Jonathan Called A Failed President, Economist Endorses Buhari

February 6, 2015 1:52 am
, the All Progressives
Congress presidential candidate, has received another powerful
international endorsement, this time from The Economist.

In an editorial in its edition dated February 7, 2015, the respected
newsmagazine recalls Buhari’s previous leadership of through a
coup d’etat, saying his rule was “nasty, brutish and mercifully short.”

“Should a former dictator with such a record be offered another
chance?” it asked, answering that surprisingly, many Nigerians think he
should.
 

“One reason is that, in a country where ministers routinely wear
wristwatches worth many times their annual salary, Mr Buhari is a
sandal-wearing ascetic with a record of fighting corruption. Few
nowadays question his commitment to democracy or expect him to turn
autocratic: he has repeatedly stood for election and accepted the
outcome when he lost.”

It said that despite the many questions hanging over Buhari’s
military leadership, it chooses him over Jonathan, who lamentably risks
presiding over Nigeria’s bloody fragmentation.

Nigerian voters, it asserted, have many reasons to send Jonathan
packing, dismissing him as “an utter failure”, and the PDP’s reign,
since 1999, as a sorry one.

“Mr Jonathan has shown little willingness to tackle endemic
corruption,” the magazine said.  “When the governor of the central bank
reported that $20 billion had been stolen, his reward was to be sacked. 
Worse, on Mr Jonathan’s watch much of the north of the country has been
in flames.”

Of the former Head of State’s prospects, The Economist said: “If Mr Buhari can save Nigeria, history might even be kind to him.”

 
The Editorial

A former dictator is a better choice than a failed president

Feb 7th 2015

SOMETIMES there are no good options. Nigeria goes to the polls on
February 14th to elect the next president, who will face problems so
large—from rampant corruption to a jihadist insurgency—that they could
break the country apart, with dire consequences for Nigerians and the
world.

And yet, as Africa’s biggest economy stages its most important
election since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999, and perhaps
since the civil war four decades ago, Nigerians must pick between the
incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, who has proved an utter failure, and the
opposition leader, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator with
blood on his hands (see article). The candidates stand as symbols of a
broken political system that makes all Nigeria’s problems even more
intractable.

Start with Mr Jonathan, whose People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has run
the country since 1999 and who stumbled into the presidency on the
death of his predecessor in 2010. The PDP’s reign has been a sorry one.
Mr Jonathan has shown little willingness to tackle endemic corruption.
When the governor of the central bank reported that $20 billion had been
stolen, his reward was to be sacked.

Worse, on Mr Jonathan’s watch much of the north of the country has
been in flames. About 18,000 people have died in political violence in
recent years, thousands of them in January in several brutal attacks by
Boko Haram, a jihadist group that claims to have established its
“caliphate” in territory as large as Belgium. Another 1.5m people have
fled their homes. The insurgency is far from Mr Jonathan’s southern
political heartland and afflicts people more likely to vote for the
opposition. He has shown little enthusiasm for tackling it, and even
less competence. Quick to offer condolences to France after the attack
on Charlie Hedbo, Mr Jonathan waited almost two weeks before speaking up
about a Boko Haram attack that killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
his compatriots.

The single bright spot of his rule has been Nigeria’s economy, one of
the world’s fastest-growing. Yet that is largely despite the government
rather than because of it, and falling oil prices will temper the boom.
The prosperity has not been broadly shared: under Mr Jonathan poverty
has increased. Nigerians typically die eight years younger than their
poorer neighbours in nearby Ghana.

Goodbye Jonathan

Voters have ample cause to send Mr Jonathan packing. In a country
where power has often changed through the barrel of a gun, the
opposition All Progressives Congress has a real chance of winning
through the ballot box. Yet its candidate, Mr Buhari, is an ex-general
who, three decades ago, came to power in a coup. His rule was nasty,
brutish and mercifully short. Declaring a “war against indiscipline”, he
ordered whip-wielding soldiers to ensure that Nigerians formed orderly
queues. His economics, known as Buharism, was destructive. Instead of
letting the currency depreciate in the face of a trade deficit, he tried
to fix prices and ban “unnecessary” imports. He expelled 700,000
migrants in the delusion that this would create jobs for Nigerians. He
banned political meetings and free speech. He detained thousands, used
secret tribunals and executed people for crimes that were not capital
offences.

Should a former dictator with such a record be offered another
chance? Surprisingly, many Nigerians think he should. One reason is
that, in a country where ministers routinely wear wristwatches worth
many times their annual salary, Mr Buhari is a sandal-wearing ascetic
with a record of fighting corruption. Few nowadays question his
commitment to democracy or expect him to turn autocratic: he has
repeatedly stood for election and accepted the outcome when he lost. He
would probably do a better job of running the country, and in particular
of tackling Boko Haram. As a northerner and Muslim, he will have
greater legitimacy among villagers whose help he will need to isolate
the insurgents. As a military man, he is more likely to win the respect
of a demoralised army.

We are relieved not to have a vote in this election. But were we
offered one we would—with a heavy heart—choose Mr Buhari. Mr Jonathan
risks presiding over Nigeria’s bloody fragmentation. If Mr Buhari can
save Nigeria, history might even be kind to him.

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