By Salisu Sani-Idris
Former President Goodluck Jonathan celebrated his 61st birthday on Tuesday with a book launch in Abuja where he expressed concern over increasing menace of vote-buying.
Jonathan expressed his concern at the public presentation and formal launch of his book, “My Transition Hours” ahead of the 2019 general elections.
He said that vote-buying, which was gradually replacing other forms of electoral malpractices, had become scandalous and placed the country in bad light.
He pointed out that voters’ inducement through engraving of pictures of candidates and political party logos on gift items during elections was another rampant strategy of vote buying.
He advised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to borrow a leaf from other African countries and create polling centres in public places such as schools where classrooms were used for voting to make it difficult for vote buying.
He explained that the book he launched was essentially an account of happenings during the 2015 general elections and the events that made him to place a phone call to President Muhammadu Buhari, which doused tension and ensured peaceful transition from the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to All Progressives Party (APC).
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, saluted Jonathan for his statesmanship, sportsmanship and uncommon courage of conceding defeat to Buhari in 2015 when collation was still on.
Saraki said that the act of accepting defeat by Jonathan helped to stabilise the already charged political atmosphere during the elections.
He recalled how Jonathan used to vow that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian and called on political leaders to toe the same path and should not look at elections as declaration of war as the 2019 polls approached.
On his part, former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was Chairman of the occasion, also hailed the statesmanship disposition of Jonathan and urged him to remain committed to his residual responsibility of continuous service to his immediate community, Nigeria, Africa and beyond.
According to Obasanjo, there is no substitute to democracy as it unifies the people.
He said that Nigeria had the responsibility to unify West Africa, Africa and the black race across the world.
Former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, who attended the ceremony also thanked Jonathan for conceding defeat in 2015 to save Nigeria from impending war and consolidating democracy not only in the country but the entire African continent.
He also applauded Jonathan for his role in fostering unity, peace, progress and strengthening democratic rule in Africa, saying “Goodluck Jonathan is a good man and when the history of democracy in Africa is written, his name will be etched in gold”.
The book launch was graced by hundreds of prominent Nigerians, including the APC National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, and Sen. Godswill Akpabio, Speaker Yakubu Dogara.