How Goodluck Jonathan lost the Elections


For the first time ever an incumbent  Nigerian
president has failed to win the popular
vote in the presidential election . It’s a landmark for democracy,
but where did it all go wrong for

Goodluck Jonathan misread the mood
on the Chibok kidnappings and alienated
all the wrong people.
Goodluck Jonathan has earned the
dubious distinction of being the first incumbent
president in Nigerian history to lose an
election. In many ways, Jonathan was
the architect of his own downfall. He
made critical mistakes that turned the
public and allies against him, and led
them to gravitate towards the
opposition. Here’s where it all went

1. Don’t cross the boss
When Nigeria emerged from 15 years of
military rule in 1999, Jonathan’s Peoples
Democratic party (PDP) was formed by
wealthy retired generals to inherit power
from the military. One of the godfathers
was General Olusegun Obasanjo, who has
governed Nigeria twice (between
1976-1979 and 1999-2007). Jonathan
made the mistake of alienating
Obasanjo; leading the general to write a
public 18-page letter containing
lacerating criticism of the president in
December 2013.
A party member likened
Obasanjo’s hectoring of Jonathan to a
father’s disappointment with his son.
Rather than make peace with the 77-
year-old, Jonathan’s office retaliated .
Getting on the wrong side of Obasanjo is
the political equivalent of crossing a
mafia don. You will pay. Obasanjo’s
attacks on Jonathan intensified . In
February, an irate Obasanjo quit the
PDP and dramatically ripped up his
party membership card on television.
Jonathan was naïve to think he could
remain president without the support of
PDP godfathers like Obasanjo. Although
Nigeria is no longer under military rule,
many retired millionaire generals call
the shots from behind the scenes.

2. Playing fair
Previous Nigerian presidents were too
cynical to expose themselves to the
unpredictable risk of a fair election. The
election victories of PDP presidents
during the past 16 years have been
partially “assisted” by electoral
malpractice . That changed when
Jonathan nominated Professor Attahiru
Jega as the chairman of the
Independent National Electoral
Commission (Inec) in 2010. Jega vowed
to reform Nigeria’s electoral process to
ensure free and fair elections.
The former university lecturer exuded
calm authority and integrity. He has
painstakingly prepared for the task over
the past four years by studying the
rigging methods used in previous
elections, implementing an elaborate
system of voter registration, training
thousands of electoral staff, and
introducing biometric readers to identify
voters by reading their thumbprint.
Jonathan created the environment for
the emergence of these changes and
gave Jega the freedom and authority to
conduct reforms that led to a credible
election. But by giving Jega a free hand
to play fair, he allowed Jega to craft
the weapons that were used to oust him
from power.

3. Boko Haram and the Chibok kidnaps
Jonathan’s relations with party
members at times resembled a
football coach antagonising his star
When Boko Haram kidnapped more than
200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok
in northern Nigeria, Jonathan failed to
realise how much this would capture the
public’s attention, both locally and
internationally. His failure to speak
about the kidnap for several weeks
made him appear uncaring. These
shortcomings were exacerbated by the
behaviour of his wife, Patience, when
she met the mothers of the kidnapped
girls. Her ostentatious display and over-
the-top emotions were mercilessly
parodied .
Jonathan’s perceived casual
indifference to the suffering of his
people was compounded when he was
photographed celebrating his niece’s
lavish wedding just a few days after
Boko Haram had killed 2,000 people in
the town of Baga.

4. Bad management

Jonathan’s relations with party members
at times resembled a football coach
antagonising his star players into leaving
for rival teams. His tendency to fall out
with colleagues simultaneously weakened
his party and strengthened the
opposition. He quarrelled with one after
another; leading several of them to
leave the party in frustration and join
the opposition All Progressives Congress
(APC). The alliance between these and
the opposition shoved Jonathan out of

5. Corruption and cronyism

Nigerians refer to their country’s
resources as the “national cake” which
must be shared by its citizens. There was
a perception that Jonathan gave slices
of the cake largely to members of his
own community. Many powerful members
of his government were from Jonathan’s
region in the deep south of the country.
Even Jonathan’s wife was appointed as
a senior civil servant in his home state
of Bayelsa.
There was a perception that
Jonathan gave slices of the cake
largely to members of his own
Under Jonathan’s presidency many
militant leaders from the oil producing
Niger Delta area in the south have
become very rich from government
patronage and contracts. Some of them
have been awarded security contracts to
guard the oil installations they once
protested against and attacked.
Jonathan has also pardoned a former
ally accused of fraud and money
laundering, increasing the cloud of
suspicion hanging over his government.
These events caused deep resentment in
other parts of Nigeria and created the
impression that Jonathan ran a
government that benefits those from his
part of the country, the south, but not
many others.
Jonathan even managed to get into a
public feud with the governor of the
Central Bank of Nigeria, the respected
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. In February 2014
Sanusi alleged that $20bn of Nigerian oil
revenue was unaccounted for. Rather
than investigating the claims Jonathan
fired Sanusi for his impertinence at
publicly hinting of government fraud.
Buhari’s victory is historic and
unprecedented. However Jonathan was
responsible almost as much as Buhari

views expressed are not necessarily the opinion of blog author.


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