Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Nigeria on the precipice while President Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia


BBC: Ill Nigeria President Yar'Adua must quit - media chiefs

BBC: African Viewpoint: The Nation State

BBC: Sick Nigerian President Yar'Adua 'to hand over power'

New York Times: Goodluck Jonathan addresses Nigeria

AllAfrica.Com: Shell shuts flow stations after pipeline attack

AllAfrica.Com: Yar'Adua - Militants threaten to strick if...

AllAfrica.Com: Yar'Adua - We either resolve or dissolve, ministers threaten

Nigerian politics are at a breaking point that threatens to derail reforms, hamper development, and could lead to the breakup of the country. Since late November 2009, President Umaru Yar'Adua led the country from Saudi Arabia, but sufficient pressure has mounted to force him to transfer power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. On Tuesday, February 9th, the National Assembly appointed him as acting president. However, until a permanent solution is agree to by all parties, Nigeria remains on hold until a smooth transition of power can be achieved.

The timeline of President Yar’Adua’s absence is well documented, unlike other political scandals. On November 23rd he was transported to Saudi Arabia. Three days later he was diagnosed with an inflammation of the heart lining known as pericarditis. A month after leaving the country the first court case was filed that urged him to step down. On Januarys 12th he gave his first interview from Saudi Arabia, with support coming from his cabinet on January 27th and the court declaring that there was no need for a formal transfer of power. One reason given for the President’s lack of communication is that he is presently in the hospital suite reserved for the King of Saudi Arabia and the heightened security has made it difficult for information to flow to and from him freely.

Pressure to find an agreed on solution is pouring in from all sides. Leaders of the media elite have called on Yar’Adua to step down, as have numerous young professional ministers. They have said that the upcoming deadline will "resolve or dissolve” the country. Not all are willing to accept Vice-President Jonathan. Ministers from the north have rejected these calls and claim no power exchange should occur. At the root of the problem is the division of the country between the Muslim north and the Christian south. Peace is kept by alternating power between the regions during each election. President Yar’Adua will hold office until 2011, and those who benefit from him are reluctant to see power be given to Vice President Jonathan, a southerner.

Many experts have been predicting that the precarious balance of power in Nigeria would lead to the breakup of the country. Already, militants have used Presidents Yar’Adua’s absence to increase attacks, wreaking havoc with oil pipelines and leading to greater instability. They say that the political impasse must be resolved so that the agreed on peace process can move forward. The United States predicted the country might crumble 15 years ago, and has not improved its outlook much since that time. Some commentators have speculated that what holds the people of the country together is not national pride, but a sluggish apathy and a grudging acceptance of whatever the present circumstances are. This feeling is born out by the self-given moniker “the longest suffering people on earth.”


1) Should all countries constitutions contain provisions for a smooth transition of power when the leader is ill, similar to the 25th Amendment in the United States?

2) What responsibilities should a country’s leader have when they leave the country, regardless of the reason?

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