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 For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
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