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Nigeria's Presidential Spokesman Denies Leadership Rift


Nigeria's ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua discreetly returned to the country on Wednesday, prompting concerns of a powder struggle in Africa's most populous nation. A spokesman for President Yar'Adua says the presidency remains united and there has been no attempt to sideline acting president Goodluck Jonathan and retain influence.

Confusion has reigned in Nigeria as to who is really in charge after the sudden return of the oil-rich nation's ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua. Despite an official clarification that acting President Goodluck Jonathan would remain in charge while Mr.Yar'Adua continues to recuperate, many Nigerians believe the assertive wife of the long-absent president, Turai Yar'Adua, is now the main power behind the presidency. Presidential spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi says such insinuations are incorrect.

"When you now read in the [news]papers that Turai takes over,Turai is in charge, all these things are not correct and I think they are very, very unfair to the first lady at a time she is nursing her husband. So there is no such thing. You don't expect the acting president to report to the first lady. It is abnormal and it won't happen," he said.

Mr. Yar'Adua returned to Nigeria on Wednesday and apparently left the airport in an ambulance escorted by a heavily armed military guard. He spent three months at a Saudi hospital for treatment for a heart condition. Mr.Yar'Adua has not been seen in public since his return.

Mr. Jonathan assumed executive powers on February 9, ending months of uncertainty and a leadership vacuum, allowing him to push ahead with issues affecting Nigeria such as improving power supply, electoral reforms, reviving the economy and bringing peace and stability to the oil-producing Niger Delta.

Adeniyi dismisses suggestions that the return of President Yar'Adua threatens to drive the country into another constitutional crisis. He says Mr. Yar'Adu and Mr. Jonathan have had a very good working relationship.

"It is just one presidency; we are all under Dr. Goodluck Jonathan now as acting president and commander-in-chief, until the president returns," said Adeniyi. "They've always had cordial relationship. I also know for a fact that several times in council [at Cabinet meetings], when the president was presiding, he always said any time he was not around any memo should go to the acting president, then as the vice president."

Worried by the lack of information on the president and uncertainty about his health, many prominent Nigerians have called for President Yar'Adua to resign.

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