Goodluck Jonathan: How He Is Selling His Candidacy

Article excerpt

Nigerians are getting ready for elections in April 2011. While some recent election results in West Africa have produced upsets and been problematic, for example in Cote d'lvoire and Guinea, Nigeria's elections are being viewed with higher expectations this time, given the entry into the presidential primaries of the ruling PDP by President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking the job on his own merit for the first time.

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Goodluck Ebele Jonathan's ascent to Nigeria's presidency was not planned. On the night of 5 May 2010 President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua died after several months on his sick bed. By the following morning, at a solemn ceremony in the Council Chambers of the Abuja Presidential Villa, GEJ (as Jonathan is now affectionately known by his supporters) was sworn in as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, stepping into the shoes of "not just a boss but a good friend and brother". President Jonathan moved to stabilise his government by nominating former governor of the north-western state of Kaduna, Arc. Namadi Mohammed Sambo as the vice-president, and reshuffling the Federal Executive Council.

In his speech on assuming office, he stated his total commitment to "good governance, electoral reform and the fight against corruption". He pledged that his government would establish a strong foundation on which to build a sustainable future for Nigerians through his commitment to credible elections, power generation and distribution, the fight against corruption and overcoming the challenges to security for Nigeria as a whole and the Niger Delta in particular.

He also acknowledged the deficiencies in providing clean water, health care and an improved business environment and promised to overcome them. The ultimate goal, he said, was to create jobs and empower the people.

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President Goodluck Jonathan became the first Nigerian leader to master the art of using the social/interactive media to communicate with the citizens. And in keeping with this image of a moderniser he created a profile on Facebook. Since then, rarely has a day gone by without a fresh update related to recent news events, government policy and, of course, the coming 2011 elections. Currently there are more fans signed up than the combined numbers for British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South African President Jacob Zuma. He has seized public momentum and stolen a march on his rivals using this medium. On 15 September 2010, when it was time to announce his candidacy for the 2011 presidential election, he went directly to the public via Facebook.

Being the first person from the oil-rich Niger Delta to hold the presidency, he was pushed by supporters within his party - the People's Democratic Party (PDP) - to run on a platform of national unity and generational shift, and campaign for a full term. Throwing his hat into the political ring in the posting titled "Declaration of Intent For The 2011 Presidential Race", President Jonathan noted: "In presenting myself for service, I make no pretence that I have a magic wand that will solve all of Nigeria's problems or that I am the most intelligent Nigerian. Far from it. What I do promise is this - if I am elected President in 2011, I will make a covenant with you the Nigerian people to always do right by you, to tell you the truth at all times, to carry you along and most importantly to listen to you, fellow citizens in our communities and also those of you on this page."

He has also been using the interactive social media to defend himself. Following accusations of disloyalty to his former boss for daring to contest his party's presidential primaries, he wrote: "I was loyal to my leader, the late great President Umaru Yar'adua. I am loyal to Nigeria, I don't claim to represent North, South or a Committee - I represent Nigeria. …