Jonathan Goodluck: Africa’s new good luck

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PEACE!: Outgoing Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan

Once in a while, something encouraging crops up in Africa, renewing the hopes of the continent’s hundreds of millions who bare the brunt of dictatorships, maladministration and a host of other malaises.

The recent loss of elections in Nigeria by outgoing President Jonathan Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe, and his subsequent concession has set yet another pace for the democratic processes in Africa.

“I promised the country free and fair elections. I have kept my word. I have also expanded the space for Nigerians to participate in the democratic process. That is one legacy I would like to see endure,” the outgoing president wrote in his concession speech.

The history of politics in Nigeria since Independence has never been as encouraging as it is today: the country with a population of over one hundred and fifty million has been riddled with tales of grand corruption, fraud and military adventurism can provide researchers and academics with volumes of rave reviews.

Indeed, the country has had the most military coups on the continent, with the first coup in 1966 by Major General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi, who rose to power after the overthrow of the elected government of President Nnamdi Azikiwe and Prime Minister Alhajji Sir Abubaker Tafawa Balewa in January 1966.

Six months later Gen Ironsi was to be overthrown and assassinated and replaced by Gen Yakub Gowon.  The power ping-ping continued and at one time, between 1983 and 1985, the current president-elect Gen Muhammadu Buhari, was a military dictator lording it over a coterie of military officers, who looted one of Africa’s richest countries clean.

Just like most other British colonies, Nigeria is a multi-ethnic country, with people from different tribes competing for power based on their origins and religious orientation.

The struggle for power in the vast country has therefore, at different times, pitted politicians and military men from the predominantly Muslim North against their colleagues, largely Christians from the South.

Indeed, Nigeria’s political and military story cannot be told wholly without examining the prominent faces of debauchery.

Nigeria has had 15 leaders and among them other military men who have ruled Africa’s most populous state include Gen Murtala Muhammed, Gen Ibrahim Babangida, Gen Olusegun Obasango, Gen Abdusalaami Abubaker and Gen Sani Abacha, a man who raided the treasury with impunity, amassing over a billion of oil dollars through fraud. In any political dispensation good governance, accountability and transparency are critical ingredients of development.

It is therefore important to note that the pillars of advanced governance are now knocking on the doorsteps of this African giant as Goodluck Jonathan becomes the first Nigerian president to concede defeat after losing an election organized while he was in power.

The development should send a strong message to other African leaders that organizing an election does not necessarily translate into winning power.

Another African leader who has thrown a spanner in the works of African politics of good governance and accountability is Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has said he will not seek an alteration, and by implication, an extension to his stay in power.

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WILL HE STICK TO HIS WORD?: President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has vowed not to extend his stay in power

In a recent interview Kagame was quoted as saying he has ‘no intention, and no desire to disrespect the Constitution’, in apparent reference to those saying he will seek a third-seven-year term, something that would bring his tally to 21 years at the helm.

This year over 10 African countries are set or have held elections. Zambia, Sao Tome and Principe, Sudan and Nigeria have already completed the exercise, while South Sudan, Somaliland, Comoros, Ivory Coast, Burundi, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Central Africa Republic (CAR) and Burkina Faso are expected to hold elections later in the year.

However, in the nine countries that are yet to hold elections, it is only in Tanzania, (where the Constitution dictates a two-five year term for president), that seems to have a clearer method of power transitioning.

Clearly, in the latter group Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, (though the two have Constitutions that clearly spell out term limits) don’t have clear transitory methods with a history of periodical change of leadership at the top.

But this must be put to a total halt: we must now adopt modern methods of governance that include peaceful transition of power in a bid to ensure stability and development in Africa.

Indeed, as we prepare for the forthcoming grueling election periods across the continent, it is everybody’s wish that leaders emulate Goodluck Jonathan, who has proved a true patriot and who will go down in the annals of history as the man who set Nigeria on a new political pedestal.