After Umaru Yar'Adua, Nigeria's Power Tussle: Will Goodluck Jonathan Run?

Article excerpt

With the death of Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua, the 2011 presidential election race has effectively begun. Who are the contenders? What are the pros and cons of new president Goodluck Jonathan running for second term?

The death of Nigeria's president, Umaru Yar'Adua, will intensify a succession battle that is already under way in Africa's most populous country. Elections will be held next year.

Goodluck Jonathan, who has been acting president since February, was swiftly sworn in as president Thursday morning. Mr. Jonathan said he was coming to power in "sad and unusual circumstances". The late president had not been seen in public since checking into a Saudi Arabian clinic last November, when he was reportedly suffering from a heart condition. He came home in February but never returned to work. Yar'Adua did not fully hand over power or issue information on his health during this time, provoking a series of Nigerian protests, petitions and lawsuits. The exact cause of his death has likewise not yet been disclosed.

The mood amongst Nigerians was surprisingly calm on Thursday. "People are already drained by the last few months. And the way this was all handled cost him [Yar'Adua] some of their goodwill," says Yinka Odumakin, a political activist who campaigned for more transparency on Yar'Adua's illness. Meanwhile, the hunt for next year's presidential candidate is now likely to gather pace. In sub- Saharan Africa's biggest energy producer, public office has the particular allure of granting access to the nation's oil revenues, which account for over 85 percent of government income. The presidency rotates every two terms between a candidate from the country's largely Muslim north and mostly Christian south, due to an informal agreement in the ruling People's Democratic Party. Yar'Adua died during his first term, making a northerner likely to emerge as the 2011 PDP candidate. Jonathan, a southerner, is now expected to appoint a northern vice-president, who will be groomed as next year's presidential candidate.

Who are the potential candidates?

But the tussle in the PDP for this position could split the party, say some analysts, as rival factions push their preferred man into the arena. Possible contenders include Aliyu Gusau, Mr. …