Candidacy by Facebook: Goodluck Jonathan Kicks Off 2011 Campaign in Viral Fashion

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Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (L)

REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

For months, Nigeria’s president had held off on announcing his candidacy for the 2011 election. When it was time to shed speculation, he went directly to the public – via Facebook.

Goodluck Jonathan threw his hat right into the political ring on Wednesday, but he avoided the traditional route of a press conference decked with premeditated campaign paraphernalia. He instead opted to release a Facebook note to his 217,000-plus fans entitled “Declaration of Intent For The 2011 Presidential Race.”

“In presenting myself for service, I make no pretense that I have a magic wand that will solve all of Nigeria’s problems or that I am the most intelligent Nigerian,” Jonathan wrote. “Far from it. What I do promise is this – If I am elected President in 2011, I will make a covenant with you the Nigerian people to always do right by you, to tell you the truth at all times, to carry you along and most importantly to listen to you, fellow citizens in our communities and also those of you on this page.”

Less than 24 hours later, more than 4,000 followers ‘liked’ what he had said. One of those supporters, ‘Prince Richard Adienbo’, wrote: “god bless and give u the wisdom 2 pilot the affairs of this nation.”

Supporters are clearly there, so why did Jonathan take an exclusive turn to social networking to declare his political intentions? The Christian Science Monitor notes that his decision was a clear message to Nigeria’s media that he is searching for fair treatment, not fragmented judgment.

Four months after the tragic death of then-President Umaru Yar’Adua, Jonathan has been thrust to the forefront of a country grappling with religious diversity that is, at times, divisive. An informal political agreement has traditionally held that Nigeria’s presidency swap every two terms, between candidates from the predominantly Muslim north and the overwhelmingly Christian south. That decision purportedly helps ease tensions between the 250-plus tribal groups living within the nation’s borders.

If precedent is anything, this coming year marks a Muslim turn to take the reigns. But as the Telegraph writes, the Christian Jonathan has a strong enough base of support within the People’s Democratic Party to generate discussion about the religion rule.