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.