- (Photo: Reuters/Stringer)
As the terrorist attacks decimating Nigeria continue, its citizens are blaming the government for failing to protect them and asking why President Goodluck Jonathan is not doing more to save the Christians under attack by Islamist extremists.
These latest calls mark a stark reverse of public opinion for President Goodluck Jonathan, who was hailed as the "Nigerian Barack Obama" as he took office in May 2010, for his promise to bring change and prosperity to the most populous African country.
Jonathan, a Christian and whose middle name Ebelechukwu means "God's Mercy," has admitted that members of his own government that he helped form might have sympathies toward Boko Haram, the Islamist terror group that has been attacking churches and government offices, a CNN report revealed. Citizens have become so angry with these revelations that they have even taken to the streets carrying mock coffins and placards calling him "President Badluck."
Journalist and commentator Tolu Ogunlesi, who writes for Nigerian newspapers and has been featured in several major U.S. publications discussing Nigerian issues, expressed to CNN that the president "has come across as clueless when it comes to dealing with Boko Haram." He added: "No senior security officers have lost their jobs, nothing seems to have been done."
The attacks by Boko Harem have been blamed for threatening the very unity of the country and for the rising tensions between Muslims and Christians.
Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria's (CAN), decried the Nigerian government's failure to protect Christians from attacks and accused some security agents of taking sides.
"The security agencies are polarized along religious lines," he said. "Even when the security agents have information (concerning security measures to be taken against Boko Haram), some of them pass the information to these criminals. This is because some of the security agents are more loyal to their religion (Islam) than to Nigeria as a nation."
"You must muster the political will to make strong decisions. Any of the heads of the security agencies that are not performing, you should remove," he addressed the president directly.
One reason for the accusations directed at Jonathan seems to be his lack of political experience. According to the BBC, the president comes from a family with a canoe-making business, and he studied zoology while in college. He got into politics as late as 1998, after working as an education inspector, lecturer and environmental protection officer.
Despite his inexperience, Jonathan rose quickly through the ranks – he progressed from federal to state governor to vice president all in a number of years – and when acting Nigerian president Umaru Yar'Adua passed away in May 2010, Jonathan took control of the country.
Many are now saying the president seems ill equipped and unable to protect his citizens from the terrorist attacks they have been suffering for more than a year. Just last week, another string of bomb attacks, blamed on Boko Haram, killed 150 people in Kano City.
The Nigerian president had declared in a public statement at the end of 2011 that he would battle the extremist group and do whatever it takes to defend the country.
"Some people are exploiting it to their own advantage, but terrorist attack on any part of the nation is an attack on all of us and all Nigerians will collectively fight this terror," Jonathan said. "We will crush them. We will begin from tonight to take different measures, different approach in fighting Boko Haram and we must weed them out from the society."
However, his official Facebook page, on which he posts regular comments and engages with the public, has been flooded with messages questioning his leadership and how much is being done to protect the people.
Under his most recent post in which he shared his condolences for the victims of the Kano City attacks, one user, Yetunde Habeebah Bisi, wrote: "Obviously, the government doesn't know which way to go on the boko haram issue. Innocent people are dying by the day. We need to look for means to stop all these blood shedding. In places where things work, the security chiefs would've resigned if they don't have a clue about how to stop this."
Others, like Mustapha Ibrahim, pleaded for urgent action from their leader: "Mr. President, sir, you have to act fast. This issue is beyond story telling. Am wondering what your security chiefs are still doing. Please Mr President you are the Commander-In-Chief this issue of Boko Haram is not beyond you. All eyes are on you and you have the responsibility of safe guarding the lives of your citizens that is why you are occupying that office."