News / Africa

Nigerian President Returns Home, But Uncertainty Continues

Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua (file photo)
Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua (file photo)
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Nigeria's acting leader will run state affairs while President Umaru Yar'Adua recovers after three months' medical treatment abroad.  The president returned to Nigeria on Wednesday. 

The 58-year-old's surprise return from Saudi Arabia comes two weeks after Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan took over, amid fears of a power vacuum.  The entire presidential wing of the Abuja airport was cordoned off by soldiers hours before the president's plane touched down. Two planes arrived at the airport, and one of them was met by an ambulance which left under heavy military escort.

A Lagos-based political analyst, George Orji, says the manner of the president's arrival suggest he was far from well. "If the president is up and doing, you will see him exchanging pleasantries, throwing banters and greeting people," he said.

"There will be no doubt, there will be no conjectures about his health, it will be apparent. Normally, if he had come back from Saudi Arabia hale and hearty, a spectacle will be made of it. So it is not going to soldiers cordoning off the plane landing in an unusual place in the airport and then people saw ambulances," he added.

The United States Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Jonnie Carson, has welcomed Mr. Yar'Adua's return to Nigeria. "We hope that President Yar'Adua's return to Nigeria is not an effort by his senior advisors to upset Nigeria's stability and create renewed uncertainty in the democratic process," he cautioned in a statement.

Vice President Goodluck Jonathan canceled Wednesday's weekly cabinet meeting.

Many Nigerians are skeptical about President Yar'Adua's state of health. He is also known to have a chronic kidney condition.

Orji predicts a split within the presidency and a power struggle. "The intrigue is going to be more interesting and it will intensify.  Between the two forces we are going to see attempts to take over the government, this country, by either of the two groups, either pro-Jonathan or pro-Yar'Adua. But the question we should ask ourselves is, where does this leave the country?  The country is drifting," he said.

The president's return was greeted with wild jubilation in his home state of Katsina. Hundreds of his supporters marched through the streets shouting Mai Matawalle. Mr.Yar'Adua holds the traditional title of Matawallen Katsina, meaning "Kingmaker of Katsina."  

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