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Nigeria's Leadership Crisis

Author: John Campbell, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies
January 19, 2010
Business Day


President Yar'Adua's periodic illness since 2007, beyond depriving Nigeria of its leading regional role, has also created a succession crisis that raises the stakes for military adventurism

President UmaruYar'adua appears likely to leave office soon. Nigeria's king makers-the country's competing and cooperating power brokers-seem poised to reassign presidential duties and responsibilities elsewhere because the ailing president can no longer exercise them.

According to the Nigerian press, Nigeria's attorney general has already written to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan saying that he should assume presidential powers. Jonathan has reportedly refused, probably out of fear of offending the clique surrounding Yar'adua.  Whatever the case, a void in executive authority has existed since Yar'adua was hospitalized a month ago.

However, the recent arrest of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab following a failed bombing attempt on a U.S. airliner appears to have forced Jonathan's hand. The latter has ordered the Nigerian security services to cooperate fully with the United States, in effect a presidential decision.Yar'adua's removal from office would result in a political and constitutional crisis for the United States' most important strategic partner in Africa and one of its largest suppliers of oil.

Though Yar'adua has been ill since he assumed the presidency in 2007, there is no consensus yet among the king makers about what to do upon his removal from office.

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