Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
By Estelle Shirbon
No sooner was Umaru Yar’Adua named in late 2006 as the Nigerian ruling party’s presidential candidate than people started asking whether he would survive four years at the helm of Africa’s most populous nation.
The answer to that question came on Wednesday night, when Yar’Adua died a year before the end of his term — a sad end for a quiet man who had been in poor health since well before he was catapulted into one of the world’s toughest jobs.
I was a Reuters correspondent in Nigeria at the time and I remember the bewilderment when rumours surfaced that outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo had selected the frail governor of Katsina, a backwater northern state, as his successor.
To find out more about this little-known figure, I travelled to Katsina in January 2007 to examine his record.
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.
So 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.
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.
Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua has laid out the details of a 60-day amnesty programme for militants and criminals in the Niger Delta. Under the deal, all gunmen who lay down their weapons during a 60-day period ending in October will be immune from prosecution. The offer extends to those currently being prosecuted for militant-related activities, meaning Henry Okah – the suspected leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) – could also walk free if he agrees to renounce the notion of armed struggle.
Several factional leaders – including Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo, Soboma George and Boyloaf – have said they accept the idea of amnesty in principle but want talks with President Yar’Adua to hammer out the details.
Can Nigeria, the so-called “giant of Africa”, live up to its claim of being the biggest democracy in the black world? Not if its latest state governorship election is anything to go by, argue some in Africa’s most populous nation.
The re-run of elections for the post of governor in southwest Ekiti state were seen as a test of whether Nigeria’s electoral system has improved since flawed federal and state polls in 2007.
from Global News Journal:
A little while back, we asked who is and isn’t fighting corruption effectively in Africa. This week, a number of examples bring us back to the subject.
In Tanzania, two former ministers have been charged with flouting procurement rules over the award of a tender for auditing gold mining back in 2002. The pair, who deny wrongdoing, served in the government of President Jakaya Kikwete’s predecessor Benjamin Mkapa. One of them also served under Kikwete himself.
Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua left for Saudi Arabia more than two weeks ago for the Islamic obligation of the lesser Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca. Yar’Adua, who is known to have a chronic kidney problem, has sought medical attention in Jeddah and has still not returned, raising fears about the state of his health. A medical source in Saudi Arabia told Reuters he had undergone an operation.
Government and presidency officials have been tight-lipped about the president’s condition and have not said exactly when he will be back. The opposition has demanded clarity on the president’s health, adding that his absence is having an adverse effect on the workings of government and that the official silence is fuelling speculation and uncertainty.