African business, politics and lifestyle
Yar’Adua death leaves succession wide open
The death of Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua is unlikely to plunge Africa’s most populous state into crisis, but it intensifies what was already shaping up to be the fiercest succession race since the end of military rule.
Yar’Adua has been absent from the political scene since last November, when he left for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, and his deputy Goodluck Jonathan has been running the country since February and has since consolidated his position.
Yar’Adua’s death now piles pressure on the powerbrokers in the ruling People’s Democratic Party to resolve the impasse over who should succeed him.
According to the party’s constitution, power should rotate between Nigeria’s geographical zones, and there is an unwritten agreement that the presidency should alternate between the Muslim north and Christian south every two terms.
The conventional thinking was that should Yar’Adua — a northerner — die during his first term, as has happened, Jonathan — a southerner — would pick a new northern vice president and the pair would finish the unexpired term.
That northern vice president would then stand as the ruling party’s presidential nominee in the next election.
A string of northern names has been bandied around in the media and by political analysts as possible candidates to serve with Jonathan and then run at the next election.
Among them are National Security Adviser Aliyu Gusau, who was appointed by Jonathan in March and was the main contender alongside Yar’Adua to be the PDP candidate in the 2007 elections.
The powerful state governors’ caucus in the PDP is seen as likely to back one of its own, such as Bukola Saraki, the well-connected governor of the central state of Kwara.
A younger generation of northern reformers also could try their hand.
Nasir El-Rufai — a former minister under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo — returned from two years of self-imposed exile this week and has said he would not rule himself out of running for public office.
Nuhu Ribadu, a respected former anti-corruption chief, told Reuters last month he was ready to return from voluntary exile after a charges against him were dropped.
But all of these scenarios assume the agreement to rotate power between north and south is maintained.
There is no constitutional requirement for such a rotation and Jonathan has not ruled out running for president himself. El-Rufai has even said he could support him.
The ruling party’s inability to agree risks splitting it apart, a scenario which could mean more than one strong candidate contesting for the first time since the end of military rule. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who ran unsuccessfully as the opposition Action Congress candidate in 2007, has said he may seek to run again but this time on the PDP ticket.
Former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida also has said he intends to seek the PDP’s presidential nomination, although he pulled out of the race at the last minute before the 2007 polls.
What do you think should happen now? Who do you think would make the best candidate for president? Could this mean the next election will be a real contest?