria, repeated his disproven assertions that the 2011 Presidential elections won by former President Goodluck Jonathan, was rigged.
Mr. Campbell styles himself as a ‘Nigeria expert’ at the Council for Foreign Relations, but in truth, he is regarded as a figure of ridicule in Nigeria for his postulations, which have repeatedly and consistently proven to be way off the mark.
How he can continue to make pretensions to be an expert on Nigeria, beats our imagination. Besides serving as a diplomat in his country’s embassy in our dear country, what other competences does Campbell possess to qualify as a Nigeria expert?
Sadly, he has continued to deploy his half-baked knowledge of the nation’s political environment and his closeness to the United States power brokers not only to canvass his ill-conceived political agenda, but to also exploit some Nigerian politicians.
For instance, because he is not well schooled in the tone and nuances of Nigerian politics, he had no way of knowing that the riots he cited in some cities in the north following the 2011 presidential election had nothing to do with his claims on rigging. Otherwise, why would Bauchi and Kano States, where former President Jonathan had only 16% and 15% of votes, witness the worst riots?
However, for the benefit of his audience, we will like to further state the following facts:
The 2011 Nigerian Presidential elections were adjudged by both local and international observers including the Commonwealth Election Monitoring Group and even the US contingent of both the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, as the most credible and transparent elections in Nigeria, since our great nation returned to civil rule in 1999.
Speaking on 18 April 2011, the chair of the Commonwealth Election Observer Group, former Botswana President Festus Mogae, said the 2011 Nigerian elections “discarded the notion that the country can only hold flawed elections”.
He further said: “Previously held notions that Nigeria can only hold flawed elections are now being discarded and this country can now shake off that stigma and redeem its image.”
Secondly, the 2011 elections saw a 75% reduction in election petition cases in Nigeria and the United States Institute for Peace described the elections as the “best run” election in Nigeria’s history, saying, inter alia, that “Nigeria’s 2011 general elections–in particular the presidential election–were seen widely as being well-run. This was especially important, given the universally decried elections of 2007.”
Thirdly, on December 29, 2011, the Nigerian Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, declared that then President Jonathan was validly elected. It is important to note that this was a seven man panel, and there was no dissenting judgment. The verdict had no such precedent in Nigeria’s political history.
Former President Jonathan is known for his ‘one man, one vote, one woman, one vote, one youth one vote’ policy. Before the 2011 elections, he said “my ambition is not worth the blood of any citizen” and was indeed guided by that creed throughout the process. He is also on record to have publicly called on members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) not to even attempt to rig for him, stating that he was a pencil in God’s hands.
There is no doubt that Nigerians above 45 years witnessed the past six presidential elections in the country- 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 – and are in a better position than Campbell to objectively appraise the processes. Today, our compatriots are focusing on such issues as electronic voting and complete independence of the electoral body INEC, as a way of strengthening our democracy, ahead of the next general elections. Anyone who means well for the country’s democracy should rather focus his attention on perspectives that could illuminate this path, not offer jaundiced and self-serving opinions on a settled past.
Perhaps this is the time to remind Campbell and other wheeling and dealing consultants like him that Nigerians have placed the 2011 elections behind them and are no longer in a position to welcome those who have nothing but sophistry to offer our citizens! As our own inimitable Fela would say, ‘Mr. Teacher don’t teach us nonsense’!
In the light of these overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the public, especially the esteemed audience of the Council on Foreign Relations, should ask themselves what Mr. Campbell’s motives are, especially as he has been known to act as a consultant to certain political interests in Nigeria.
*Spokesman to former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan