Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
Would you order three new jets just so your successor could use them?
President Goodluck Jonathan is keeping Nigerians guessing as to whether he plans to stand in elections due next January, but suspicions are growing that he will eventually decide to contest.
Plans he has set out range from boosting power supply – perhaps Nigeria’s most critical need – to improving roads. Those are certainly not projects that anyone could complete quickly. On Wednesday, cabinet approved the purchase of three presidential jets at a cost of $150 million – adding to the suspicions he sees himself making use of them.
But there remains the question of Nigeria’s careful ethnic political dance. Jonathan must win over northerners who believe they deserve another turn at the presidency because late President Umaru Yar’Adua, a Muslim northerner, died in office. In another possible sign of Jonathan trying to win favour in the north, he appointed two female opposition members from the region to his cabinet this week.
It can’t be easy for anyone who becomes president to turn down the chance to stay in office – particularly at the urging of supporters constantly assuring you that you can do the job better than anyone else.
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.
Nigeria’s ruling party made clear this week it wanted to see another northerner as the candidate for the 2011 presidential election, according to its principle of rotating power. That makes it harder (if not impossible) to see how Acting President Goodluck Jonathan might ever contest the ballot since he is from the Niger Delta in the south.
The Peoples Democratic Party’s unwritten rule of rotating power through Nigeria’s regions every two presidential terms – for these purposes there are six regions – was thought up on the return to civilian rule in 1999 because until then power had largely rotated among northerners, most of them in uniform.
The return of Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua three months after he left for a Saudi hospital might normally have beeen seen as a sign that a long spell of debilitating uncertainty was over.
But this was no ordinary return for a long absent president with an army band and a red carpet.