News / Africa

Challenges Ahead for Nigeria's New Acting President

Goodluck Jonathan says his primary focus is driving down double-digit inflation, boosting electricity supplies, and getting the 2010 budget through parliament.

Nigeria's new acting president and commander in chief Goodluck Jonathan is pictured as he takes office in Abuja, 10 Feb 2010
Nigeria's new acting president and commander in chief Goodluck Jonathan is pictured as he takes office in Abuja, 10 Feb 2010

Multimedia

Audio

After more than two months of political uncertainty over the absence of President Umaru Yar'Adua, Nigeria's new acting president Goodluck Jonathan takes power facing a host of economic and security issues.

Mr. Jonathan's most immediate impact has clearly been economic.

The acting president freed up more than $2 billion from Nigeria's excess crude oil account to help fund state governments. He says his primary focus is driving down double-digit inflation, boosting electricity supplies, and getting the 2010 budget through parliament.

"We see a need to prioritize on a few of the most critical areas which continue  to plague our efforts at engendering meaningful economic growth and development. Some of these critical sectors include power, infrastructure, security, generation of employment, and business opportunities for our teeming young men and women," he said.

For Africa's top oil producer, focusing on the economy means ensuring the free flow of crude. Four years of sabotage and killing in the Niger Delta cut oil production by more than one-quarter. But that is now slowly returning to normal since thousands of fighters accepted President Yar'Adua's amnesty offer five months ago.

Opeyemi Agbaje is with the Lagos corporate consulting group Resource and Trust Company.

Challenges Ahead for Nigeria's New Acting President
Challenges Ahead for Nigeria's New Acting President

"The amnesty in the Niger Delta, which has allowed oil production to begin to rise up again which has restored some peace in the region, is threatened. There is fear that that could unravel if the situation is not quickly managed," said Agbaje.

Acting President Jonathan vows to consolidate the gains of the amnesty and is appealing for patience.  He says there will be no meaningful development without peace and security.

Some fighters who did not take part in that amnesty say they have broken the ceasefire and are again attacking oil pipelines. But the main rebel group says it will cooperate with Mr. Jonathan if he agrees to their demands for local control of the region's vast energy resources.

Abdulwaheed Omar is President of Nigeria's National Labor Congress.

"It is our hope that he will focus attention on the Niger Delta issue with a view to fulfilling all the promises and agreements reached with the military representatives of the militants," he said.

Battling that rebellion and ultimately securing an amnesty consumed much of President Yar'Adua's first term. Former Information Minister Jerry Gana says Acting President Jonathan must move quickly to secure those gains so he can move on to other challenges.

"Without peace and security, there can not be development and progress in the nation, to ensure that criminals are detected and punished effectively with the issue of restoring fairness, justice, equity," he said.

Gana says the acting president has the power to end Nigeria's collective uncertainty.

"Political will should be demonstrated, decisive action should be taken and give the nation a new lease on life," Gana added.

Mr. Jonathan is moving ahead with preparations for presidential and legislative elections next year. Labor leader Omar says the acting president must make changes before that vote.

"The acting president should ensure that the electoral reforms that every man and woman in Nigeria has canvassed for will see the light of day," he said.

President Yar'Adua's absence has meant delay outside Nigeria as well. The annual summit of the Economic Community of West African States was twice postponed because Mr. Yar'Adua was not present to fulfill his duties as chairman of the regional alliance.

With Mr. Jonathan at the helm, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs Mahamane Toure says that summit will go ahead on Tuesday.

"We are really pleased with the new development. We have been following with concern what has been happening in Nigeria because Nigeria is the chair of ECOWAS. So we are very pleased with the new development which allows Nigeria to take its full leadership," said Toure.

While his is a temporary appointment, the acting president has moved quickly to make clear that this is now his government to run. In his first day in office, Mr. Jonathan sacked the justice minister without notifying the ruling party.

"These are presidential powers. He has the power to move any of us," comments Information Minister Dora Akunyili

Nigeeria's new acting president and commander in chief Goodluck Jonathan is pictured as he takes office in Abuja, 10 Feb 2010
Nigeeria's new acting president and commander in chief Goodluck Jonathan is pictured as he takes office in Abuja, 10 Feb 2010

Mr. Jonathan's assumption of power has some northern leaders concerned that this southern acting president will disrupt the country's political balance by replacing a northern president when the country's informal power sharing arrangement allows the north another four-year term.

Senate President David Mark says Mr. Jonathan is only the acting president. No one has replaced President Yar'Adua.

"That is not the thing. We don't want people to spread that rumor. He remains the president. But since he is not here, there is somebody who is officially designated to act for him. I know that this type of rumor gains ground easily," said Mark.

Mr. Jonathan says he wants to avoid further division and hopes the president recovers.

"In all this, there are no winners and no losers because, by the grace of God, we have once again succeeded in moving our country forward. We have all shown that our unity as a people, our love for this country, and our hope for its great future can not be shaken," said the acting president.  "It is now time for us to move on in a more determined manner to tackle the various challenges which we face as a nation," he urged.

Anything Mr. Jonathan does may be open to legal challenge. Nigeria's constitution specifies that lawmakers may promote the vice president to acting president based on written communication from the president.  But Mr. Jonathan's appointment was based on a radio interview in which President Yar'Adua confirmed he is in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.

Former Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, Farouk Aliyu, has brought suit asking the Federal High Court to issue an injunction invalidating Mr. Jonathan's appointment.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid