President Goodluck Jonathan has declared that the popular and democratic electoral mandate given him by Nigerians saved his job during the subsidy removal protests in the country early this year.
The President was speaking in Freetown, Sierra Leone when he met with chairman of the country's National Electoral Commission (NEC), Madam Christina Thorpe, as well as chairmen and some presidential candidates of political parties contesting in the Sierra Leone's general elections coming up on November 17 this year.
Jonathan spoke in line with his admonition to the political class, to jointly ensure free and fair polls as such this guarantee their popularity with the electorate and the ability to gain the people's confidence when taking take strong decisions in tumultuous times.
According to the President, the crises that engulfed Nigeria when he attempted to remove petroleum subsidy last January would have seen him removed from office if not that the majority of citizens who voted for him refused to be coerced or deceived into demanding for a regime change instead of reversal of the policy.
"In Nigeria, I remember the fuel subsidy crisis all over the country, I could have been removed but I was confident of my mandate. When some people started talking of regime change, majority of the people who voted for me insisted that they elected me and what they are asking for is change of policy, not regime change; and that calmed down the situation.
"Credible elections give you the mandate of the people and confidence too. It is difficult to calm people down when elections are manipulated", he said.
Lecturing his audience on the need for credible polls, President Jonathan enthused that he would not be in Sierra Leone to preach free and fair polls if he had not successfully done same in Nigeria. According to him "If we had manipulated elections in Nigeria, I would not have had the courage to come and confront you. If I had manipulated myself into office, there is no way I would come and sell to you what I do not have".
He tasked Sierra Leone's ruling party, the All Peoples Congress (APC) to ensure a level playing field that will bring about acceptable elections as the party stands to reap immensely in terms of credibility from such action. Ruling simply by might is primitive and does not ensure stable polity, stressed Jonathan who pledged more of Nigeria's assistance towards successful elections in Sierra Leone.
Nigeria had earlier donated 25 operational vehicles and $1 million to Sierra Leone, and trained some of their electoral officials in Nigeria towards the conduct of the polls. Many of the political parties' chieftains requested for more assistance from Nigeria, including providing subventions to the parties to enable them withstand the financial might of the bigger parties.
Jonathan was also formally bestowed with that country's highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Republic of Sierra Leone (GCRSL) awarded to him during Sierra Leone's 51st Independence Anniversary in April. He thanked the people of Sierra Leone for the honour and assured that Nigeria would continue to give as much assistance it could to them as the relationship between both countries grow stronger. The award, according to President Bai Koroma, was given to Jonathan in recognition of his and Nigeria's invaluable support for and timely intervention during difficult times in Sierra Leone.
"We as a nation are very grateful. This is the crowning of our bilateral relations and your personal assistance to Sierra Leone", Koroma said.