Goodluck Jonathan disolves Nigerian cabinet: a further sign of chaos or a positive move?

News just broke that the Nigerian cabinet has been dissolved. I first heard about on Twitter. This is an excerpt from the BBC piece from about one and a half hours ago:

Nigeria’s acting President Goodluck Jonathan has dissolved the country’s cabinet, government sources say…
The cabinet was picked by Mr Yar’Adua and correspondents say Mr Jonathan is now trying to stamp his own authority…
Mansur Liman of BBC Hausa says there had been rumours of the dissolution for some time and Mr Jonathan had already changed several senior personnel.
But our correspondent says this is the biggest move Mr Jonathan has made since becoming acting president and he is clearly plotting a new course for the government.

Nigerian acting president Goodluck Jonathan
This comes at a critical time, and the question is: are these news positive or negative? Will things get better after this, with Jonathan strenthening his control of the government? Or is this a further sign that Nigeria is slipping futher out of control? It is obviously way too early to say, and I, furthermore, have no detailed knowledge of Nigerian politics. Nevertheless these are some things to bear in mind:

1) Yesterday, a protest march and demonstration took place in Abuja yesterday. This is part of the text calling for action (at Naijablog):

Young People Power!
March 16 is the date that young Nigerians will march in Abuja to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
Time: 11am
Venue: National Assembly, Abuja (We gather at Eagle Square at 11am PROMPT)
1) President Yar’Adua should resume, resign or be removed
2) The promise of 6000megawatts must be fulfilled
3) The 5-month fuel crisis needs to end now

This was organised by the group Enough is Enough Nigeria . A group of young people organised to protest for the current political crisisin the country, and organised via Facebook and other new media like Twitter. The move by Jonathan is in a way, a step in the direction demanded by this group, closin the door of the Yar’Adua administration.

2) As well as the political crisis, violence has affected the country recently in terrible ways: first, it was the violence on the town of Jos, which left hundreds of deaths. Violence between Christian and Muslims communities erupted first in January, and re-appeared again this month. As well as the inter-communial tensions this violence has highlighted the corruption of the police and the passivity of the military. See here the Human Rights Watch Report.On the Niger Delta, amnesty talks were disrupted yesterday by the explosion of two car-bombs outside a government building. The actions were claimed by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), who sought to «announce our continued presence».

3) All this has lead to fears, voiced yesterday by writer Wole Soyinka in converstion with UK newspaper «The Independent», that:

«Nigeria is close to breaking up and its leadership has descended into a «theatre of the absurd»…
The veteran writer and civil rights activist told The Independent that his home country was now a «failed state» where ordinary people’s «anger has peaked», with potentially lethal consequences. «Nigeria is looking at its last chance in the next year…
«If nothing changes, I cannot guarantee what recourse the people will take,» the writer said. «The level of anger has peaked. I don’t rule out Nigeria breaking up. That’s what can happen to a failed state.»

Wole Soyinka speaking at a rally in Nigeria
4) These has also led to heightened international preocupation for the future of the country, following the Niger Delta violence, the Christmas bombing incident, and the placing of the country on list of terror-watch. As blogged here before:

This growing concern has even led an «intelligence oficial in AFRICOM» to affirm «that Northern Nigeria could become like Western Pakistan» (AC 53,3), which in my mind leads to the follow-up question: Could Nigeria be the next Pakistan?…given the growing strategic weight of Nigeria on both the energetic and counterterrorism fields, could this country – like Pakistan – become a (borrowing a fashionable economic term): a country «too-big-to-fail», which will require closer attention, and intervention from the US?

Despite the justified concerns showed by Wole Soyinka, I believe today’s move by Goodluck Jonathan is not a further sign of Nigeria’s collapse, but a step on the right direction. Judging by the comments left on the online newspaper, most readers believe that the disoultion of the cabinet suggests that Jonathan is ready to make some difficult decisions and take control of the country. I hope this is not too late, and wish Nigerian people the best in these exciting times.

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