All leaders will be remembered, but some more than others. For Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan nothing can be more objective than to assume the people of Nigeria will remember him for an era with a bomb too many.
The Aviation sector restructuring, the National Confab, the energy sector privatization and a host of his good deeds will slip through the memories of those who have lost their families in the violence of the Boko Haram chaos at different parts of the country.
Of course Goodluck will not be the first of Nigerian presidents to be seen as one who almost lead the country into chaos; however at the current momentum this will become inevitable, given that the Jonathan administration has witnessed a staggering number in loss of lives.
His predecessor Yar’adua who failed to resign till his eventual demise is still remembered by a majority of the Nigerian people to have brought a reduction in a militancy momentum which began in the South-South region of the country, prior to that administration, the government of Olusegun Obasanjo who received a colossal defeat in his attempt at a third term, was credited with the successes of political stability, security and the privatization of the communication sector. Not to mention, even Abdusalam Abubakar who took over reigns after the death of tyrant leader Gen Sani Abacha is known for ensuring a smooth military to civilian transition.
From being known as a radical group fighting policemen with guns, bows and arrows in 2009 in Borno State, the group Boko Haram has metamorphosed exponentially into an espionage oriented group with skills at snipping, bomb-making, bomb-throwing, and suicide-missions and with a strength listed by the US Country Reports 2013 at around 2,000 recruits.
For President Goodluck Jonathan, nothing could be more undermining than religious insurgency. Worse, in a country so close to failed states like Somalia, and poverty wrecked societies like Niger and Chad. The group has successfully carried out attacks in notable Institutions which include the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters and the United Nations building both in Abuja, the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madala, Niger State, and the office of This Day newspapers in Abuja and Kaduna. Two bombings in Nyanya, a failed break-out attempt at the SSS headquarters in Abuja, twin explosions in the University Teaching Hospital at Jos, and multiple attacks in government structures in the north-eastern parts of the country. More than others, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan may go down in history with the records holding a gross inability to stop violent attacks on Nigerians from the Islamic fundamentalist group, Boko Haram.
Some Nigerians in a process of denial have remained complacent with conspiracy theories connecting the violence with the ascent of the Jonathan administration. Others (particularly those on the government pay-roll) have tried to reflect an image of a rapidly growing country working tirelessly through falsifying media reports and in-adequate statistics. However as once argued argued Levi Obijiofor with the Guardian in his discourse about Nigeria during the Olusegun Obasanjo regime:
“There must be something fundamentally wrong in a country in which a majority of the people are eager to leave in search of better life overseas. If the economic conditions have improved significantly …why is the country experiencing an exodus of some of the best brains? The questions the federal government would have to address are: why are so many people, skilled and unskilled workers, professional and unprofessional workers, keen to leave the country?”
The answer is not a hidden agenda. Without a doubt, and with only a few exceptions, Nigerian presidents have been, mildly or acutely, the enemies of Nigeria. Ethnically or religiously they have successively worked to undermine the development of Nigeria. Some as tyrants, others weakly leaning on sentiments and yet others completely dysfunctional, all being unable or unwilling to sustainably provide the adequate functioning of the rule of law, safety of their citizens, and basic living requirements that justify the very existence of a nation state.
Perhaps this has been made possible by the attitude of the Nigerian people as well, but one cannot say the entirety of the Nigerian people have remained docile and inactive all through these times. There has been instances of protest and grassroots mobilization against incompetent and repressive policies and a rich associative life has developed since the awakening of the Social Media, a testimony to creative strategies of adaptation and resistance. In Abuja the capital city of Nigeria, a former minister and former Vice President of the World bank has led an almost 40day protest demanding increased efforts by the government towards the release of over 200girls kidnapped by the deadly islamist group. Prior to that, a nationwide protest was led against the Jonathan administration in 2012 against the removal of fuel subsidy.
What can be deduced from the current state of affairs in Nigeria is this, a necessary factor for the growth of the country, if ever President Goodluck succeeds at leading Nigeria out of the current reign of bombing terror is that pre-existing social and political configurations shall not remain the same; the repetitive cases of elections ushering no alternations in power and not being free and fair or the sad cases where democratically elected elites fail to implement meaningful change over time and thus resorting to authoritarian politics will have to go with the bombs or remain and produce another devastating effect in the future.
If this fails, then only one future awaits the description of the Jonathanian era. It will remain largely remembered by the heavy explosions, the smell of burning flesh, the panic, mangled bodies, and numerous families crying to no-one. Helpless in an era of bombs and unprecedented violence.
Tahir Sherriff is a writer based in Abuja. You can follow him on twitter or Facebook