Nigeria’s powerful state governors back acting leader

Nigeria’s powerful state governors pledged their support for Acting President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, saying he should continue to lead Africa’s most populous nation while its ailing leader recuperates.

The public support of Nigeria’s 36 state governors is the latest sign that Jonathan is asserting his authority after the surprise return of President Umaru Yar’Adua almost a week ago raised fears of a power struggle.

“We congratulated the acting president for stabilising the polity in the country at the moment,” Bukola Saraki, chairperson of the Governors’ Forum, told reporters after a meeting with Jonathan in the capital Abuja.

“We encouraged him and said he is doing a good job and that he has the full support of the Governors’ Forum in this exercise,” Saraki said.

Nigeria’s state governors are highly influential figures, some controlling budgets larger than those of neighbouring countries, and are key players in party conventions at which presidential candidates are chosen.

Yar’Adua was flown back to Nigeria last Wednesday after three months in a Saudi hospital but is still too frail to govern, raising fears his return was motivated by a circle led by his wife Turai seeking to maintain their influence.

The 58-year-old leader has not been seen in public since he left Nigeria in November to get treatment for a heart ailment. Presidency sources say he is in a mobile intensive care unit.

Legal case
A Nigerian lawyer launched legal action against his aides on Tuesday in an attempt to force the ailing leader to appear before the media and prove the state of his health.

Abuja-based lawyer Kayode Ajulo launched the legal action against Turai and five other aides including the chief of army staff and national security adviser, asking a Federal High Court to rule on whether their actions were against the Constitution.

Ajulo is seeking a court order directing the aides to allow Nigerian newspaper owners, editors and journalists “to have access to ascertain the existence of President Umaru Yar’Adua”, according to court papers seen by Reuters.

Yar’Adua’s critics have called on him to resign if he is unable to govern.

“For us the issue of his resignation is not an issue for now. For us, what is important is to be compassionate,” Godswill Akpabio, governor of Akwa Ibom state, said after the meeting.

Jonathan assumed executive powers on February 9, ending months of state paralysis and allowing him to set priorities such as implementing an amnesty for rebels in the oil-producing Niger Delta, restoring power supplies and preparing for elections.

But Yar’Adua’s return came just two weeks later and threatened to again put policy-making on hold in the Opec member state of more than 140-million people.

Analysts say those around Jonathan appear to have gained the upper hand over the circle loyal to Yar’Adua. He set up three new advisory committees on Monday, including one on the Niger Delta, in a sign he is taking firm control of state affairs. – Reuters

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