Former President Goodluck Jonathan quickly conceded victory to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 because he was afraid of a possible arrest and prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) if he didn’t, according to Human Rights lawyer Femi Falana (SAN).

In a statement made available to journalists at the inauguration of the League of Anambra Professionals Legal Defence Initiative over the weekend, Falana said a precedence had been set with the arrest of former Cote D’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo in 2011.

Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan addresses the press after a PDP meeting
Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan addresses the press after a PDP meeting

“Before the 2015 elections, the ICC warned that if there was any problem in Nigeria, anybody who was responsible would be arrested and charged like former President Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D’Ivoire. That was the atmosphere under which President Goodluck conceded victory”, Falana said.

Annulling elections no longer possible

Falana added that in the new world order, it is impossible for any leader or dictator to annul a national election like military President Ibrahim Babangida did in 1993. 

Babangida annulled arguably Nigeria's freest and fairest election to this day. The election was won by late Chief MKO Abiola who was recently recognised as winner by the federal government.

 “Unlike in 1993 when the military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, successfully annulled an election, that is no longer possible.

Mohammadu Buhari (R) defeated Nigeria's former president Goodluck Jonathan in March 28 elections -- the first time in Nigeria's history that an opposition candidate had beaten a sitting president
Mohammadu Buhari (R) defeated Nigeria's former president Goodluck Jonathan in March 28 elections -- the first time in Nigeria's history that an opposition candidate had beaten a sitting president

“Whoever does that now will end up in The Hague. He is likely to be tried for crimes against humanity because if you annul an election, you are likely to have a monumental violence in the country which will lead to crimes against humanity”, Falana said.

Heroic phone call

Jonathan of the PDP lost the 2015 presidential vote to Buhari of the APC by over 2 million votes. 

Jonathan’s concession phone call has been described as heroic by the international community because it helped restore calm to a nation that was already on the boil, following allegations of rigging from within the ranks of the PDP. 

His loss was the first time an incumbent president would be losing a re-election bid to the opposition in Nigeria’s modern democratic dispensation.