Moses Ochonu, a Nigerian United States based academic, historian, author and professor of African History at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee says Former President Goodluck Jonathan lost the 2011 election as a a powerful, well-funded ethnic coalition that did not have to contend with a counterbalancing ethnic coalition on GEJ’s side.
Ochonu in a post shared on his Facebook page said all Nigerian politics is ethnic in nature. Jonathan did come from a major ethnic group with sufficient political clout to bully or blackmail the other major ethnic blocs to back him.
He also said the reason Nigerians have not been seeing public outcry like those visible during the Jonathan government was because those who participated in the ethnic coalition and civic effort that ousted Jonathan in 2015 are all now formally or informally embedded in this regime and are benefiting from it.
His post read, Jonathan was a weak and ineffective leader, but Buhari is ten times worse, so in retrospect we now understand the real reason Jonathan faced the wrath of civil society and subsequently lost power while Buhari, who has effectively destroyed Nigeria as a viable nation, has not faced a civil uprising.
Jonathan did not lose power because of his poor performance. Rather, he lost power mainly because of a powerful, well-funded ethnic coalition that did not have to contend with a counterbalancing ethnic coalition on GEJ’s side. A smaller factor was GEJ’s naivety regarding the overarching role ethnicity plays in Nigerian politics. Let me explain:
- All Nigerian politics is ethnic in nature. Jonathan did come from a major ethnic group with sufficient political clout to bully or blackmail the other major ethnic blocs to back him. The Southeast, which backed him, did not possess the numbers, the agenda-setting clout of the media (southwest), or the ability to threaten and unleash nihilist mass violence to blackmail political interlocutors into backing down (north). The only instrument of deterrence, political negotiation, and blackmail GEJ’s natal Niger Delta had was oil militancy, but the Amnesty, which began with Yar’Adua and which GEJ, as vice president, oversaw, had taken that leverage away.
- Instead of realizing that, as long as Buhari remains active in politics, the Muslim North would never back a southerner for president and instead of using this realization to forge and consolidate an alliance with the Southwest, (having already banked the Southeast), Jonathan foolishly went out of his way to futilely court the north (plum appointments, new universities, almajiri schools, etc). Tinubu and his Southwestern ethnic army got angry that the person they helped bring to power in 2011 was busy trying to please the folks who voted against him while neglecting them, his 2011 alliance partners. They decided to desert him for a new alliance with Buhari and the north.
- Jonathan, we’re also learning, was, by the odious standard of tyranny that Buhari has established, extremely tolerant and democratic, and that certainly was one of his undoing because the ethnic coalition determined to oust him ultimately took advantage of that trait of democratic tolerance.
Why has Buhari managed to retain power despite being an atrocious ruler and despite being many times worse than GEJ? For starters, unlike Jonathan, he is ruling like a dictator and has effectively shut down the civic space of protest by turning Nigeria into a police state.
Secondly, unlike GEJ, Buhari has kept Tinubu and his Southwest allies largely satisfied. He has also sold them the illusion/promise of succession. As a result, even though Buhari has run the most brazenly parochial government in Nigeria’s history, which has seen even the Southwest marginalized from the consequential precincts of the regime, that deft political maneuver of dangling a political promissory note and sporadically patronizing Tinubu kept the political elites of the Southwest in the coalition in 2019. Unlike Jonathan’s time, the existence of a ruthless police state is a disincentive to Tinubu, a man with many skeletons in his closet who could lose everything, against exiting the coalition.
Thirdly, as many people have observed, the folks who participated in the ethnic coalition and civic effort that ousted Jonathan in 2015 are all now formally or informally embedded in this regime and are benefiting from it. Their silence has been bought or their voices have been muffled by their immersion and complicity in the corruption, tyranny, and incompetence of the current regime.