President Jonathan’s Response to Economist Magazine Editorial:
Patriotic Nigerians Will Re-elect President
By Reuben Abati
We have noted with surprise, The Economist’s tongue-in-cheek endorsement of General Muhammadu Buhari in the run-up to Nigeria’s general elections and the international magazine’s baseless, jaundiced and rather malicious vilification of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who retains the trust and confidence of majority of Nigerians as the outcome of the Presidential elections will undoubtedly show.
We are sure that many Nigerians and other readers of the usually urbane, thoughtful and well-reasoned editorial opinions of the Economist will be shocked that the magazine has taken the very ill-considered decision to throw its weight behind a candidate who, as a former military dictator, curtailed freedom of speech, ordered the kidnapping of opponents and jailing of journalists, and is accused of incitement to violence and grave human rights violations in Nigeria’s current democratic dispensation.
The Economist may feign ignorance of President Jonathan’s remarkable achievements as leader of his country in the past six years, but Nigerians who, unlike the magazine’s opinion writers, will actually vote in the country’s forthcoming presidential elections, know that President Jonathan has worked very hard to fulfill all the major promises he made to them on assumption of office.
Nigerians know that President Jonathan has developed our economy and created more jobs, they know that he has given policy support to the real sector of the economy, so that Small and Medium Enterprises can thrive, they know that he has encouraged locally owned enterprises to take advantage of our resources in growing the domestic economy and they also know that he has successfully attracted greater foreign direct investment to the country.
Unlike the clearly poorly informed and distant authors of the Economist Opinion titled “The Least Awful”, appreciative Nigerians are also aware that President Jonathan has worked tirelessly to improve power supply across the nation, rebuild and expand national infrastructure, improve public transportation and provide greater access to quality education for all Nigerian youth.
They know very well too that President Jonathan has significantly improved healthcare services in the country, revolutionized agriculture, promoted gender equality and women empowerment, and done his very best to stem corruption in government.
Contrary to the Economist’s assertions, Nigeria, under President Jonathan has made very considerable progress.
In spite of the significant challenges of terrorism and insurgency the nation faces today, President Jonathan has ensured that Nigeria has become a more vibrant democracy with free media, an independent judiciary, free, fair and credible elections, and greater respect for human rights.
The Economist is entitled to its erroneous opinion on who represents the best leadership option for Nigeria in the coming elections, but happily for the country, it is not the magazine’s lead writers, but more knowledgeable and patriotic Nigerians who actually work and live in the country, that will vote and re-elect President Jonathan for a second term in office.
They will do so, because unlike the Economist’s opinion writers, they understand that a Buhari Presidency will, for their beloved country, represent a stark setback and retrogression from the tremendous ongoing positive transformation of Nigeria under President Jonathan’s leadership.
Nigeria’s Election: The Least Awful
Sometimes there are no good options. Nigeria goes to the polls on February 14th to elect the next president, who will face problems so large—from rampant corruption to a jihadist insurgency—that they could break the country apart, with dire consequences for Nigerians and the world.
And yet, as Africa’s biggest economy stages its most important election since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999, and perhaps since the civil war four decades ago, Nigerians must pick between the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, who has proved an utter failure, and the opposition leader, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator with blood on his hands (see article). The candidates stand as symbols of a broken political system that makes all Nigeria’s problems even more intractable.
In this section
Start with Mr Jonathan, whose People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has run the country since 1999 and who stumbled into the presidency on the death of his predecessor in 2010. The PDP’s reign has been a sorry one. Mr Jonathan has shown little willingness to tackle endemic corruption. When the governor of the central bank reported that $20 billion had been stolen, his reward was to be sacked.
Worse, on Mr Jonathan’s watch much of the north of the country has been in flames. About 18,000 people have died in political violence in recent years, thousands of them in January in several brutal attacks by Boko Haram, a jihadist group that claims to have established its “caliphate” in territory as large as Belgium. Another 1.5m people have fled their homes. The insurgency is far from Mr Jonathan’s southern political heartland and afflicts people more likely to vote for the opposition. He has shown little enthusiasm for tackling it, and even less competence. Quick to offer condolences to France after the attack on Charlie Hedbo, Mr Jonathan waited almost two weeks before speaking up about a Boko Haram attack that killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of his compatriots.
The single bright spot of his rule has been Nigeria’s economy, one of the world’s fastest-growing. Yet that is largely despite the government rather than because of it, and falling oil prices will temper the boom. The prosperity has not been broadly shared: under Mr Jonathan poverty has increased. Nigerians typically die eight years younger than their poorer neighbours in nearby Ghana.
Voters have ample cause to send Mr Jonathan packing. In a country where power has often changed through the barrel of a gun, the opposition All Progressives Congress has a real chance of winning through the ballot box. Yet its candidate, Mr Buhari, is an ex-general who, three decades ago, came to power in a coup. His rule was nasty, brutish and mercifully short. Declaring a “war against indiscipline”, he ordered whip-wielding soldiers to ensure that Nigerians formed orderly queues. His economics, known as Buharism, was destructive. Instead of letting the currency depreciate in the face of a trade deficit, he tried to fix prices and ban “unnecessary” imports. He expelled 700,000 migrants in the delusion that this would create jobs for Nigerians. He banned political meetings and free speech. He detained thousands, used secret tribunals and executed people for crimes that were not capital offences.
Should a former dictator with such a record be offered another chance? Surprisingly, many Nigerians think he should. One reason is that, in a country where ministers routinely wear wristwatches worth many times their annual salary, Mr Buhari is a sandal-wearing ascetic with a record of fighting corruption. Few nowadays question his commitment to democracy or expect him to turn autocratic: he has repeatedly stood for election and accepted the outcome when he lost. He would probably do a better job of running the country, and in particular of tackling Boko Haram. As a northerner and Muslim, he will have greater legitimacy among villagers whose help he will need to isolate the insurgents. As a military man, he is more likely to win the respect of a demoralised army.
We are relieved not to have a vote in this election. But were we offered one we would—with a heavy heart—choose Mr Buhari. Mr Jonathan risks presiding over Nigeria’s bloody fragmentation. If Mr Buhari can save Nigeria, history might even be kind to him.