President Goodluck Jonathan and Nigeria’s Frail Democracy

Chris, M. A. Kwaja*

The death of the Late President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Umaru Musa Yar’adua on Wednesday, 5th May 2010, created a power vacuum that was immediately filled by his Vice, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who became acting President following the inability of the Late President to discharge his constitutional responsibility due to ill health. The National Assembly bowed to pressure from the people to declare President Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President under what was described as the Doctrine of Necessity, without invoking Section 145 of the Constitution that prescribes that the Late President can resign on the grounds of incapacitation, or can be declared unfit to rule, as well as impeached as the case may be.

In a fundamental sense, President Goodluck Jona- than is a product of the Yar’adua/ Goodluck ticket that came into power on the 29th May 2007. In his maiden speech to the nation, the Late President recognized and appreciated the fact that the government was a product of a flawed electoral process. In this sense, he expressed the commitment of the regime towards upholding the principles of good governance, the rule of law, constitutionalism, as well as the fight against corruption in high and low places of the Nigerian society. This was reflected in the creation of a ministry of the Niger Delta and the granting of amnesty to militants; commitment electoral reform and the setting up of the presidential committee on electoral reform;

President Goodluck Jonathan

commitment to the rule of law and due process. All of these constitute the pillar upon which the philosophy of the government stood. With the death of Yar’adua, Goodluck is now saddled with the responsibility of realizing these goals.

The current political atmosphere in Nigeria is characterized by strong expectations as well as concerns from both the media and the people in general about the capacity of President Jonathan to provide the type of leadership that the people expect from him. The role a group of aides of the Late President, popularly referred to as the cabal played, as far as politics and governance are concerned, impacted negatively on the image of the government, thereby raising skepticisms as to whether the present President will be given the free-hand to govern.

In the run-up to the 2011 Presidential elections, the decision or otherwise of President Goodluck Jonathan to contest for the office of the President in 2011 raises serious concern for the future of the country’s democracy. At least four scenarios can be developed in this sense:

1. Not minding the consequence of his action, he might jettison the zoning arrangement of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which allow for a Northerner to be President from 2007-2015, and contest;
2. In the face of stiff resistance from both the PDP and the North, he will abandon the PDP and contest for the Presidency under a different political party;
3. He will resist all forms of pressure, respect the zoning formula of the PDP, and be a Vice President to a candidate from the North so as to get the party’s ticket in 2015; and
4. He might pursue all the three scenarios at the same time, depending on what the issues are, the interests, as well as forces at play. This will give him enough time and room for adjustments so as to into the ensuing circumstance as it relates to his candidature.

In the final analysis, President Jonathan has legion of challenges to contend with, as far as politics and governance is concerned. The way he handles these challenges which ranges from addressing issues of internal security, providing transformative leadership, strengthening state institutions to deliver better services to the people, reforming the electoral process so as to have credible process for the transfer of political power will no

doubt determine his fate as far as the political future of Nigeria is concerned. He must avoid some of the pitfalls of the Late Yar’adua by not providing an enabling environment for a new set of cabals to emerge as a way of reversing the deficits that have characterized politics, democracy, and governance. This is the sure way towards rebuilding trust, confidence, and responsibility on the Nigerian political system now and in the future. PR


* Chris, M. A. Kwaja is Lecturer/ Researcher in the Centre For Conflict Management And Peace Studies at the University Of Jos, Jos, Nigeria. Email:

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