Thursday, March 1, 2012

Nigeria: A Marshall Plan for Nigeria By Nigeria

All Africa
29 February 2012

By Witney Schneidman and Mwangi Kimenyi

Will President Goodluck Jonathan be successful in managing Nigeria's myriad challenges and achieve his goal of transforming the country into a modern and prosperous nation?

Jonathan made a positive first impression. Plucked from relative obscurity to be vice president to an enigmatic and ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua, Jonathan moved deftly to seize the reins of power.

Once he became president following Yar'Adua's death, he acted decisively to install his own cabinet. Jonathan was subsequently elected president with a clear mandate in elections that observers described as among the most successful in the country's 50 years of independence. He has overseen an amnesty program that has significantly diminished the insurgency in the oil-producing Niger Delta. He appointed some very talented and experienced individuals to office. Economic growth was 7.4 percent in the third quarter of 2011, according to the World Bank.

Over the last several months, however, Jonathan has appeared to falter.

With deadly attacks on the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, Christian churches and targets throughout the north attributed to Boko Haram, a radical Islamist sect, the Nigerian government initially seemed incapable of responding effectively. The recent shake-up of the army high command was overdue.

However, the perception of Jonathan's ineptness deepened last month when his government announced the removal of a popular but expensive fuel subsidy that led to violence and work stoppages throughout the country.

While the government and labor unions ultimately struck a deal to reduce the subsidy, Jonathan's administration was put on the defensive.

Underlying the security threat posed by Boko Haram in the north and the bungled handling of the oil subsidy is a vast deficit of trust between the Nigerian government and people. There is little confidence among average Nigerians that any decisions made by the political elite will be independent of rent-seeking and corruption.

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