John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Goodluck Jonathan Inaugurated as Nigeria’s President

by John Campbell
May 31, 2011

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (L) takes the oath of office during his inauguration ceremony at Eagle Square in Abuja May 29, 2011. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)

On May 29, Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as Nigeria’s third civilian president since the restoration of civilian governance in 1999. The Independent National Electoral Commission declared him president-elect in April 2011, after the international community and many Nigerians saw the polling as credible. But Jonathan’s chief opponent, Muhammadu Buhari, and many in the Muslim North rejected the results, claiming they were fraudulent. Jonathan carried none of the core North ‘Sharia’ states, while Buhari carried none of the middle belt, southern or western states. In the aftermath of the presidential elections, there was bloody rioting across the North that started as political protest but rapidly acquired an ethnic and religious dimension. Human Rights Watch concludes that the elections of 2011 were the bloodiest since the restoration of civilian governance.

Probably Jonathan’s greatest political challenge is to reach out to those parts of the country that do not accept him. Many of the greatest northern power brokers refused to attend his inauguration. Former military chief of state Buhari publicly said he was not attending to register his “dissatisfaction” with the conduct of the elections. Similarly, former military chief of state Ibrahim Babangida was not present, saying he would attend the inauguration of the governor of his native state instead. Also absent were former vice president Atiku Abubakar; former national security advisor Aliyu Mohammed; and the head of the Northern Political leaders Forum, Mallam Adamu Ciroma. Their non-attendance looks coordinated.

On inauguration day, there were bomb attacks in Bauchi, Zaria, Kaduna, and Maiduguri, with those killed numbering up to twenty and numerous others wounded. (All had also been venues of bloody violence in the aftermath of the presidential elections.) There were also bombings in Zuba (near Abuja) and Owerri, the latter allegedly involving the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). While some of the bombings may have been protests against Jonathan, others may have been against various governors, who were also inaugurated on the same day, or, as in Owerri, over local issues.

Jonathan’s inaugural address was short and included a plea for national unity, though it was not conspicuous in its rhetoric for reaching out to the North. Jonathan has not yet formulated his cabinet and his inner circle of advisors. However, those appointments thus far announced include: retired general  Andrew Azazi (also a fellow Ijaw), to continue on as National Security Advisor, and Anyim Pius Anyim, who will be secretary of the federation and head of the civil service.  Both are Christians from the South. Jonathan has said that he will be the head of his economic team, rather than the finance minister. While the press implies that Jonathan will hold himself that portfolio, I can find no confirmation that he will be his own finance minister.  No prominent Northerner beyond the vice president, Namadi Sambo, has yet been named to Jonathan’s new cabinet, though it is still early.

As is usual practice for important occasions, the inauguration opened and closed with prayer. According to press reports, the invocation was given by the Anglican primate of Nigeria, whose prayer asserted that Jonathan’s presidency was the will of God. The Muslim imam closed the ceremonies with a prayer for peace.

Post a Comment 11 Comments

  • Posted by Chike

    A bit of context is required here.

    The usual practice is that Nigerian Heads of State appoint key security chiefs that they are comfortable with. When Yar’adua was president his Chief of Army Staff (Danbazau) was from the North and so was his National Security Advisor(Sarki Mukhtar).

    Yar’adua also appointed Babagana Kingibe (a muslim from the North East) and later Yayale Ahmed (a muslim from the North) as Secretary to the Government.

    There is a historical reason for this. Major General Aguiyi Ironsi’s aide de camp (Theophilus Danjuma) and Chief of Army Staff (Yakubu Gowon) successfully executed a coup against him. No Nigerian leader wants to suffer the fate of General Ironsi.

    I am happy that Ambassador Campbell is now making a distinction between “Northern Nigeria” and the “Sharia States”. The sad truth is that the “Sharia States” are gradually moving towards political irrelevance. I expect renewed calls for more stringent implementation of Sharia from these states now that a Christian is once again president. This will have the unfortunate consequence of further antagonising the core North and the “Middle Belt”.

    I don’t consider the non-attendance of either Atiku, Babangida, Buhari or Ciroma as significant. Ciroma is a spent force, an eighty something year old with no new ideas. Very few people in Nigeria genuinely like Babangida – and at 70, he has only a few more years as a force in politics. Buhari has a strong following amongst the teeming masses of the Sharia states, but little elsewhere. His party, the CPC didn’t win many elections in Northern Nigeria either – and he is 69.

    Buhari’s attitude to the deaths of 10 youth corps members in the North (attributed to CPC supporters) does not also help matters.

    Most importantly, most Nigerians (from the North and South) want to get on with their lives. We don’t care who is in power as long as we have real improvement in electricity supply, infrastructure and employment opportunities. We are tired of politicians who cynically use ethnic divisions to distract us from their incompetence.

  • Posted by Chike

    Just some advice.

    Instead of looking at Nigeria as a contest between the North and South try and understand the underlying dynamics.

    Nigerian politics is essentially a contest between the “Big Three” – the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo ethnic groups and the Southern minorities and the Northern minorities (Middle Belt). Traditionally, whoever could get the support of the majority of these five groups wins the election.

    Mr. Jonathan had the support of the Yoruba, the Igbo, the Southern minorities and the Northern minorities (Middle Belt). Essentially, Buhari had only the support of the Hausa-Fulani, the Kanuri and little else. This was not sufficient to win an election and Buhari knows it.

    The Hausa-Fulani had previously taken support from the Middle-Belt for granted. However, there has been a long and slow erosion of trust between these two groups. This was exacerbated by events like the unilateral imposition of Sharia law in the North and the imposition of Muslim rulers on non-Muslim subjects.

    Let me also remind Ambassador Campbell that for purposes of “zoning”, the Middle Belt is also part of the North. Nothing stops a handover from a Southern politician to a politician from the Middle Belt.

    The core North has a very big challenge. It desperately needs to regain the trust of the Middle Belt and the rest of Nigeria. The radical Islamisation of the North, Sharia, Boko Haram and a perception of arrogance does not help matters. The core North neither constitutes a demographic majority nor does it have significant economic advantages over the rest of Nigeria. It also has a leadership deficit.(Nigeria’s worst leaders – Sanni Abacha and Ibrahim Babangida came from the North).

    It will be increasingly difficult to convince a more aware Nigerian Civil Society in the future that they should support a “boiler plate” Hausa-Fulani politician over an extremely competent governor from say, the South-West to support “zoning”. On the other hand, Nigeria should not have a problem with a Northern politician with a proven track record of competence like Nasir El-Rufai.

  • Posted by Uchenna George-Nkemnacho

    Chike, the basis of your opinion is wrong. You give the impression that this piece has being written out of context which is incorrect. That notable political players from the north chose not to attend the inauguration ceremony cannot be dismissed summarily. Surely their non-attendance looks coordinated. Even the President acknowledges that there needs to be greater reconciliatory moves made towards these aggrieved players. You equally assume, correct me if I am wrong, that the elections were free, fair and credible, in forming your opinion. This too is wrong. It has now been agreed by almost all parties that there were massive flaws perpetrated by most parties (both north and south) in the conduct of the presidential elections. These wrong notions upon which you base your conclusions therefore renders your analysis wrong and perhaps inconclusive.However, we all pray for the success of the President Jonathan administration, as early signs of his intentions are proving positive. Thanks

  • Posted by Chike


    Of course these men have influence, but their importance has been blown out of proportion. The only person among that group with genuine grass roots support is Buhari, the rest will fall in line with the present administration because they are more interested in financial gain than promoting the interests of the North.

    The non-attendance of Atiku, Babangida and Buhari is the logical conclusion of the cold reception Jonathan received on campaign stops in the core North. I am not surprised.

    Secondly, I accept there were election irregularities but you cannot convince me that Buhari could have defeated Jonathan nationally given that he barely campaigned in the Niger Delta Region and the South West. This election was several magnitudes freer and fairer than the last, funny that the Northern establishment didn’t have too many problems with the 2007 election since “their man won”.

    Neither Atiku, Babangida nor Ciroma have a record of being particularly competent. Buhari does though, but he left office in 1985. If Jonathan presses ahead with power reforms, petroleum industry reforms, educational reforms and demonstrates basic competence in tackling infrastructure and education, he will have a better record than any of these men.

    At its basic level, politics is the study of the dynamics of pressure groups. The wider theme to my posts was the identification of the major pressure groups in Nigerian politics and interactions between these pressure groups to acquire and distribute power. So my analysis is correct.

  • Posted by Uchenna George-Nkemnacho

    The write-up’s principal theme was on President Jonathan’s greatest political challenge; to reach out to those parts of the country that do not accept him and that many of the greatest northern power brokers refused to attend this inauguration.

    The point remains that our President really do have a challenge of reaching out to aggrieved sector of the population to enhance our fragile unity. In so doing, he cannot afford to disregard political heavy weights by referring to them as spent-forces as you ascribe. It is because of their very importance that Mr President has quite rightly extended an olive branch to all.

    On the results of the elections and the magnitude of its free and fair status, I believe that the process is on-going. The jury is still out. It is left to the judges to interprete whatever evidence is submitted to it by the CPC and its representatives. Until then, we just have to accept that President Jonathan is President and Commander in Chief, and therefore entitled to all the respect and support which such position requires.

    Your apparent bias on the competency of the individuals mentioned is so obvious and not backed by recorded facts. This further puts the correctness of your analysis in great doubt.

  • Posted by Chike


    I live in Nigeria. I know Ciroma’s record as Finance Minister and I know Atiku’s record on the privatisation program. I also lived through the Babangida years. I neither have the time nor the inclination to reel out the facts, but I could if you wanted.

    I know from experience that these men are yet to demonstrate competence in public service.

    (Meanwhile, Ciroma’s wife is still the Womens leader of PDP – so obviously he is talking from both sides of his mouth).

    Jonathan has a duty to reach out to the core North, but his greatest challenge is to create a sustainable environment for the Nigerian economy to thrive. Also engagement between Jonathan and Northern power brokers should be a two way street – they need Jonathan as much as Jonathan needs them. Jonathan has as much a duty to the families of Muslims killed during the riots in the North as he has to the families of Christians.

    Similarly, engagement between the core North and the rest of Nigeria should be a two-way street based on an acknowledgement that neither side is blameless.

  • Posted by stan

    Well you guys all have valid and insightful inputs into this discourse. As a northerner who grew up down south I submit with all modesty that the north has got to make some radical adjustments to its governance matters. I mean this is a region that pays little attention to health and education and still expects its citizens to honour its leaders and traditional rulers. The region having produced several heads of state still failed to develop its intellectual capacity and wants the nation to suffer for it. Instead of its leaders to pursue economic reforms they prefer to always hing all politics on parochial and religous sentiments. One advice is ..go back and dust the books and plans of sardauna..carry every northerner along..invest in education and health..eschew parochialism..invest in ur strengths namely agriculture, tourism, and minerals..let our religious leaders preach more of self religious right standing in peace and let others me people will love the north more and return back..come on imagine what gets destroyed everytime violence occurs and for are the northerners blind to what northern leaders have done to this country..or do they think others are so naive..finally true wealth is not in how much u siphone or corner to ur ple..its in the knowledge base of ur nation..see the south and judge for ur selves..come on WAKE UP AREWA!!!

  • Posted by Uchenna George-Nkemnacho

    I really would be interested in your reeling out of the facts on the competencies in public service of Chiroma (as finance minister), Atiku (on the privatization program) and Babangida.Your experience on these issues appear to be very rich.

  • Posted by Chike

    Babangida’s economic policy of drastically devaluing a currency in an economy largely dependent on externally sourced inputs was a recipe for disaster and disaster ensued. There was no significant investment in the Power sector in eight years and when Babangida left in 1993, Nigeria was on the brink of war.

    We also remember the $12 billion dollar Gulf Oil windfall and the Okigbo panel report claiming that this money was unaccounted for.

    If this is not a record of corruption and incompetence, I don’t know what is.

    Ciroma’s incompetence as Finance Minister is brought into sharp relief when contrasted with the performance of his successor Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Whilst Ciroma’s tenure was marked by no new policy thrusts on fiscal management and debt management, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was instrumental to creating a framework for better fiscal management and re-negotiating Nigeria’s external debt.

    Please can you list one achievement of Ciroma as Finance Minister?

    Atiku Abubakar was given the responsibility of overseeing the privatisation program during the first four years of the Obasanjo regime. He oversaw the Pentascope deal with NITEL which was inconclusive and did not give the Nigerian tax payer value for money. Atiku is also responsible for the Petroleum Technology Development Fund scandal because it happened under his watch.

    Please stop pretending that you don’t know that these men have never been competent public servants.

  • Posted by Uchenna George-Nkemnacho

    How can you base your allegations on speculations obtained from pages of tabloid newspapers?Devaluation from a theoretical point of view is not necessarily a bad policy. As such, you can’t accuse a military ruler for following the advice of eminent economists at the time.On Chiroma’s competence, surely we expect successive ministers to perform better than their predecessors. They have the benefit of hindsight at their disposal. Finally I am glad you indirectly referred to some achievements of Atiku that led to the liberalization of the telecoms industry in Nigeria. A benefit which is widely seen in every nook and corner of the country due to the number to people with access to mobile phones.However, I must re-state that the write-up was informative and apt. Your kind attempt to put it into perspective is, to put it mildly, just out of context.

  • Posted by Chike


    I am not economically illiterate and I understand how devaluation can stimulate an export based economy. The conditions that could have supported a policy based on devaluation did not exist in Nigeria, yet that policy was blindly followed.

    Secondly, the job of the leader is not to “follow the advice of eminent economists” but to lead. The dictum “the buck stops here” must mean something. If a CEO does not meet shareholder expectations, he is ultimately responsible and the same should apply to a leader of a nation.

    That argument does wash.

    I am still waiting for one achievement of Adamu Ciroma as Minister of Finance. Anthony Ani (one of his predecessors) was succeeded in eliminating the annual budget deficit of N108 billion in 1994 to a modest surplus of N35 billion in 1995. I am yet to see any policy thrust or any indicator of competence from Adamu Ciroma.

    Thirdly, to claim that Atiku was responsible for the smooth liberalisation of the mobile telecoms industry is disingenuous. Everyone knows that Ernest Ndukwe was responsible for that. On the contrary, the areas directly handled by Atiku were mired in controversy. There is also the US Committee on Homeland Security report accusing Atiku of laundering over $40 million in suspicious funds between 2000 and 2008.

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