Nigeria VP in charge but power struggle looms

Nigeria’s Acting President Goodluck Jonathan remains in charge after the return of the country’s ailing leader, a cabinet minister said on Thursday, but a power struggle looms that could deadlock government.

The return of President Umaru Yar’Adua under cover of darkness in the early hours of Wednesday after three months in a Saudi hospital was so shrouded in secrecy even Jonathan and most of the cabinet were unaware he was coming.

The surprise return raised concern that the group around Yar’Adua, led by his wife Turai, is fighting to sideline Jonathan and retain their influence over Africa’s most populous nation even with the 58-year-old leader too weak to rule.

The renewed uncertainty threatens to keep government decisions on hold in the OPEC member of more than 140 million people and could endanger hopes of cementing an amnesty for rebels in the oil-producing Niger Delta.

“Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the Acting President, is in charge,” Information Minister Dora Akunyili told News Agency, adding he would remain acting head of state until parliament reversed a resolution which gave him executive powers.

“There is no way he can go back to Vice President without going through the process that made him Acting President.”

But Yar’Adua’s wife Turai is a powerful figure, controlling access to a leader not seen in public for three months.

Presidency sources say Yar’Adua is in a mobile intensive care unit. Jonathan has not spoken with him since his return.

“Who is in charge here?” said the Action Congress party.

“The president, as the father of the nation, should address the country on local radio and television to enable the citizens to assess his state of health,” the opposition group said.



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