Nigerian Vice president Goodluck Jonathan is now acting president of Nigeria until incapacitated president, Mr. Umaru Yar’Adua recovers from an ailing heart and kidney, and returns from Saudi Arabia.
The National Assembly came to a consensus on the decision to make Mr. Jonathan acting president.
“I am fully aware of the responsibilities reposed in me, and I want to reassure all Nigerians that this is a sacred trust, which I shall discharge to my fullest abilities,” Mr. Jonathan said in a televised address.
This promotion was crucial as fears of a possible military takeover engulfed the Nigerian populace. Nonetheless, the new president thanked the armed forces for their loyalty and devotion to duty during this trying period.
“The circumstances – in which I find myself assuming office today as acting president of our country – are uncommon, sober and reflective. More than ever therefore, I urge all Nigerians as a people who have faith in God to pray fervently for the full recovery of our dear president, and his early return,” Mr. Jonathan added.
The absence of Mr. Yar’Adua had led to a power vacuum, political tussle, mass street protests disregard of the constitution, legal challenges, and cabinet splits.
While the country waited on the political elites to sort out the direction of the country, there was a freeze in government engagements that also threatened the progress already made in combating unrest in the oil-rich Niger Delta. However, the Nigerian people have stuck together amidst the ghosts of secession.
On Tuesday, both houses of Nigeria’s National Assembly passed a motion for Mr. Jonathan to take over as head of state until Mr Yar’Adua is able to resume presidency. On acceptance of his promotion, Mr. Jonathan said he would build on the amnesty for Niger Delta militants begun by Mr Yar’Adua.
Traditionally, the ruling party alternates leadership between the north and south, and Mr. Yar’Adua’s northern backers wanted to keep his southern deputy out of office, so this move among the political elite to back the vice-president is unprecedented.
Also, giving power to the vice-president creates its own problems as it would upset an unwritten power-sharing agreement between Nigeria’s Christian south and Muslim north.
Allies of Mr. Yar’Adua say the move is illegal and the assembly’s motion is not legally binding. Festus Keyamo, a constitutional lawyer, said the move was illegal.
“What they have done amounts to a coup plot. It is a desperate decision by desperate politicians who were trying to save their face,” Keyamo told the AFP news agency.
According to Nigeria’s constitution the president must make a written declaration that he is on vacation or unable to carry out his duties before a transfer of power can take place. Upon this ground the senate has acted: “The vice-president … shall henceforth discharge the functions of the office of the president, commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the federation, as acting president,” the Senate motion said.
Conversely, the opposition Action Congress, which wants Yar’Adua removed completely, are not pleased with this decision either.
This decision in parliament took Nigeria “closer to the abyss”. All hell has broken loose. Jonathan should take wise counsel and keep to the law. He should see this senate resolution as nothing but a Greek gift designed to do him in,” a statement from the party stated.