March 28 would be an indelible date in Nigeria’s history, it was a day when Nigerians stood up to vote out an incumbent who had lost touch with their reality and put their trust in a new team. But it wasn’t just a win for change; in fact it could be argued that President Goodluck Jonathan did more to lose the elections than the opposition did to win it.
Nigeria’s had plenty of complaints about President Jonathan and most of them were big issues like Security, far reaching corruption and unemployment, as well as economic depression. However like a football game, a team loses most of the time because the team’s formation or tactics were not right, but sometimes there are tiny incidents within the match itself which determine the difference between victory and defeat, like Liverpool FC captain, Steven Gerrard’s slip that cost Liverpool against Chelsea, and in essence the Premier League title. It was a slip that looked innocuous at the time but had far reaching consequences. Here are five singular incidents, in no particular order “minor slips” that cost Goodluck Jonathan his re-election as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
When Goodluck Jonathan became the president of Nigeria , one of the very first things he did was to write a book, My Friends and I (2010), A book which more than anything else served to present him as a president who is interested in connecting to the country’s youths, the most common demographic found on social media. It proved to be a very good start, “a breath of fresh air” from the “tired” “old” way of thinking that made his predecessors perceive social media as a waste of time. However his social media policy shockingly took a 180 degree turn after the 2012 Fuel subsidy removal protests and the “most abused president on facebook” episode. Instead of seeking to connect to the social media demographic, he used his social media goons to try and drown out the voices. His social media goons ensured that He only listened to the positive reviews, which meant that because of people like Rueben Abati, Doyin Okupe and Reno Omokri (aka Wendell Simlin) he didn’t realize the truth about how Nigerian youths felt about his government until was too late. Worse still he got caught in the same trap as his predecessors, the one where they started to contend that social media was only online noise and didn’t translate to perception of the government in real life. The #BringBackOurGirls campaign was one of the numerous social media wildfires that the president or maybe his social media team failed to control and which eventually brought down his government.
In the near future a political science professor would ask his students to put President GEJ tenure and his failed re-election bid in one caption, a certain bright spark would get maximum points for using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. In 2014 two hundred and seventy six girls were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram from a secondary school in Chibok Borno state, it would create waves on news media both online and traditional and it would orchestrate a campaign that would inspire the loss of confidence that Nigerians vented out at the March 28 elections. The Chibok kidnappings weren’t the most gruesome aspect of the war Boko Haram waged on the Nigerian Government; after all (at the risk of condensing flesh and blood humans into mere statistics) what is 276 compared to the more than 20,000 lost to Boko Haram in the last six years. President Jonathan however egged on by his own first lady (shockingly) and his supporters (not so shockingly), handled it so badly that it became the elephant in the room that not even his most ardent supporters could not ignore. BBOG sparked a worldwide outrage, and it became the rallying cry for the people to vote out Jonathan and the PDP. Never in the history of Nigeria has what essentially started as a “noisy” online media campaign come to define a presidential term. If GEJ had shown a bit more concern and had been more proactive, instead of allowing his social media goons portray him as indifferent and indecisive, BBOG wouldn’t have become the unmitigated Public Relations disaster that would forever put a black stain on his tenure as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The 2011 Election for the speaker of the House of Representatives
Normally the zoning policy within the People’s Democratic Party, allows the prominent positions in any government formed to be allocated according to the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. It was therefore natural that since the South South zone had already produced the president, and the North central already had the Vice President and the Senate President slots, the slot of the speaker of the house who is regarded as the number four citizen was supposed to go to the Southwest Zone. Indeed it was said the Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP had a Yoruba woman Mulikat Akande-Adeola, a representative from Oyo state in mind for the position (most of the popular reps from the SW were in the opposition). Unfortunately Aminu Tambuwwal from Sokoto got the support of the opposition lawmakers to win the position instead, thereby allowing another northerner to take the number 4 citizen slot. The percieved slight would allow the opposition play on the sentiment that the Jonathan government was marginalizing the Southwest on purpose and turn the Yorubas against him. It would also lead to an acute shortage of prominent Yorubas in his cabinet and a subsequent loss of goodwill in the SW region. It says a lot when the most popular Yorubas in the president cabinet are Senator Musiliu “so unpopular he had to be swapped out of the Lagos PDP gubernatorial candidate position” Obanikoro and Oloye Jumoke” cant even win an electon to the senate even when her state voted for the PDP presidential candidate” Akinjide are the most popular Yorubas in a cabinet.
To be fair on the President, there was little he could have done about the issue, but the Tambuwwal election saga showed that Jonathan could not control the party like his predecessors did and showed him as a weak strategist who can be easily worked around, a sentiment that would come to define his tenure as Nigeria’s president.
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi
If there was one thing Jonathan seemed to excel at in his term as president,it is at alienating his own prominent supporters. Not just alienating them, but doing so in acrimonious manner that the opposition is able to capitalize on and make him (GEJ) look like a bully. I could talk about his removal of Prof. Rukayat Rufai, as minister of education in order to spite the Jigawa State Governor, I could talk about the Aminu Tambuwwal incident, his attempt to use the Police to force out the Speaker of the House of Representatives after the latter defected to the opposition party. But the one that would rankle him most would be the removal of the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. During the Fuel subsidy protests, SLS alongside the coordinating minister of the economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was one of the most vocal defenders of Jonathan’s government. In fact it was Sanusi’s explanation of cost and financial implications of the fuel subsidy removal that helped calm down agitated Nigerians. Fast foward to 2014, and SLS and GEJ had gone from BFFs to mortal enemies over 20 billion dollars that had disappeared from the country’s treasury. Jonathan promptly hounded Sanusi out of office and replaced him with someone more willing to play ball. As the election showed, it was not a well thought out plan. When you alienate one of the most important personalities in one of the most populous states in your country, it will always come back to bite. If said person is in line for one of the most important positions in Islam in Nigeria in a state already controlled by the opposition, fighting him is only going to end in a disaster for you. Jonathan’s strategic errors are legion, but the Sanusi goof will probably hurt more than most
As Goodluck Jonathan winds down his tenure, one of the very few things he would like get credit for will be the appointment of Independent Nationa Electoral Commission Chairman Attahiru Jega. Even so he will only getcredit for this becaus Nigerians are magnanimous enough to forgive and everybody is trying to move on from the the downward spiral of the last six years. The process was not as smooth sailing as ardents of GEJ will have you believe. The PDP and the president tried their respective bests to undermine Jega, postponing the elections from February to March, hiring Oodua People’s congress thugs to harass opposition party supporters and demand JEGA’s resignation, Elder Godsday Orubebe’s ICC tirade the list is endless. The Jega incident(s)showed up president Jonathan as a man who wanted to do the right thing for the wrong reasons, a man who indecisively vaciliated between his ambition and his sense of justice, a hot and cold blowing chameleon whom people could not trust. That indecisiveness is a cardinal sin that history will likely not forgive him for.