ABUJA, Nigeria — With the start of his presidency marred by corruption scandals, Islamist bombings that metastasized to the capital and a host of other challenges, Goodluck Jonathan this week celebrates a year since he was elected the leader of Africa’s most populous country.
While analysts give the president's record mixed reviews, some Nigerians say they are losing faith in his leadership, having seen no improvement in two separate, yet related, Nigerian crises: power and security.
Umar Isah runs a computer store in a shopping complex in the capital. Last week, his shop was dark and quiet while his neighbors yelled above the cranking of their generators. The neighborhood had not had power all day. When told of government plans to increase available power by at least 50 percent before the end of the year, Isah responded with derision.
“I’m about 26 years old now. I have never seen power supply for a good two days without interruption,” he told GlobalPost. “I have never seen that in Nigeria. Two days!”
Isah said he has lost confidence in Nigerian leaders after years of unkept promises and the current administration has done nothing to restore his faith.
Other observers, however, still have high hopes that Jonathan’s tenure will ultimately mark a new era for Nigeria and that his recent loss of popularity is a temporary setback.
In April, Time Magazine named Jonathan one of the world’s 100 most influential people, saying the president “possesses the qualities needed at this moment of great challenges, having come to power at a crucial moment in the history of Nigeria.”
“He has spearheaded the fight against corruption and turned Nigeria into an example of good governance,” writes Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Time’s assessment of Jonathan. “With leaders like President Jonathan, Africa is sure to move toward prosperity, freedom and dignity for all of its people.”
Jonathan took office two years ago, following the death of President Umaru Yar'adua. A year later, Jonathan's tenure was extended when he was reelected to his own term in office.
Here in Nigeria, some analysts agree with Sirleaf, while others dismiss her statements as ridiculous. With three years left of his current term, however, most say the history of his presidency is yet to be written.
Political scientist Hussaini Abdu doesn’t blame the president for all of Nigeria’s woes, but says the country is getting poorer and more dangerous.
“The last one year has been the year of bombs and scams,” Abdu told GlobalPost. “Every day you open the pages of our newspapers and what you hear is bloodshed and scams related to corruption.”
Abdu says corruption has tainted both government and private endeavors across Nigeria for years and Jonathan has taken no concrete steps to stop it.
A recent report that says high-level officials were party to the theft of nearly $7 billion in public funds, which bodes poorly for Jonathan’s anti-graft record. But analysts say the government still has the opportunity to prosecute corrupt officials during the rest of Jonathan's term.
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Jonathan has achieved some successes over the past two years, according to Wole Olaoye, a veteran journalist who is on the editorial board of Nigeria’s Leadership newspapers. He said some of Jonathan’s promises to fight corruption have been fulfilled. For instance, a program intended to provide farmers with fertilizer and other equipment has been cut because nearly 90 percent of the supplies were being sold to the farmers at a premium, rather than given to them for free or at a discount.
Besides the agriculture sector, Olaoye said has also noticed positive changes in aviation and development, saying that the government is doing one of its primary jobs: building infrastructure. But, like Abdu, Olaoye said corruption and the increasing insecurity will become Jonathan’s legacy if the two issues are not successfully addressed.
Nigeria is increasingly under threat from Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist sect blamed for killing more than 1,000 people since it began violent operations in 2009. Thousands more have been killed in unrelated sectarian violence over the past decade and there is a growing worry that the 2009 amnesty deal that quieted insurgency in the oil-producing Niger Delta is beginning to unravel.
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“If I may give an unsolicited piece of advice to the president,” Olaoye told GlobalPost, “I would say his job is cut out: fight corruption, provide security for Nigerians and the country can almost run on auto-pilot.”
Olaoye said Nigeria’s security issues need a “cocktail of solutions,” and creative problem-solving. Neither increased military might nor reconciliation alone will solve the complex security issues, he said.
“These are unusual times,” he said. “You’ve got to bring creative unusual solutions. I think they could have done better in addressing the security problems. I hope they do.”
Other observers say new ideas and policies put into action this year have not yet produced tangible results, but they will. Idang Alibi, a columnist at the Nigerian newspaper, The Daily Trust, said plans to privatize the electricity sector, consolidate government agencies and encourage farming will, as the president hopes, “transform Nigeria.”
“We are a very cynical society,” he told GlobalPost. "There are some people who like him. There are some who don’t. But once some of these policies begin to bear fruits, he will win more followers.”