News / Africa

Threats, Violence Compound Nigeria's Leadership Crisis

Since his election, Umaru Yar'Adua's presidency has been marked by his long absences due to poor health
Since his election, Umaru Yar'Adua's presidency has been marked by his long absences due to poor health
Nico Colombant

Pressure is mounting on ailing Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua to hand over power or quickly return to Nigeria from Saudi Arabia, where he has been getting medical care for more than two months.  The uncertainty about Nigeria's leadership comes as violence has reignited in the oil-rich south, and as the leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb offered training and weapons to Nigerian Muslims. 

J. Peter Pham,  the director of the Africa project at the U.S. based National Committee on American Foreign Policy, recently wrote an online article called "The Sick Man of Africa."

Writing in the "National Interest," Pham says Nigeria's leadership vacuum comes at the wrong time, especially in the wake of the failed December 25th U.S. airline bombing for which a young Nigerian was charged.

"If Nigeria is going to be a partner with the United States and other countries in fighting extremism and these types of things, it needs leadership at the top and whenever there is not firm direction all sorts of interests creep out," said Pham.

Monday, compounding these concerns, the leader of al-Qaida's North Africa branch posted a statement on the Internet saying he was ready to help Muslims in central Nigeria.  The statement comes amid renewed sectarian and religious violence which has left hundreds of people dead in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, in the oil-rich south, there was a sabotage attack Saturday against oil pipelines.  The attack follows months of relative calm.  Militants recently called off a unilateral ceasefire with government forces, saying Mr. Yar'Adua's administration is not honoring promises to help local communities.

President Yar'Adua went to a hospital in Saudi Arabia in late November, with reported heart and kidney problems, and has not been seen in public since. In mid-January, the 58-year-old Yar'Adua, who was previously a discreet governor from the northern Katsina state, said he was doing better.

The ruling party said in late January he had been released from a hospital in Saudi Arabia, but he has yet to return to Nigeria.

J. Peter Pham says he is very concerned about the potential for more instability in the oil-rich south during his continued absence.

"Certainly, renewed violence in the Niger Delta would cut Nigeria's oil production which affects the global economy at a time when we do not need any further shocks in the global economy.," he said. "[Nigeria's] production has been cut by as much as a third during periods of peak violence."

Pham also says with Mr. Yar'Adua failing to delegate power to someone else while outside Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation has been missed as a regional heavyweight.

"We have increasing piracy underreported in the Gulf of Guinea that requires serious committed action, but Nigeria which is the regional power is not able to act because there is no political leadership at the top," said Pham.

Pham also says Nigeria has not been able to help much with the instability in Guinea, following an attack on the military ruler there.

There have been several attempts through Nigeria's judicial system to make Mr. Yar'Adua give up power, but Nigerian courts have repeatedly ruled he does not need to formally transfer power to his Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan.  More appeals are being considered.

There have also been protests for Mr. Yar'Adua to step down, as well as a letter from a group calling itself the Eminent Elders which asked the vice president to be named acting president.

Political science professor at the City University of New York, Nigerian-American Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome, has been encouraged by attempts to make the leadership issue more transparent, and in line with Nigeria's constitution.

"I do not think Nigeria is leaderless," said Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome. "I think there is a constitutional issue and I am glad that people are trying to pursue this in the constitutional manner. In terms of the practice of democracy, I think it will be advised for Nigerian politicians to be more attentive to the provisions of the constitution and to also demonstrate through their actions that they are committed to democracy and the proper practice of it."

One concern has been the assumed traditional rotation between northerners and southerners in Nigeria's highest office since the return to civilian rule in the 1990s.  The vice-president is a southerner, but Pham does not see this an obstacle.  He says he could appoint a northerner as vice president until general elections are held, scheduled for 2011, which he says are also of concern.

"We need to be supportive and reaffirm Nigeria's need to get on with its business and the fact that it is missed on the international stage and that Nigeria needs to seriously work, beginning now on the election,' he said. "Last time, I think everyone acknowledges that President Yar'Adua was elected in elections which fraudulent probably does not begin to describe the level of voter intimidation, corruption and other things that occurred during that election."

Goodluck Jonathan who was the ruling party's surprise selection as Mr. Yar'Adua's running mate in the 2007 vote, said last week his boss would soon return to Nigeria.  But he did not give a date.
 

You May Like

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid