What Does Kaduna’s Tragedy Teach Us About Nigerian Politics?

During Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, there has been a tradition and an expectation that if a Christian southerner holds the presidency, a Muslim northerner will hold the vice presidency, and vice versa. The sample is small, so we should not perceive the pattern as written in stone, and religious dynamics in Nigeria are much more complicated than a “Muslim north” and a “Christian south.” But since 1999 the pattern has held: the southern Christian President Olusegun Obasanjo and his northern Muslim Vice President Atiku Abubakar from 1999 to 2007, northern Muslim President Umaru Yar’Adua and his southern Christian Vice President Goodluck Jonathan from 2007 to 2010 and, presently, President Jonathan and his northern Muslim Vice President Namadi Sambo. All of these politicians have come from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Kaduna State, a PDP stronghold, has had a version of this rotational system, though usually under Muslim governors. The Muslim Governor Ahmed Makarfi from 1999 to 2007 had two Christian Deputy Governors: first Stephen Shekari until his death in 2005, and then Patrick Yakowa until Makarfi was term-limited in 2007. The Muslim Governor Namadi Sambo succeeded Makarfi, with Yakowa continuing on as Deputy; when Sambo ascended to the vice presidency in 2010, Yakowa became Governor with a Muslim, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero (who is seen as close to Sambo), as his Deputy. Yakowa, who won an extremely close re-election battle in 2011, was the State’s first Christian governor, and the first governor from the southern zone of Kaduna.

Kaduna city was the capital of the defunct Northern Region, and Kaduna is part of northern Nigeria. But some also consider the State (or its southern zone) part of the “Middle Belt,” a zone of tremendous religious and ethnic diversity. The Nigerian census does not ask respondents for their religious affiliation, so the religious demographics of states are unknown, but Kaduna is religiously mixed. Kaduna State has a history of interreligious violence that includes periodic riots since 1987, including major riots in 2000 and 2002 as well as recent clashes stemming from the ongoing cycle of church bombings in northern Nigeria. While the causes of riots and interreligious clashes should not be reduced to religion, religious identity is one focus of tension in the state. That helps explain why it matters who holds the posts of governor and deputy governor (though the complexities of officeholders’ religious identities turn on more than just questions of conflict).

On December 15, Governor Yakowa died in a helicopter crash that also killed former National Security Adviser Owoye Azazi and others. Deputy Governor Yero has taken over as Governor. The transition introduces various political complexities, including the immediate question of whom Yero will appoint as deputy (perhaps Yakowa’s widow) and what will happen with the governor’s seat in 2015.

Here are three takes on those questions and their significance:

The Guardian predicts that while the new deputy will come from Kaduna south, it will be some time before that zone produces another governor. This situation may produce dissatisfaction in the southern zone:

To what extent will [Yakowa's] death alter the political configuration of the state? What is apparent is that Southern Kaduna has lost the chance to produce a governor that spent a full tenure in office. Will Yero, who is also from Kaduna North like Sambo and Makarfi, step down in 2015 and ask the Southern Kaduna zone to throw up a candidate to finish Yakowa’s tenure. This scenario is unlikely, following the precedent set by President Goodluck Jonathan when he did not step down for the North to produce someone to complete the tenure of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in the 2011 election.

The Southern Kaduna senatorial zone had waited for a while to grab the chance that made Yakowa governor…

And it is almost certain that Yero, the incumbent governor will appoint his deputy from the Kaduna South, to maintain the political balance that had secured peace and kept everyone satisfied in the state. With the belief that the next deputy governor would come from the Christian-dominated Southern Kaduna, there are long faces asking that ‘certainly we are not likely to rejoice over that for a number of reasons,’ after previous nominees, Shekari and Yakowa have died in office.

It is a cheering prospect for a people who since the history of the state had only one chance of occupying the seat of power, a chance cut short by death, after two years. What will 2015 offer the people of Southern Kaduna?

Vanguard, depicting Yarowa as a unifying figure, suggests that Yero will have to work hard to manage the state’s interreligious tensions:

As governor Yakowa undoubtedly had his job well cut out. Given the history of delicate relations between the Muslim and Christian populations in the state, Yakowa as governor was always quick to calm tension that repeatedly broke out during his short reign. He was particularly passionate in wooing the Islamic population.

Though he had a difficult time winning election in 2011, he was by some account already worming his way into the heart of the muslim population through his government’s charm offensive to Muslims through such programmes as Ramadan feeding and hajj sponsorships…

Yakowa was, off course not universally popular among Christians at the time of his selection as Sambo’s deputy in 2007. He was regarded in bad light for having helped what some regarded as the conspiracy to frustrate their brother, Isaiah Balat in the 2007 gubernatorial primary. He, however, over time won all but extremists to his side.

Nigeria Intel portrays the interreligious politics around Yakowa differently, suggesting that Yakowa’s story – coming to the governor’s seat only through Sambo’s elevation to the vice presidency, and then struggling bitterly to retain the seat in 2011 – illustrates division rather than unity. The difficulty Yakowa had in obtaining and holding his post, the author writes, “raises serious concerns about our brand of politics, the concepts of majority and minority, competence in the selection of candidates and the entire electoral process itself.” Somberly, the piece continues:

In essence, at a time when Nigeria should be electing its best people to strategic positions, too many states and local government areas in the country remain bogged down by the politics of balancing ethnic and religious interests. Thus, competence, capacity, qualification, experience, honesty and other considerations that should determine a candidate’s eligibility and electability are relegated to the background.

In the final analysis, this is a time when Kaduna, like other states battling with majority/ minority agitations should reach out to all groups to forge a consensus. This is a sombre, delicate dance that the new leadership must do in order to rebuild trust and togetherness.

In Kaduna’s tragedy and its political aftermath, then, we find much to ponder about Nigerian politics.

Partial List of Church Bombings in Central and Northern Nigeria

Yesterday, AFP reports,

A suicide attacker drove a car bomb into a Nigerian church [in Kaduna], sparking fierce reprisals that saw a Christian mob burn a man alive in a day of violence that killed at least 10 people and wounded 145.

The church attack left at least seven people dead in addition to the bomber, while at least three people were killed in reprisal violence, a rescue official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to provide figures.

[...]

Christian youths took to the streets of the northern city of Kaduna with machetes and sticks after the blast, targeting those they believed to be Muslims as anger again boiled over due to repeated church bombings in recent months.

Attackers beat a motorcycle taxi driver near the church, then put his bike on top of him before dousing him with petrol and setting him on fire, an AFP correspondent who saw the violence said. Two other bloodied bodies apparently killed by the mob were seen near the church.

Such attacks are part of a pattern of church bombings in northern and central Nigeria since 2010, many of which have been claimed by the rebel sect Boko Haram. Christian reprisal violence is sometimes part of the pattern as well.  The bombings have elevated the political temperature in Nigeria, especially in communities such as Kaduna that have been repeatedly affected. The bombings intersect with inter-communal tensions that date back, in one sense, to the early days of the Fourth Republic that Nigeria inaugurated in 1999 and, in another sense, to incidents of interreligious violence that affected places like Kaduna State in the 1980s, such as the Kafanchan riots of 1987. Some people trace these cycles of religious violence back into the colonial or pre-colonial periods; however one dates it, the point is that today’s conflicts have historical roots and that past grievances fan the flames of present violence. But the present violence also has its own structural features, notably the frequent use of suicide bombings and the role of Boko Haram as a regional force that works to make local conflicts escalate.

The attacks share some common features, especially the use of suicide bombers and/or car bombs. Bombings target both Catholic and Protestant churches. Attacks often occur on Sundays. Attackers often coordinate strikes in multiple locations. And – in what strongly suggests a deliberate goal on Boko Haram’s part of goading central and northern Nigerian communities into interreligious war – bombings often target areas with high levels of interreligious tension, notably Jos and Kaduna. On a final note, however, it is also important to note that Boko Haram may only be behind some of these bombings; others, particularly in Jos, may be the work of local provocateurs.

Here is a partial list of church bombings:

  • On December 24, 2010, bombs exploded around Jos (Plateau State) as groups of fighters attacked two churches in Maiduguri (Borno State).
  • On July 10, 2011, a bomb exploded at All Christian Church in Suleja (Niger State).
  • On December 25, 2011, bombs exploded at churches in, respectively, Madalla (Niger State), Jos (Plateau State), Damaturu (Yobe State), and Gadaka (Yobe State).
  • On February 26, 2012, Boko Haram carried out a suicide car bombing at the Church of Christ in Jos.
  • On March 11, 2012, a bomb struck St. Finbar’s Catholic Church in Jos.
  • On April 8, 2012 (Easter), a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb near the All Nations Christian Assembly Church and the ECWA Good News Church in Kaduna.
  • On April 29, 2012, three bombs exploded at the old campus church of Bayero University Kano (Kano State), and gunmen shot at worshipers fleeing the building.
  • On June 4, 2012, a suicide car bombing occurred at Living Faith Church in Bauchi (Bauchi State).
  • On June 10, 2012, a car bomb exploded at Christ Chosen Church of God in Jos.
  • On June 17, 2012, suicide bombers from Boko Haram attacked ECWA Goodnews Church and Christ the King Catholic Church in Zaria and Kaduna. I wrote about the aftermath of those bombings here.
  • On September 23, 2012, a suicide bomber attacked St. John’s Church in Bauchi.

The list of tragedies is growing long.

Nigeria: Kaduna Bombings and Their Aftermath

On Sunday, a church was bombed in the city of Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, and two others were bombed in Zaria (another city in Kaduna State). The rebel group Boko Haram, which has struck Kaduna several times before, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Bombings followed on Monday in the city of Damaturu, Yobe State. View a map of Nigeria here.

The bombing in Kaduna has activated a broader conflict in the city. On Sunday, “as news of the church attack filtered through the city…young Christians took to the streets in violent protest. An AP reporter saw billows of smoke over a mosque in a predominantly Christian part of the city. People had mounted illegal roadblocks and were seen harassing motorists.” Today, “Muslims took to the streets…firing AK-47s, burning tires and destroying at least one church.” Another bomb went off in a market in Kaduna. Authorities have placed both Kaduna and Damaturu under curfew. The violence has disrupted business, academic, and other activity in Kaduna.

Kaduna has seen periodic interreligious violence over the course of the last decade (further back, there have been clashes in Kaduna State for decades, such as an infamous episode in the town of Kafanchan in 1987). Riots occurred in Kaduna, along with other major Northern cities, in 2011 after the election of President Goodluck Jonathan. This week’s violence, in other words, could awaken memories of past conflicts and grievances.

I have seen several estimates of the dead in Kaduna, ranging from around twenty in the blasts to over sixty for all victims.

Three immediate implications of the attacks are:

  1. Heightened fears of reprisal killings elsewhere. For example, Muslims in Onitsha, Anambra State, in the Southeast, have reportedly sought police protection. These fears are not new – some Christian leaders’ rhetoric has hinted at the possibility of reprisal killings over Boko Haram’s violence before – but the violence in Kaduna represents one of the most serious incidents in which an attack by Boko Haram has immediately sparked interreligious clashes.* Hopefully the calls from various Muslim and Christian organizations for youth to avoid violence will resonate.
  2. Further loss of faith in the authorities among ordinary people. Much of the reprisal violence in Kaduna originated in protests by Christians and Muslims, protests that partly voiced anger at the government over its failure to protect them. The more people feel they are on their own, the greater their temptation to take up weapons.
  3. The aftermath of the bombings is an apparent benefit to Boko Haram, if one of their aims is greater chaos. Reuters writes, “The church bombings seem calculated to trigger wider sectarian strife. Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has said, in al Qaeda-style Internet videos, that the attacks on Christians were revenge for the killing of Muslims.” Boko Haram also benefits if the point above holds, namely if people continue to lose faith in government.

The situation in Kaduna (as well as in Damaturu and elsewhere) continues to evolve. I recommend following the BBC’s Will Ross for updates.

*Jos, a site of recurring Muslim-Christian clashes, is perhaps another place where Boko Haram attacks have fed interreligious violence, though the drivers of violence in that city have much to do with local history, law, and politics. Nevertheless, Jos appears to be one of the movement’s targets: Boko Haram claimed responsibility for bombings in Jos on Sunday June 10.

Nigeria: Boko Haram’s Attacks in Kaduna

Two weeks, and two bombings in the city of Kaduna (estimated population 760,084 for the city, 6,066,562 for the state).

Kaduna, Nigeria

Last week:

A suspected suicide bomber disguised in military uniform was killed on Tuesday when his car bomb exploded under fire from soldiers outside a military base in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, the army said.

Yesterday:

A Nigerian bomb disposal officer has been killed when an explosive device he was trying to defuse went off, a police spokesperson has said.

The device was wrapped in a carrier bag and hidden behind an electricity pole in the residential area of Ungwar Sarki in the northern city of Kaduna.

A BBC correspondent at the scene says the police bomb squad was called in after reports of a first explosion.

Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for last week’s bombing (Hausa), and I expect they are behind this week’s attack too.

There are a few trends I see at work in these attacks on Kaduna:

  1. Boko Haram shows a continued ability to strike targets outside of its base, the Northeast. With the bombings in Abuja last summer, the strike in Kano on January 20, and other recent activities, Boko Haram (or its franchises, if one believes the movement has a loose internal structure) seems to be waging two campaigns simultaneously: a guerrilla campaign of frequent micro-attacks (such as assassinations of individual police officers) in the Northeast, and a terrorist campaign of periodic large-scale attacks elsewhere.
  2. With that said, Boko Haram is experimenting with moving into the Northwest more seriously. Boko Haram seems interested not just in conducting periodic attacks as spectacle, but in bringing to Northwestern cities like Kano and Kaduna the kind of regular violence that has characterized its presence in Maiduguri for over a year.
  3. Boko Haram’s primary target remains the government, especially the security forces.
  4. Kaduna, like Jos, may provide an attractive target if one of Boko Haram’s goals is to increase interreligious tensions across the North and across Nigeria. Kaduna has a larger (estimated) percentage of Christians of Christians than Kano or Maiduguri. Kaduna also has a history of interreligious and inter-communal tension and violence that precedes Boko Haram’s arrival by a decade. Major riots in Kaduna occurred in 2000, 2002, and during the post-election violence of last April. Attacks by Boko Haram in Kaduna could lead to a more general climate of fear and mistrust, one that could re-activate the city (and Kaduna State’s) cycle of violence.
  5. Kaduna arguably has greater security than other cities where Boko Haram is trying to establish a foothold. Both of the recent attacks have been partly repelled by security forces.

For some background on past incidents of inter-communal violence in Kaduna State, see here (.pdf) and here (.pdf).

Human Rights Watch Report on Nigeria’s Post-Election Violence

Among international rights organizations, Human Rights Watch has one of the best research teams. It’s worth reading what they put out. Yesterday, they released a mid-length piece on Nigeria’s elections called “Nigeria: Post-Election Violence Killed 800.” Here is an excerpt:

“The April elections were heralded as among the fairest in Nigeria’s history, but they also were among the bloodiest,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The newly elected authorities should quickly build on the democratic gains from the elections by bringing to justice those who orchestrated these horrific crimes and addressing the root causes of the violence.”

The piece, based in large part on interviews with witnesses, examines the political and sectarian drivers of violence as well as the response by security forces. The piece includes details about the violence in a number of Northern states, and focuses particularly on Kaduna State, one of the worst-hit areas. The concluding sections contextualize the latest wave of violence within the larger trajectory of political and sectarian violence in Nigeria since 1999, the year the country returned to democracy.

HRW has also published a set of photographs related to the violence.

I encourage those with an interest in Nigerian politics to read the full piece. The violence is over, but its repercussions are not.

A Kidnapping in Northern Nigeria [Updated]

On Thursday, two European engineers were kidnapped in the Northern Nigerian city of Kebbi. As AFP comments, “Kidnappings for ransom have occurred frequently in and around the oil-producing Niger Delta region in the predominately Christian south, but have been rare in the mainly Muslim north.” The last reported kidnapping of a Westerner in the North was in 2009, when a Canadian researcher was seized in Kaduna and held for two weeks before being released.

The location of the kidnapping (see map of Kebbi below) and the limited description available of the attack suggest to me – though this is only speculation – that the kidnappers are members of neither Boko Haram, North Eastern Nigeria’s Islamist rebel sect, nor of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has kidnapped a number of foreigners in Mauritania, Mali, and Niger, as well as in parts of North Africa.

Here is the description given by AFP in the link above:

Gunmen have kidnapped a Briton and an Italian working for a construction firm in northern Nigeria after storming their apartment, police said on Friday, but a ransom had not been demanded.

A German colleague managed to escape by scaling a fence, police said, while a Nigerian engineer was shot and wounded in the incident on Thursday in the city of Birnin Kebbi, said state police commissioner Adamu Hassan.

“Two construction engineers, a Briton and an Italian working for a foreign construction company, B. Stabilini, were kidnapped from their lodge in Birnin Kebbi last night by unknown men,” said Hassan.

“The kidnappers have not established any contact with us and have so far not demanded for any ransom.”

Describing the incident, he said “a horde of gunmen stormed the apartment where the construction workers were staying.”

According to the commissioner, a large amount of cash in the lodge where the two expatriates working for the firm were staying was not taken. The firm, B. Stabilini, was founded by Italians but is located in Nigeria.

I would rule out Boko Haram because of location – Kebbi is in Nigeria’s far North West, while Boko Haram’s stronghold is in the far North East – and because of the style of the attack. Boko Haram has not, to my knowledge, conducted kidnappings, but has rather focused on either assassinating individuals (such as policemen and imams) or staging mass uprisings.

I would rule out AQIM because of location – Kebbi is located near the borders with Benin and Niger, but is south and east of where AQIM usually operates. I would also rule out AQIM because this kind of hot invasion of an urban home seems unlike AQIM’s most frequent method of preying on drivers or lone tourists in remote areas. True, AQIM kidnapped two Frenchmen right out of a restaurant in Niamey, the capital of Niger, in January, but that attack was a departure from their normal style. AQIM has also, to my knowledge, made no inroads into Nigerian territory. This incident in Kebbi could be a brazen AQIM foray into a new land, but if so it seems AQIM would have already boasted about it.

The most likely identity for the kidnappers, it seems to me, is a group of freelancers motivated not by ideology but by money. From the description they sound numerous and well-armed, but they also sound somewhat amateur: they left cash and they allowed victims to escape. Possibly they are also local, though Kebbi’s proximity to other countries may suggest the involvement of some foreigners, and may mean that the hostages will be held outside of Nigeria. The kidnapping in Kebbi resembles the 2009 kidnapping in Kaduna, but again because of geography (Kebbi and Kaduna are a fair distance apart), it seems unlikely that this is the same group.

Hopefully, like the Kaduna incident, this incident will be resolved relatively quickly, and without loss of life. I also hope that the kidnapping in Kebbi will not signal a growth in hostage-taking in Northern Nigeria. My sympathies go out to the victims and their families.

[Update]:

Via email, a reader cautions me not to rule out AQIM so quickly, especially the possibility of their involvement by proxy. Even if the kidnappers were not AQIM members, in other words, it is possible that the hostages will end up in AQIM hands. AQIM, the reader continues, would certainly like to expand into Nigeria and other areas. These are good points. Hopefully we will learn more – and be able to discuss the kidnapping with more certainty – in the days ahead. To reiterate, if this does turn out to involve AQIM, that will be a major turning point for AQIM and for Northern Nigeria.

In other, potentially related news, this is significant:

Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, the Chief of Defence Staff, says the Nigerian military will partner with the Republic of Niger military in evolving strategies to fight terrorism.

He made the announcement on Monday when the Chief of Defence Staff of the Republic of Niger, Brig.-Gen. Salou Souleymane, paid him a courtesy visit at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja.

Petinrin said Nigeria was ready to work with the Republic of Niger to fight criminal elements, noting that the unrest in Libya, Egypt and Cote’d Ivoire might directly or indirectly have a spill-over effect on both countries.

Petinrin is emphasizing unrest in North Africa and in Cote d’Ivoire, but closer Nigerian-Nigerien military cooperation could affect Sahelian efforts against AQIM as well.

Kebbi:

Africa Elections Updates: Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Sudan, and Mauritania

As VOA reminds us, “over 30 African countries [are] scheduled to hold parliamentary and presidential elections this year,” and some sixteen countries have already held their votes. A few weeks ago, I looked at the electoral pictures in Djibouti, Nigeria, Benin, Mauritania, and Chad. One of those elections has completely concluded: on April 8, Djibouti re-elected President Ismael Guelleh to a third term (more here). This post looks at how elections in the other countries (and in North Sudan) are proceeding.

Here’s the updated electoral calendar:

  • April 25: Presidential elections in Chad
  • April 26: State elections and some (previously delayed) legislative elections in Nigeria
  • April 28: State elections in Nigeria’s Kaduna and Bauchi States
  • April 30: Parliamentary elections in Benin
  • May 2: State elections in North Sudan’s South Kordofan State
  • Unknown: Partial Senate elections in Mauritania

Here is an outline of the major issues at stake in each country:

Chad

Chad’s upcoming presidential election follows parliamentary elections in February that the ruling party won. Threats of boycotts are dogging the presidential election, meaning incumbent President Idriss Deby will likely be able “to extend his two-decade rule in the central African nation.” I am expecting a continuation of the status quo in Chad.

Nigeria

Nigeria has already completed its presidential election (April 16, which incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan won) and most of its legislative races (April 9, which resulted in some losses for the ruling People’s Democratic Party). On April 26, Nigeria will hold state elections (for governor and state assembly seats) in almost all of its 36 states, and will hold some of the legislative elections that were delayed because of logistical problems earlier this month. Following the news of Jonathan’s victory this week, riots began in some Northern Nigerian states. Due to the violence, the electoral commission has delayed the elections in two states, Kaduna and Bauchi, to April 28.

The gubernatorial elections next week will further test the PDP’s control at the state level (currently the PDP has 26 governors). It is possible that PDP victories in Northern states could lead to more riots, and there is potential for violence in other areas too, such as the Niger Delta in the South.

Benin

Benin’s situation is the mirror image of Chad’s. In March, Benin held presidential elections which the incumbent, President Boni Yayi, won. This victory produced opposition threats to boycott the parliamentary elections that have been moved to April 30. These elections will therefore help set the tone for regime-opposition relations during Yayi’s new term.

North Sudan

Sudan, when it was still one country, held national elections in April 2010. South Kordofan State’s elections, however, were delayed due to problems with census results. On May 2, voters in South Kordofan (located in North Sudan) will at long last go to the polls to vote for governor and state assembly members. The governor’s race will be a test of how the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)’s North wing performs now that South Sudan, the SPLM’s home base, has seceded. The race pits the SPLM’s candidate against a member of the National Congress Party (NCP), which rules North Sudan.

The Sudan Tribune lays out the next steps in South Kordofan:

South Kordofan lies on the fault line between north and south Sudan, incorporating: the Nuba population, which largely sided with the south during the war, as well as the Hawazma and Messirya nomadic Arab tribes who were then believed to be used as proxy militias by the north to fight the south.

The state abuts the explosive region of Abyei, another bone of contention between the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM/A) in South Sudan and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the north.

Under the CPA, South Kordofan is meant to hold popular consultations, in order to determine whether the agreement has met the aspirations of its citizens and resolve any outstanding issues related to its implementation.

The popular consultation, which is delayed pending the conduct of the state’s elections, does not accommodate a right to self-determination for South Kordofan which will remain a part of northern Sudan regardless of the consultation’s outcome, but may retain some autonomy.

The elections in South Kordofan will also tell us something about the political trajectory of the North-South border region as a whole.

Mauritania

Mauritania was due to hold elections this month for around one-third of its Senators, but opposition forces called for a postponement. The regime made a postponement, but the manner in which it did so displeased some of the opposition groups, who said the regime had taken the decision out of pure political calculation. A new date has not been set. The delay shows that the opposition has some sway, but the bickering may convince the government that attempts to placate the opposition are in vain.

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What is your take on these elections? Have I missed any others?

Goodluck Jonathan Picks Namadi Sambo as Vice President

Since Goodluck Jonathan became official president of Nigeria, observers have speculated about who he would choose as his new vice president. Yesterday we learned the choice: Namadi Sambo, who was elected governor of Kaduna State in the North in 2007.

Kaduna, Nigeria

Mr Sambo, 57, must now be approved by both houses of parliament.

[...]

Whoever is named as vice-president is seen as a strong contender for the 2011 presidential elections in Africa’s most populous nation, analysts say.

[...]

The BBC’s Caroline Duffield in Lagos says Mr Sambo is not a prominent politician, does not have a big power base and his name did not figure in public speculation about likely vice-presidents.

But she says he is likely to be confirmed by the Senate, which is expected to meet later on Thursday.

Married with six children, he is a qualified architect who became governor in 2007.

He is an ally of former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida, who recently said he would seek to contest the elections, our correspondent says.

She says he has taken security very seriously since becoming Kaduna governor.

Some analysts say he may have been chosen because he would not pose a threat to President Jonathan.

Jonathan has not yet announced a run, though close advisers say he will be a candidate. Based on what people are saying about Sambo, it seems Jonathan has left that route open. Will the choice of a Northerner for vice president reassure leaders in the region that Jonathan is taking their interests into account? Or would a presidential run by Jonathan cause some Northern politicians to split away from the ruling party regardless? And what of Sambo’s ties to Babangida – how does this affect the retired general’s campaign for the presidency? Questions galore, but with the major elements of the transition from Yar’Adua to Jonathan concluded we have much more information than we did a week ago.