An ex-dictator is a better choice than a failed president: Economist

An ex-dictator is a better choice than a failed president: Economist

Thursday, February 5, 2015 9:00 pm

An external view about Nigeria’s 14 February election between General Muhammadu Buhari and President Goodluck Jonathan.

Buhari in Lagos. Photo credit: Reuters

Buhari in Lagos. Photo credit: Reuters

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 . 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.

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

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.

Culled from The Economist UK

Join The Conversation


  • Elijah says:

    Freedom to steel to embessle to fraud to riging fail ptomises

  • Elijah says:

    Best leader ur family ever had

  • Elijah says:

    So ur Who is ur Gej is he not a murderer how many blood do u know on his neck?

  • Elijah says:

    U dat, u av sold ur birthright u dont know ibo will neber smell d president of dis nation again as jonathing has ruined all ur chances and u their talking rubish what do u know dan make u buy n sell idiot

  • Elijah says:

    Hmm is u and all d animal in ur family are making those figures

  • Elijah says:

    As for u ur bad luck is ur president not Nigerians

  • Elijah says:

    Only u knows Gej is ur preside

  • GARY says:


  • Gary Johnson says:

    U that wrote this comment……… Nigeria will get you soon MAD GOAT… OVER $500B LOOSE SINCE UR SO CALLED MAD PRESIDENT. NIGERIANS ARE COMING FOR U ALL……..

  • i dont see how this makes sense, a dictator is a dictator,are you guys high

  • Enumah says:

    Indeed this report has come from a RETARD that not just Nigeria but Africa have been waiting for.

  • Nwaobilor says:

    Who dey talk dis rubbish?

  • nafisat says:

    in your perverted mind we know he’s better, but clear headed nigerians have already made thier choice and its GEJ we choose till 2019 even then we still will not vote buhari.

  • ahmed says:

    NOBODY wants Buhari, notherners dont want him he is a very wicked man who is out only to please himself, its hunger and that is making a few of us to support him. everyone knows GEJ is our president.

  • Destiny Whyte says:

    Go collect your pvcs, till feb. 14th, Buhari will cry again,GEJ had 85%votes of southeast, south south,north centrals, 58%votes of north west, 45%votes of north easth,75%of south west,,who win then?,forget noise,APC is going no were,GEJ till 2019, even if world newspaper endorsed anyone,our votes niaja votes decides,go get your pvcs. #GEJ is the chosen one.

  • Ndubuisi Chinedu says:

    Let pharaoh endorse GMB, he will fail. God has given GEJ victory already. There is nothing to fear about. #TeamGEJ2015/19

  • Destiny Whyte says:

    No right thinking Nigeria will Vote 4 Murderer like Buhari, Let’s vote GEJ for the positive change.

  • Samuel Orji says:

    Only fools doubt proofs, cow does not know they have tail until it’s cut-off. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is the best leader Nigeria ever had. #NoGMB2015

  • geraldine jaja says:

    thanks for your sermon. if buhari is that good, make him the C.E.O of the economist as for Nigeria GEJ is our next president.

  • felicia jones says:

    With a dictator you are choiceless vote for your freedom vote GEJ

  • Dr Sam Nwiyordee says:

    One GEJ is better than a pack of buhari in a row

  • kingsley obi says:

    Buhari has done enough harm to this nation and to its citizens even to those in disappeared…so lets vote for TRUE democracy by choosing GEJ

  • Mrs benita akpan says:

    If you need a dictator we don’t and if you cannot appreciate the good works of GEJ then you have a long way to go

  • ubong ekanem says:

    BUHARI is no more needed

  • emmanuel says:

    Goodluck is the man

  • kemi says:

    buhari is not an option

  • uzo says:

    GEJ is good for nigeria period

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