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Nigerian president on the way back?

January 12, 2010

Yar'AduaSo Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua has ended weeks of silence with comments on the BBC that he is getting better and hopes to be back home soon.

That at least appears to have answered speculation in local media that he could be brain damaged, in a coma or even dead.

But it hasn’t satisfied critics who say that to fulfil his constitutional duties he should be handing over powers to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, at least temporarily.

“Whether he is alive or brain damaged or spoke to the BBC is not our bone of contention. He left a vacuum which we want filled,” as one put it.

It has been a particularly difficult time with Yar’Adua away and doubts over his future.

Not only has the speculation slowed government in Nigeria and fuelled the maneuvering by politicians only too eager at the unexpected chance for an opening to power, but Nigeria has come under new pressure internationally following the failed plane bombing by a Nigerian passport holder.

J. Peter Pham, senior fellow and director of the Africa Project at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, recently suggested that Yar’Adua’s death or further decline in 2010 could lead to major instability or even a slide towards a failed state.

He argued that the world should be more concerned about Nigeria’s internal problems than the risk to the world of Nigerian Islamic militants (and it is true that more Britons have carried out or been accused of trying to carry out attacks than Nigerians).

“If anything, a rudderless Nigeria is not only a lost opportunity. It is also a threat to the interests of both its neighbors and the international community, and cannot be ignored any longer,” he wrote. You can read the full article here.

How far will Yar’Adua’s reappearance help to quell the unease in Nigeria? Should he still hand over to his deputy while he is out of the country? Can the stopper be put back in the bottle of political hopes unleashed by his absence?


That we have a proof that he is still alive is good news, but this one minute phone interview with Mansur Liman of the BBC is inadequate & was only meant to buy some time. (Mr Liman admitted this much on the BBC African Service a few hours ago). Many unanswered questions still remain.
Nigerians need to know for example, why he waited to be declared “brain damaged” and “dead” before speaking out. Why doesn’t he trust the Vice president to act on his behalf? Or how are we meant to inteprete his violation of the constitution in this regard? Nature abhors a vaccum and the one existing at the top of the Nigerian state machinery is dangerous and needs to be rightly filled. These half measures won’t do.

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