African business, politics and lifestyle
Should Nigerian leader transfer powers?
The foiled Christmas Day bomb attack on a U.S. airliner has put further pressure on ailing Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua to either confirm he is fit to govern or hand over to his deputy.
Yar’Adua has been in Saudi Arabia for more than a month being treated for a heart condition and uncertainty over how a succession would be handled if his health worsens risks plunging Africa’s most populous nation into political crisis.
Vice President Goodluck Jonathan has been presiding over cabinet meetings but executive powers have not officially been transferred, leading a top lawyer to challenge the legality of decisions made in Yar’Adua’s absence.
Presidency officials have said Yar’Adua is responding to treatment and the government says state business is going on as normal.
But pressure has been mounting from the opposition and parts of civil society for him either to prove his fitness with a formal medical test or hand over power.
A lack of updates on his condition has fuelled speculation about the gravity of his illness in the Nigerian media, with some reports saying he is largely incapable of communicating.
The government has said Yar’Adua can exercise his presidential powers from anywhere and that contact is made with him on issues that require his approval.
A presidency source told Reuters on Tuesday Yar’Adua had signed a supplementary 2009 budget, taken to him by a government official.
But the government’s critics have also warned of a crisis in the judiciary with the country’s Chief Justice due to retire in three days and only the president able to name a successor.
Militants in the Niger Delta said 10 days ago they had attacked a major pipeline because Yar’Adua’s absence was delaying peace talks. And on Monday, soldiers and police clashed with members of an Islamic sect in the northern city of Bauchi, killing at least eight people and highlighting volatility ahead of 2011 elections.
Under the terms of the constitution, Yar’Adua could temporarily transfer powers to Jonathan. Should he become permanently unable to govern, Jonathan would take over.
Should Yar’Adua transfer his powers for now or could that in itself risk deepening the uncertainty over Nigeria’s leadership?