Nigeria has been in the news a bunch over the past week because the trust-fund terrorist was the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker and retired politician. But the
world American media somehow failed to notice that Nigeria’s president has been out of the picture. One would expect a high-level response to something like this. One would also expect that the media would notice if the president of a nation, specifically one representing 15.4% of the population of all of Africa combined, hasn’t been running the place for over a month. Guess not.
Nigerian Vice President Goodluck Jonathan said on Friday he was hopeful that President Umaru Yar’Adua, who is in hospital in Saudi Arabia, would return soon and continue to govern Africa’s most populous nation.
Yar’Adua has been absent for more than a month and Jonathan has been presiding over cabinet meetings. But executive powers have not officially been transferred, leading to questions over the legality of government decisions.
Political analysts, senior lawyers and a former U.S. envoy have warned Nigeria is on the brink of a constitutional crisis. The Bar Association has brought legal action to try to compel Yar’Adua to temporarily hand over power.
Vice President Jonathan insists that the government is running smoothly, but opposition members have pointed out that some policies aren’t being executed and that President Yar’adua wasn’t present to swear in the new chief justice who would have to swear in a replacement president… and therefore he may not legally be the new chief justice. It’s a bit of a constitutional conundrum. The Vice President has, for all intents and purposes, assumed control of the cabinet anyhow. The government will be rolling out more stimulus plans for the country’s economy, he said.
But with ongoing instability problems, rebel groups, and the possibility of Muslim extremism heightened with the recent terrorist attempt by the Nigerian man, it’s important that whoever is making decisions has legitimacy to make them. Order could break down if people start challenging Vice President Jonathan’s legal authority to enforce the law, which is beginning in the courts and could easily spread to discontented areas of the country. While the last presidential election had serious flaws (a.k.a. blatant rigging), it was at least a relatively peaceful continuation of the new democracy – setting aside several bombings and assassination attempts – and was a stable, non-military transition of power from one president to the next. The last thing Nigeria (or its neighbors) needs right now is a collapse into civil war. I’m not saying this is very likely yet, but it’s a possibility given tensions and economic conditions at the moment. So it would be best to resolve this as quickly as possible.
This post originally appeared on Starboard Broadside.