Former President Goodluck Jonathan has recalled with nostalgia his last moments at the Presidential Villa as the number one citizen of Nigeria and how he ended up at the Eagle Square as a common citizen after handing over to his successor, Muhammadu Buhari at a colourful ceremony on May 29, 2015.
Jonathan’s recollection is contained in his book: ‘My Transition Hours’, which was unveiled in Abuja on Tuesday at a colourful event, attended by top political, economic and financial player from within and outside Nigeria.
In the book, which has already triggered debates among Nigerians, Jonathan also explained why he decided to attend the ceremonial handing over ceremony at the Eagle Square without his wife, Patience.
According to him, his wife had been touched by the events of the last few weeks and was not prepared for more shocks and had therefore gone ahead to wait for him at the Presidential Wing of the Abuja International Airport for their final journey to Otuoke, Bayelsa State.
Jonathan recalls: “The morning of Friday May 29, 2015 began very early. It was the D-Day for the inauguration of the President billed to commence at 10.00 AM. The event expected to be witnessed by no less than 20 world leaders, was being held at the Eagle Square, Abuja. The day was certainly going to be interesting and I felt ready for whatever emotion came my way. Today, after the oath-taking ceremony, I would finally be going home!
“This was an event I had chosen to undertake alone so my wife did not accompany me. Dressed in a black woko, my traditional attire and my signature fedora hat, I walked out into the beautiful sunshine and got into my official car.
“The members of staff of the Presidential Villa, including cleaners, cooks, washer men, security men and more, were gathered outside the Glass House, which had become my official residence after I ordered the main residence to be renovated for the incoming President.
“I bade them farewell and with tearful eyes, they waved at me and in unison chorused, ‘bye bye Sir’. I entered my car and the convoy moved. I was missing them already. These were very hard-working Nigerians of diverse tribes and tongues who had served their president well.
“Azibaola Robert, my cousin, had come that morning to move my personal effects to the car alongside Waripamowei Dudafa and some of my immediate security aides. Before I left the State House for the Eagle Square, I had inspected the last guard of honour mounted by the Brigade of Guards at the inner gate of my residence. It was symbolic because it would be the last inspection of the State House Guard of Honour.
“My thoughts reverted to the official swearing in ceremony that I would be participating shortly. The convoy came to a stop at Eagle Square and I exited the car. I went on to greet a few people and was thereafter ushered up the platform where I was to receive the national salute.
“Next on the programme, the commander sought my permission for the parade to begin. After giving the permission I went to take my seat next to the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, and his wife, Aisha and my vice president, Arch. Nnamadi Sambo.
“After President Buhari had taken his oath of office, it was time for me to leave. I waved at the crowd. To my surprise, I noticed some of the attendees had misty eyes. This struck me because I believe almost all of them were either members of President Buhari’s party, relatives or friends.
“I had arrived at the Eagle Square as President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with the full presidential convoy. After the ceremony, I ceased to be President. I was now like any other citizen of the Federal Republic, boarding my personal vehicle to be driven to the Abuja International Airport for the final part of the farewell ceremony in honour of an outgoing President”.
“Pulling into the Abuja International Airport, I was happy to see my wife waiting for me. With her was a joyous throng of supporters, aides, ministers and party members. She did not have to ask; she knew what I had just been through. She touched my hand gently and together we boarded the flight that would take us to Port Harcourt International Airport.
“As part of the inauguration ritual, we would fly the flagship of the official fleet, codenamed ‘Nigeria Air Force 001 or ‘Eagle One’. This was significant, as it would be my last official flight.
“The trip was also an emotional one for me because I had worked with the pilots and crew for the last five years. We were like a family and they were flying me in an official capacity for the last time. Everyone was full of emotions. That flight remains one of the most treasured memories of my transition into private life.