Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua died May 5, 2010 at age 58 following a long illness. The Nigerian government has announced seven days of national mourning. Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, who was the acting president, has been sworn in as head of state.
Yar'Adua left for Saudi Arabia to receive treatment for pericarditis in November 2009 before returning back to Nigeria in February 2010. His state of health was not made public, leading to rumours and speculations. On 9 February 2010, after weeks of political wranglings, the Senate transferred presidential power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.
Nigerian bloggers mourn his death and discuss the future of their country.
Solomon discusses the political implications of his death. “The unfortunate passing of President Yar'Adua will reduce any lingering questions over who controls the country,” he writes. He notes that Yar'Adua sickness and death would highlight the importance of a leader's health:
Yar'Adua's severe sickness and passing also highlights the importance of a leader's health and its impact on a nation. The late President was known to be sick before he was elected, but, the extent of his illness was never fully explained to the citizenry, despite calls for such. Yar'Adua's health emergencies interfered with diplomatic visits, such as the cancellation of his 2008 trip to Brazil. The very last health emergency of November 2009 lead to a political vacuum that spurred insecurity and uncertainty. Yar'Adua's sickness allowed opponents, opportunists and others to question his ability to govern, weakening his position.
Will his death lead to ethnic and religious tensions because of the North-South factor?. Yar'Adua was a Muslim from the North while Jonathan is a Christian from the South,
Prior to his death, Northern elites were concerned that Yar'Adua would not be able to serve out his ‘term. This is because of an agreement that Presidential power would fluctuate between the North and South of the country. In fact, the ruling party declared that its Presidential candidate would be a Muslim from the North.
Now that Jonathan will be sworn in as President, it will be crucial for all parts of the nation to be respectful of Yar'Adua's passing. If the North believes that Yar'Adua's death is being celebrated by the South, that could ignite violence of the kind seen recurrently in Jos. Inflamed tensions would mirror those from 1966 when the North felt that the South was jubilant at news of the deaths of prominent Northern politicians killed in a coup… Therefore, the manner in which the country reacts to Yar'Adua's death could inflame tensions if not done in a manner that is respectful. Hopefully, the week of mourning announced by Jonathan will provide an opportunity for the entire nation to come together.
President Yar'Adua is not the first Nigerian Head of State to die while in office. Nonetheless, he is the first President to die right before an election season poised to be the most important in Nigerian history. His death will undoubtedly add an additional element to the Nigerian political landscape and only time will tell what that will be. Until then, may his soul rest in peace.
Don comments on Solomon's post asking for a quiet period of national mourning:
Let us all pray for a quiet period of national morning and a smooth transition in political governance. Mr. Yar'Adua did leave Nigeria better than he found it, I believe.
Omosi does not think that the South will celebrate his death:
I don't think the South is going to celebrate or anything, most Nigerians both Southern and Northern believed the dude was on his deathbed or dead anyway, so I see his death being met with a shrug more than anything. Compared to our past leaders Yar'Adua was pretty unremarkable both in his incompetence and corruption.
Don argues that Jonathan's Christian faith has upset the balance in government:
The recent vacuum of leadership during Yar'Adua's prolonged illness has perplexed both Nigerian and foreign political analysts. I believe, however, that it can be traced to the regional divisions within Nigeria as a nation. As I pointed out in a post on February 12th, Mr. Jonathan's Christian affiliation appears to have upset the balance between Islamic and Christian leadership in the government. The coming period of transition in leadership promises to be a tense one, and Mr. Jonathan is by no means guaranteed to emerge victorious in the elections of 2011.
BRE, commenting on Grandiose Parlor blog, says that Yar'Adua was able to show the world that Nigerians can overcome generations of misrule and plunder:
My condolences on the death of Nigeria’s President Umaru Yar’Adua. He may not have been able to accomplish all that he set out to do at the beginning of his administration, but he was able show the world that Nigerians can overcome generations of misrule and plunder by former rulers and dictators, that the country is making progress in a number of important areas (including responsible governance), that endemic corruption and cronyism by politicians and powerful business people can be defeated albeit it is slow and complicated process, and that the country Nigeria is firmly on the road to peace and democracy despite the setbacks we have witnessed during his term in office.
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua leaves us with the legacy of a well-respected, upright, soft-spoken but capable leader of Africa’s most populace nation. It is a first for post-independence Nigeria, and I can only wish the new president Goodluck Jonathan and the people of Nigeria all the best in the near future and over the long term.
Taiwo leaves a comment on the same blog saying,
This man died a lot time ago!
After a long bout with a various number of unnamed illnesses, President Umaru Yar’adua has died, as confirmed by presidential spokesman, Olusegun Adeniyi. His burial has been scheduled for Thursday. NigeriansTalk.org joins with the country in mourning the loss of our former leader.