Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, is seeking yet another term in office, even after basically everything has fallen apart under his administration. His campaign team decided that the slogan #BringBackGoodluck2015 was somehow appropriate after he blatantly ignored, waved away, and disrespected #BringBackOurGirls. Now he’s being deservedly dragged by Nigerian Twitter for it, as reported by the BBC. My personal favorite:
1 fact is that President Jonathan's media team has the combined IQ of 500 frogs. Why not coin another hashtag ? Why #BringBackGoodluck2015 ?
— Strategic Positionin (@RadicalYouthMan) September 9, 2014
But, aside from this latest (and certainly minor) show of incompetence and tone-deafness, let’s back out to look at the wider situation. Girls kidnapped, northern insurgency spreading across Nigeria and into its neighbors, Boko Haram proclaiming itself an independent Islamic State and laying siege to northern cities of 1 million people, sections of Nigeria’s army mutinying over alleged supply shortages, mysterious pilfering of counterinsurgency resources, ongoing attacks in the capital, alleged war crimes by state security forces… and so on.
All the while, the President’s plan was recently summed up by a local paper as simply: We Hope To Defeat Boko Haram But Not Now.
Look, I’m not going to blame President Jonathan for everything that has happened, and I’m not even sure his passivity and inactivity in the face of chaos is entirely his own fault. Consider his background and rise to power. He’s a zoologist and a hydrobiologist by training, who was an environmental minister briefly, and fortuitously became governor after being chosen to be a lieutenant governor in his state under a corrupt governor who later resigned; then he was unexpectedly chosen as running mate by the outgoing president orchestrating the 2007 PDP ticket that won, and suddenly he became president when the elected president died in office.
Although he subsequently won his own term, Goodluck Jonathan was never meant to be president. I suspect that his lack of both political establishment credentials and military experience, which seemed so promising for effecting transformative change when he became president, actually made him hopelessly dependent on the usual political cronies and military generals. He lacked both the constituency and independent experience to challenge them when they gave him bad advice. Unfortunately, he happened to enter office at a time of mounting crises in the country and the region. Now he’s just floundering.
It’s clear President Jonathan is now very far out of his depth and lacks either the will or the political base to govern and restore order (certainly not in a responsible, inclusive, and democratic manner). Whether or not it is his fault, the terrorism and insurgency situation has been rapidly spiraling out of control for nearly four consecutive years, since the end of 2010. Things are objectively worse on the security and stability front now than they were four years ago, and worse now than they were six months ago or two months ago. He is not turning things around.
Re-electing Goodluck Jonathan next year to another four-year term as president seems like the wrong direction for Nigeria.