Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan (pictured) was sworn in as president Thursday a day after the death of his predecessor, Umaru Yar'Adua. All eyes now are on the delicate power balance between the Muslim North and Christian South in a divided nation.
After a long illness, much of it spent incommunicado, Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua died late Wednesday night, leaving Africa’s most-populous, oil-rich, but corruption-ridden nation in the hands of his former deputy, Nigeria’s current interim President Goodluck Jonathan.
Jonathan, a member of Nigeria’s ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), took the oath of office Thursday morning at the presidential villa in the capital of Abuja, attended by Nigerian ministers and senior officials.
In a speech following his swearing-in, Jonathan pledged to fight corruption and pursue a lasting peace in the troubled, oil-rich Niger Delta.
“Our total commitment to good governance, electoral reform and the fight against corruption would be pursued with greater vigour," said Jonathan. "Similarly, the effort at ensuring the sustenance of peace and development in the Niger Delta as well as the security of life and property around the entire country would be of top most priority in the remaining period of this administration."
A southerner, well-known in international circles for his distinctive name and the fedora-like hat he favours, Jonathan had already been running the country for months during Yar’Adua’s illness.
He is expected to fill in for Yar’Adua’s term in office until the next general elections set for April 2011.
A North-South rotation
Yar’Adua’s death after a prolonged battle with heart and kidney ailments came as no surprise to the nation and for now, the power transition in the West African nation looks set to move relatively smoothly.
But in a resource-rich yet impoverished nation ridden with religious tensions and vast income inequalities, political transitions are plagued with underlying complexities.
The country’s religious tensions came under the international spotlight earlier this year when clashes between Muslims and Christians in and around the flashpoint city of Jos killed hundreds.
A fractious democracy split between the Muslim-dominated north and Christian and animist-dominated South, Nigeria lurched from one military coup to another for nearly three decades following its 1960 independence from Britain.
The country finally achieved a working democracy in 1999, when it elected Olusegun Obasanjo, the former military head of state, as president. Yar'Adua’s election victory in April 2007 marked the country’s first transfer of power from one civilian president to another.
Under the terms of an unwritten PDP agreement, power in Abuja rotates between the North and the South.
Yar'Adua, who hailed from the Muslim North, took over from southerner Obasanjo in 2007. Jonathan hails from the southern Bayelsa state.
All eyes on the new vice president
All eyes now are on who will become the new vice president. Many analysts, such as Daniel Bach, from the Paris-based CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientific) predict that the new vice president will probably be a northerner.
Like many Nigeria experts, Bach notes that the new vice president could also be the party’s candidate in the 2011 poll. But he warns that this may not necessarily be the case. When Obasanjo ended his term in 2007, for instance, his vice president, Atiku Abubakar, was not picked as a presidential candidate.
Nigeria experts are also likely to scrutinize the relationship between the new president and vice president. Following Yar'Adua’s illness, there were constant tensions between Yar’Auda and Jonathan’s supporters.
On March 17, Jonathan sacked the entire Yar'Adua-formed cabinet. He later swore in his own team with less than half of its members drawn from the old government.
Former president Obasanjo had a fraught relationship with his vice president, Abubakar, during his last presidential term and was known to favour Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, a powerful northern politician who spent nearly two years in self-imposed exile in the US and the UAE following corruption allegations.
A former minister under Obasanjo, El-Rufai’s recent return to Nigeria has sparked widespread rumours that the US and UK-educated politician is eyeing a comeback in the 2011 election.
Date created : 2010-05-06