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Nigerians Press for Active Head of State

Author: John Campbell, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies
January 15, 2010


The Nigerian government is vigorously protesting the country's inclusion on the U.S. list of 14 nations subject to enhanced aviation passenger security screening.

At the same time, the more politically involved elite of the country are doing all that they can to distance themselves and Nigeria from Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly tried to bomb an American airplane on Christmas day.

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'adua, currently in a Saudi Arabian hospital, has only been heard from once over the last eight weeks, in a short BBC interview, and there are unconfirmed reports that he suffers brain damage. The confluence of these two crises has triggered growing Nigerian recognition that the country cannot continue without executive authority, as well as anxiety and uncertainty about how a presidential transfer of power will take place.

Nigerians have been falling over themselves in denouncing the U.S. inclusion of Nigeria on the list. Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe summoned the U.S. ambassador in Nigeria to protest officially. Nigeria's ambassador to the United Nations, Joy Ogwu, has complained publicly that Nigeria should not be labeled as a terrorist country because of the actions of one man. Minister of Communication and Information Dora Akunyili characterized the U.S. step as "unfair ... because Nigerians do not have a terrorist tendency."

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