AP: Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in Sunday for a full four-year term as president of Nigeria and is now faced with the challenge of uniting a country that saw deadly postelection violence despite what observers called the fairest vote in over a decade.
The stately ceremony at the main parade ground in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja comes just over a year after Jonathan was sworn into office to complete the term of late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua. Yar’Adua’s death catapulted the former vice president to power last year, but April 16 elections solidified his hold on the presidency.
“You have entrusted me with your mandate and I will never, ever, let you down,” Jonathan said during his inaugural address shown on Nigerian state TV.
Analysts say that more can be expected of Jonathan in this new term.
“Now, he has enough political capital to do what he thinks he can do. He has contested and won an election widely judged to have been free and fair compared to past elections,” said Thompson Ayodele, director of the Lagos-based Institute for Public Policy Analysis.
Vice President Namadi Sambo was also sworn in Sunday.
Observers heralded the April 16 vote as the fairest election that Nigeria had held since it became a democracy twelve years ago. Nigeria has been plagued by military coups for much of its 50 years of independence and all previous elections had been severely flawed.
However, the April vote was marred by postelection riots that left hundreds dead, highlighting religious and ethnic fault lines in Africa’s most populous country. Human Rights Watch said more than 800 people, both Christian and Muslim, died in the election-related attacks and counterattacks.
During his Sunday inaugural address, Jonathan said that development would remedy those divides.
“Together we will unite to improve the living standards of all our peoples, whether in the north, or in the south, in the east, or in the west. This is our decade of development,” the president said. “We will not allow anyone to use our difference in creed or tongue to set us against one another.”
The nation of 150 million people with more than 150 ethnic groups is broadly divided between the Christian-dominated south and the Muslim north. The post-election violence spread quickly across northern states after early results showed that Jonathan, a Christian from the south, was winning.
Many northerners believed someone from their region should be the next leader after the Muslim president died in office. Former President Yar’Adua had been expected to rule for another term, before his death left the presidency in the hands of a southerner. An unwritten agreement in the ruling party calls for its presidential candidates to rotate between the country’s Christian south and Muslim north.
Tensions in Nigeria are fueled by poverty and unemployment in a country where an unreliable power supply has led to the closure of factories and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the textile industry alone over the last few years, especially in the Muslim north.
Jonathan’s one-year administration had already embarked on establishing reforms to bring power to Nigerian homes and businesses that rely heavily on private generators to function. In his address, he said that providing “a suitable environment for productive activities to flourish” was “an urgent task.”
Rufai Abubakar, a 38-year-old tailor in a working class Lagos neighborhood spends $200 a month buying fuel for his generator so that he can sew and do intricate Senegalese-style embroidery work in his shop.
“Sometimes, I don’t even make $200 in a month,” Abubakar said, “if the president can just solve the power issue, my business will be able to grow… We have to pray for him. He is a very special man. His parents gave him a good name, Goodluck.” AP/Yinka Ibukun