Nigerian president dies, acting leader to take over

Nigerian president dies, acting leader to take over
# 06 May 2010 04:07 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua died late on Wednesday aged 58 after a long battle with kidney and heart ailments, paving the way for Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to be sworn as leader of Africa’s most populous nation, APA reports quoting “Reuters”.
The presidency announced seven days of national mourning and said Yar’Adua would be buried in his northern home state of Katsina at 2 pm (1300 GMT) on Thursday.
Yar’Adua had been absent from the political scene since November, when he left for medical treatment for a heart condition in Saudi Arabia. He returned to Nigeria in February but remained too sick to govern.
"The president and commander in chief of the armed forces ... Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died a few hours ago at the presidential villa," state television said, adding that Jonathan immediately had been informed by the country’s national security adviser.
Under the terms of the constitution, Jonathan will be sworn in as head of state and will then appoint a new vice president. The pair will complete the unexpired presidential term until elections due by April 2011.
Jonathan assumed executive powers in February and has since consolidated his hold on power, appointing a new cabinet and his own team of advisers.
But Yar’Adua’s death further raises the stakes in the run up to the next elections, already shaping up to be the most fiercely contested since Nigeria’s return to democracy just over a decade ago.
It is unclear if Jonathan, who is from the southern Niger Delta, will run for president because of an unwritten agreement in the ruling party that power rotates between north and south. The next four-year term is due to go to Yar’Adua’s Muslim north.
"The paramount issue will be who the new vice president will be. It’ll probably be a northerner and the person will be front runner for the presidency in 2011," said Kayode Akindele, a director at Lagos-based consultancy Greengate Strategic Partners.
Sworn-in pledging respect for the rule of law, Yar’Adua was initially seen by many Nigerians as a breath of fresh air after eight years of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, an overbearing ex-military ruler with a penchant for disregarding court orders and legal detail.
He was Nigeria’s first university-educated leader and won victory in April 2007 polls which, though marred by intimidation and ballot-stuffing, marked the first transfer of power from one civilian president to another since independence in 1960.
But the optimism quickly faded.
Yar’Adua earned the nickname "Baba Go-Slow," a reference to the local term for Nigeria’s crippling traffic jams, for what critics said was slow progress on everything from economic reforms to restoring the shambolic energy sector.
His biggest achievement was in the restive Niger Delta, the heartland of Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry.
Militant attacks rumbled on during the early part of his tenure, but his offer of amnesty last year led thousands of gunmen to lay down their weapons and brought more than six months of relative peace in the region.