Saturday, May 08, 2010

Yar'Adua, Nigeria's president

Both BBC and CNN as well as African news sources such as Next and AllAfrica reported the death of Umaru Musa Yar'Adua on Wednesday, May 5th. The president of Nigeria has been too ill to govern since last November, as reported in my blog dated January 12th.
Vice president Goodluck Jonathan governed as best he could but had not formally succeeded Yar'Adua. According to the story in Next, Jonathan now automatically becomes the substantive president and will be sworn in tonight by Nigeria's chief justice.

The recent vacuum of leadership during Yar'Adua's prolonged illness has perplexed both Nigerian and foreign political analysts. I believe, however, that it can be traced to the regional divisions within Nigeria as a nation. In a post on February 12th, I suggested that Mr. Jonathan's Christian affiliation might have upset the balance between Islamic and Christian leadership in the government. As I now understand the situation, the problem centers on a "gentleman's agreement" of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) to choose a candidate alternately from "northern" and "southern" states. The regional division between north and south is both religious and ethnic, as astutely pointed out in the comment below by Solomonsydelle.

The coming period of transition in leadership in Nigeria promises to be a tense one. Mr. Jonathan is by no means guaranteed to be chosen as PDP candidate or, if chosen, to emerge victorious in the elections of 2011.

P.S. Ndesanjo Macha of Global Voices has aggregated recent blog postings about the president's death. Surprisingly, my comments above and exchange with Solomonsydelle and Imnakoya are prominently featured. Real Nigerians must be either immensely saddened or embarassed at the conclusion of this chapter of their recent history.

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At 10:11 PM , Blogger SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

Nice post, Don, and may Yar'Adua rest in peace.

Quick question. I wonder if it would be appropriate to refer to a "balance between Islamic and Christian leadership in government" as a key factor in the political machinations of the country. Would not a reference to the North-South division and 'gentleman's agreement' be more apt in this case?

Hope all is well with you and yours.

At 1:45 PM , Blogger Don Thieme said...

I think that you are definitely correct. I copied the phrase from my previous blog at which time there had been very little discussion in the media. As I now understand, the PDP "gentleman's agreement" is geographic.

At 2:59 PM , Anonymous imnakoya said...

RE: The recent vacuum of leadership - regional divisions within Nigeria might have played a role, but I doubt if it was of significance in the play.

The vacuum of leadership was brought about by personal desires of greed.

We must highlight the role of an imperial first lady and the cohort of profiteers that capitalized on the ill-health of the president. Their embarrassing shenanigans and high-level of power-play were unprecedented in the history of the nation.

In additon, we can not fail to highlight the role of NEXT (, the nascent news media outfit of Mr. Dele Olojede, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former foreign editor of New York Newsday. NEXT stood out in the media coverage of the Yar’Adua brouhaha through its frank editorials and news-breaking coverage. Mr. Olojede and his crew were the first to report the former president was brain dead, and incapable of overseeing the affairs of the nation -- an audacious and unprecedented play by a media house going by Nigerian standard.

Even when a mysterious voice claiming to be that of the former present was heard on BBC air waves, NEXT stood by their claim. What NEXT did more or less set the stage for the eventual swearing in of the vice president as the acting president.

In closing, as sad as the demise of Yar’Adua is, and as disruptive as the events surrounding his death was, it appears Nigeria did come out stronger, with a better grasp of its emerging democracy. However, just as you mentioned Don, the play-out of events in the next 12 months – during the elections, will confirm if this is indeed true.


At 3:29 PM , Blogger Don Thieme said...

To be sure, Turai has had an important political effect and perhaps a detrimental one. I doubt that she could have been so effective, however, if there were not many northerners who opposed Mr. Jonathan's ascension to power on the basis of ethnic and religious differences.

I doubt that we have been getting the absolute truth from Next or SaharaReporters anymore than we have from the state-controllect press regarding the current events inside Nigeria.

At 5:50 PM , Anonymous imnakoya said...

Of course the absolute truth is not known Don, and may never be revealed.

The issue of north-versus-south is a potent one in Nigerian democracy, however, we must also realize that there are several powerful northerners who opposed and spoke against the manner with which the first lady and the 'cabal' went about the 'disappearance' of the late president prior to his death.

To me the desire to always want to maintain the political status quo -- no matter what, is a major player in the matter. And this is traceable to greed, constitutional loopholes, and lack of accountability of the political class.

BTW, I don't think it's fair to mention NEXT and Sahara Reporters in the 'same breath'. :)

At 7:38 AM , Blogger Don Thieme said...

@imnakoya - Good points all. I do see Sahara Reporters and NEXT covering the same ground very often. In fact, I think that SR sometimes has the story first. Perhaps what you mean is that NEXT is more thorough in their documentation, so they act as a "filter" for some of the more scurrilous investigative reports?


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