Deciphering Nigerian president’s legacy


The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization forged in the fires of the U.S. civil rights movement, has honored former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for his contributions to human rights and freedom, Global Atlanta’s Trevor Williams writes.

The former president drew plaudits for peacefully ceding power after being defeated, an unprecedented instance of a Nigerian incumbent accepting political alternation after a single term in office. The election of Muhammadu Buhari as president of Nigeria was hailed as a historic transfer of power for Africa’s most populous nation – the first in which a sitting president was defeated at the ballot box

Mr. Jonathan’s more recent legacy, however, is harder to decipher. Some say he failed to bring the military to heel when soldiers abused the rights of Muslim detainees during the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency, Williams adds:

That has left many in the country “ambivalent” about his overall rights record, said Amaka Megwalu Anku, a [Penn Kemble] fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and director of Africa-focused consultancy Dilikam Advisors. 

“No one thinks he took an active part in any abuses, but he didn’t particularly crack down on abuses either. The most well known military abuses in the North (that led in part to the emergence of Boko Haram) happened under his predecessor, Yar’Adua,” Ms. Anku said.  

She was quick to add, however, that his decision to concede defeat early in the presidential elections likely saved a lot of lives. 

“I believe that was the focus of the honor, and that is entirely appropriate,” she said.


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