Nigeria’s Elections: Beyond “The Bumbler vs. the Thug”

Since the two major parties nominated their presidential candidates, Nigeria’s presidential election (now scheduled for March 28, following a six-week delay announced earlier this month) has been, effectively, a two-man race. These two men are incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and former military ruler General Muhammadu Buhari. Jonathan represents the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), while Buhari is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a coalition of opposition parties.

In much international coverage of the race, whether by non-Nigerian journalists or Nigerians speaking to international audiences, the two candidates have been presented in crude and one-dimensional ways. The narrative at work in such commentaries says that Jonathan is a bumbler – a nice guy perhaps, but ultimately an “accidental president” who is in over his head, too incompetent to deal with problems like corruption or the violence caused by Boko Haram in the northeastern part of the country. Meanwhile, the same narrative tells us that Buhari is a thug – an essentially military man whose record is fatally tarnished by his regime’s actions in the 1980s, and whose prospects for winning the presidency have grown only because of Nigerians’ anxieties about Boko Haram. The narrative goes on to say that Nigerians face two very bad choices for president – perhaps implying that “the devil they know” is the better choice.

Some critical omissions have led to this distorted narrative of “the bumbler vs. the thug.” Not only does the narrative misrepresent both men, it obscures shifts at work in Nigerian politics. It may be a two-man race, but there is a larger cast of characters involved in deciding who will be Nigeria’s next president.

Jonathan as a Deliberate Choice and a Deliberate Policymaker

Nearly every profile one reads of Jonathan in the international media calls him the “accidental president.” The idea of Jonathan’s accidental rise fits neatly with the idea of him as an incompetent bumbler. He just kind of ended up in his position, we hear, so it’s no surprise that he has trouble dealing with the country’s major problems.

And indeed, Jonathan was twice elevated to higher office by accident – first from Deputy Governor to Governor of Bayelsa State in 2005, when his predecessor was impeached on corruption charges; and second from Vice President to Acting President and then President in 2010, when his predecessor Umaru Yar’Adua fell ill and then passed away.

Jonathan was not, however, an accidental vice president, and that fact is often forgotten. After President Olusegun Obasanjo (served 1999-2007) lost his bid to engineer constitutional changes that would have permitted him a third term, he handpicked a ticket he believed would be politically effective and biddable. Yar’Adua was the brother of Obasanjo’s deceased former second-in-command from Obasanjo’s time as a military ruler (more on this below). Yar’Adua hailed from the north, thus fulfilling a PDP internal agreement to rotate the presidency back to that region. Jonathan was (and is) an Ijaw from the Niger Delta, an oil-producing region where militants, many of them Ijaw, had recently begun a wave of attacks on government and oil industry targets. There was nothing accidental about Jonathan’s selection.

The other problem with the “bumbler” narrative about Jonathan is that it overlooks the sophistication of his team. Jonathan’s Finance Minister is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Managing Director of the World Bank (and also Finance Minister under Obasanjo). Jonathan’s Central Bank Governor (until they fell out in 2013-2014) was Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, a Northern aristocrat and banker who won international acclaim for his response to the aftermath of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Jonathan’s National Security Advisor is Colonel Sambo Dasuki, the son of a former Sultan of Sokoto (the pre-eminent hereditary Muslim ruler in the North) and a professional military man. One could point to current and former members of the team with less stellar reputations – but the point is that the president or his handlers have deliberately chosen a number of figures who are both (a) recognized experts in their fields and (b) exciting and credible to international observers. Ultimately, I think it’s immaterial whether Jonathan himself is a highly capable individual or not; what matters is the administration as a whole.

I see two views one could hold about this team. The charitable view would credit them with rapid economic growth and offer a list of their accomplishments in infrastructure development and other fields. The charitable view would say that the team is doing the best it can in difficult economic and security circumstances. In contrast, the uncharitable view would argue that the administration has deliberately ignored key problems in its approach to Boko Haram (problems such as corruption and systemic human rights abuses by security forces) and has deliberately chosen economic policies that leave poverty and inequality untouched. Whether one is charitable or uncharitable, it is hard to say that the president is a bumbler – either he and his all-stars are doing the best they can in trying times, or he and his all-stars are making choices that privilege certain regions and social groups over others.

Buhari as a Seasoned Politician Assembling a New, Geographically Diverse Coalition

Many profiles from the 2014-2015 campaign discuss Buhari as though he has never run for president before – as though he is a former military ruler who exploded back onto the political scene in response to Nigerians’ anxieties about Boko Haram. The narrative of “Buhari as thug” is perpetuated by thinning his resume, decontextualizing former military rulers’ continued role in Nigerian politics, and misreading the Nigerian political map of 2015.

On the topic of Buhari’s resume, the first thing to note is that he was the runner-up in the past three elections – to Obasanjo in 2003, to Yar’Adua in 2007, and to Jonathan in 2011. So he has been running seriously for president as a civilian for over six times as long as he ruled the country as a military dictator (1983-1985). The other thing to note about Buhari’s resume is his long experience in the petroleum sector, both in the 1970s and the 1990s. This experience should not be invoked to minimize the serious allegations of human rights abuses and violations of civil liberties stemming from his time as military ruler, but the experience does round out the portrait of Buhari as a multi-faceted candidate.

On the subject of Buhari’s military past, the implication that he is an anomaly among current Nigerian politicians – or that his candidacy’s strength is primarily a result of current insecurity – is ludicrous. Since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999, many leading politicians have either been former military rulers or figures closely connected to them. Obasanjo was military ruler from 1976-1979. Yar’Adua was the brother of Obasanjo’s second-in-command. Former military ruler General Ibrahim Babangida has sought the presidency. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (served 1999-2007) was close to (Shehu) Yar’Adua. At the state level, various governors and former governors (for example Jonah Jang of Plateau and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa) were military governors prior to 1999. Even Jonathan has connections (as noted above, he was Obasanjo’s pick for Yar’Adua’s Vice President in 2007) to former military rulers. In this context, Buhari’s candidacy is not anomalous – and it does not automatically make him a thug.

Finally, Buhari’s candidacy in 2015 is a different thing than his candidacy in 2011. His campaign has certainly gained strength from anxieties about security – but I would argue that it has gained far more from the skillful politicking of APC leaders, particularly former Lagos Governor Bola Tinubu.

In 2011, the electoral map in Nigeria looked simple: Buhari won twelve northern states, Jonathan won the rest of the country. The 2011 map fit the international media’s narrative of Nigeria as divided into a “Muslim north” and a “Christian south.” Buhari appeared to be the Northern Muslim candidate, end of story.

That map and that narrative may not work in 2015. The APC’s path to victory involves holding the northern vote but also expanding it to make gains in the southwest (the home turf of Tinubu and many other APC leaders, as well as Obasanjo, who recently endorsed Buhari) and the Middle Belt (an ethnically and religiously diverse section of the old “Northern Region” from the early days of Nigerian multiparty politics). Buhari may be the face of the APC, but the party has sought to turn its state-level strength in the southwest (where it holds several governorships, including Lagos) into a core element of a presidential victory. It is no accident that Buhari’s running mate is Yemi Osinbajo, Tinubu’s former attorney general and a friend of an influential Christian pastor in the southwest.


The trope of “the bumbler vs. the thug” distorts understanding of the two leading candidates in Nigeria’s presidential elections. Moreover, the “bumbler vs. thug” narrative directs our attention to the far northeast as though Boko Haram is that only force that matters in Nigerian politics, and thereby distracts us from the evolving and contested electoral map.

Outlines of Nigerian Election Taking Shape

With around four and a half months to go, the details of Nigeria’s 2011 elections – and the central actors in the competition – are becoming clear.

Yesterday Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission announced dates for the elections: parliamentary elections will take place on April 2nd, the presidential contest on April 9th, and gubernatorial votes on April 16th. May 29th remains the date for the swearing-in ceremony of the president-elect, leaving Nigeria around seven weeks to resolve any irregularities, problems, or complaints stemming from the elections.

The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is also heading toward its nominating convention. What happens there will likely have a decisive impact on the general election. Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan faces significant opposition from within the PDP, especially from some Northern members who feel that because a Southerner (President Olusegun Obasanjo) ruled Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, Jonathan should step aside and let a Northerner complete the eight-year rotation begun by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.

On Monday, Northern elites in the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) moved to defeat Jonathan and restore Northern primacy. The NPLF officially put forward former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its consensus candidate for the PDP primary. Abubakar hails from Adamawa State in Nigeria’s North East.


Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria

Different Nigerian outlets characterize the contest between Jonathan and Abubakar differently. For example, Vanguard depicts the country’s six “geopolitical zones” as somewhat evenly split between the two men, while the Nigerian Tribune argues that the support of powerful governors across the country for Jonathan means that “though politics is no Mathematics,  with all these, the fact that the North has a consensus candidate may not really negatively affect the chances of Jonathan at the primaries.” (I highly recommend both links if you want a zone-by-zone view of the contest.)

What many Nigerian media outlets agree on is that the PDP race is narrowing down to Jonathan and Abubakar. Other Northern political heavyweights such as former President Ibrahim Babangida have reportedly thrown their backing to Abubakar. If you believe, as I do, that the PDP’s nominee is the favorite to win the general election, then the pool for the general has shrunk considerably with the elimination of such PDP giants. And if you go the extra step of thinking, as I do again, that Jonathan will win the nomination, then trends still seem to favor him in the general.

Whatever one’s take on the PDP primaries, we have a lot more information about the elections than we did a week ago: a firm date, clearer electoral battle lines, and a stronger sense of what lies ahead. Now I will be looking out for when the PDP sets a date for its primaries, and for a sense of how opposition parties are planning their electoral strategies.

Whither the Niger Delta Amnesty?

From the summer of 2009 through early 2010, I and many others hoped that a proposed amnesty and ceasefire deal for the conflict-ridden Niger Delta might yield peace, and even prosperity, for the region. But the transition from the late President Umaru Yar’Adua to current President Goodluck Jonathan, and the campaigning ahead of Nigeria’s upcoming elections, turned attention away from the Delta for a time even as problems mounted there. With attacks by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) during Nigeria’s 50th anniversary celebrations earlier this month, the Delta returned to the spotlight. So what next for the amnesty?

view from the Niger Delta by Terry Wha

The outlook is mixed. Tensions are still high following the independence day attacks, and yesterday Nigerian authorities seized at least one “container holding rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives in the main port of Lagos.” At the same time, though, Chevron has launched “a new five-year, $50 million programme…to build innovative partnerships with national and international organisations to address some of the socio-economic challenges of the Niger Delta region.” Even as violence continues, then, efforts to tackle the root causes of conflict are progressing.

Taking the complexity of the situation into account, Uche Igwe has written a brilliant op-ed on the future of the amnesty. I urge you to read it in full, but here’s an excerpt:

Looking at the figures, one will say that the amnesty programme has been a modest success. Reports from government indicate that oil export figures have improved from 800,000 barrels per day that it was during the hostilities in 2006-2008 to 2.3 million barrels per day in 2010. A majority of the militants have dropped their arms and embraced amnesty – at least if the last Abuja meetings with government were anything to go by. Kidnapping and hostage taking has considerably reduced, at least, in the Niger Delta, though it is in a rapid increase in the south east zone and other parts of the country.

It is my view that it is a remarkable achievement by the current administration in Abuja, but many activists in the region still see it as a mere window dressing and at best a treatment of the symptoms without a comprehensive diagnosis and political will to decisively treat the systemic malady.

No one is under any illusion that all the arms in the Niger Delta region have all, been surrendered. The routes for oil theft from the Niger Delta are alleged to be the same through which small arms and light weapons are still being funneled into the creeks. An urgent and comprehensive mop up operation is essential to ensure that any residual stockpiles of arms in the Niger Delta communities are retrieved. Some pundits believe that a United Nations assisted strategy may help as it did in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Though the contextual issues might be different, the Nigerian government can tap into the expertise, neutrality and professionalism of the United Nations in future phases of the amnesty programme. This programme as a matter of urgency must be insulated as much as possible from the vagaries of politics and fortified with both official courage and sincerity of purpose.

Igwe outlines other recommendations in the paragraphs that follow.

Pursuing the amnesty and some program of development and conflict resolution in the Niger Delta is a major priority for Nigeria. Whoever wins the elections will have some successes to build upon, but will also have a lot of work to do. And hopefully the issue will continue to receive attention from policymakers and journalists even amidst campaigning.

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.

Nigeria: Goodluck Jonathan to Run in 2011 Elections?

Yesterday, news outlets quoted an aide to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan who said that Jonathan will likely run in Nigeria’s 2011 presidential elections. If he does, that decision would disrupt the understanding within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that the eight years of Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency were a “turn” for the South and that the two terms extending from 2007 to 2015 should be a “turn” for the North. Indeed, much speculation recently has focused on the questions of who that Northern candidate will be and whether Jonathan’s upcoming selection of a new vice president will in fact be a selection of that candidate. If Jonathan enters the race himself, it could widen existing rifts within the PDP and intensify the competition for votes.

Reuters (linked above) has more on the vice presidency speculation:

A presidency source told Reuters on Wednesday the National Assembly had written to Jonathan endorsing Senator Ahmed Makarfi, former governor of the northern state of Kaduna, as its preferred candidate for the job.

“(Makarfi) is from the north-west, which is the zone the late president came from, which is where it has been agreed that the vice president should emerge from,” the source said.

“The president has already finished consultations on the matter and … his letter to the National Assembly containing the name of his nominee … may leave to the legislature today.”

Makarfi had been seen as a potential presidential candidate ahead of the 2007 polls, until Yar’Adua emerged as the PDP’s favoured choice from the north-west.

The BBC gives more details about how behind-the-scenes politics is already shaping the presidential race:

Mr Obasanjo [who was instrumental in arranging the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s nomination in 2007 – Alex] is said to be making a play to get the party to accept Mr Jonathan as their next candidate, but he is opposed by other factions in the PDP.

To settle the argument, a big political player will have to emerge and placate all the factions in order to find what is called a “consensus candidate”.

Whoever this kingmaker is, he will have to have very deep pockets, or make promises which the eventual candidate will have to stick by.

One of the tasks Mr Jonathan set himself when he became acting president in February was to push through electoral reform that would see elections brought forward by four months to January.

This makes the probable date of the PDP convention around mid-September, just four months away.

The one thing that Nigerians can be certain of is that the real election for president is happening right now.

Some helpful background on the PDP’s internal issues here, though the tone of the article is somewhat condescending.

If I were advising Jonathan (which would probably be a bad idea!), I would have told him to wait until 2015 to run. Theoretically, if the rotational principle holds, a grateful North might have been willing, even eager, to support the man who let the North have their full “turn.” But there are definitely incentives for Jonathan to run now, if he wants the presidency – four years is a long time in politics anywhere, and by 2015 an ex-President Jonathan might be eclipsed by other political figures. A professor of mine compared the situation to Obama’s in 2006: people told him to wait, but he saw his moment and seized it. Perhaps Jonathan is doing the same. Still, running now brings major risks too, including the risk that PDP rifts will become permanent schisms. Those schisms could, in turn, render the outcome of 2011 a lot less certain (the PDP never got less than 60% of the official vote in 1999, 2003, and 2007).

It’s going to be a dynamic campaign in Nigeria, that’s for sure.

Al Jazeera looks at the reaction to Jonathan’s ascension to the presidency in his home state of Bayelsa.

Sunday Africa Blog Roundup: Ethiopia and Water, Chad and Sudan, African Business

Anna Kramer on water shortages in Ethiopia:

I visited Ketele Pond on my trip to southern Ethiopia eight months ago. The pond was wide and flat, softened at the edges, a shallow bowl reflecting the pale afternoon sky. It’s nothing impressive to look at, until you realize that it’s the only clean drinking water source for thousands of families in this remote area. Ketele is in fact partly man-made, shored up by local aid groups in an effort to protect the water supply during the dry season.

When we opened the photos attached to the email, one of my Boston colleagues, who was with me on the trip, gasped as though in pain. Ketele’s water had bled out, thick and red-tinged like the rust-colored soil. The pond itself was a puddle: shrunken, diminished.

On the shores of Ketele, I saw dozens of women and girls carrying yellow, 40-gallon plastic jugs. Some laughed as they scooped up water, tying the jugs to the backs of donkeys or to their own backs, getting ready for the hours-long journey back to their home villages. These jugs held their families’ water supply for the day — their only water for drinking, cooking, and a dozen other essential tasks.

I don’t know what those girls and their families are doing now that Ketele is gone.

Jane Smith updates us on relations between Chad and Sudan:

January’s rapprochement between Chad and Sudan was genuine, and may well last. After all, as long term allies (Deby launched his takeover of Chad in 1990 from inside Darfur), it makes perfect sense for them to want to stabilise the situation. Neither of them is capable of fully controlling the desert border regions, as the Darfur conflict and displacements in eastern Chad have attested. After a surprisingly peaceful passing of April’s election, Bashir would be risking much by renewing his support to the Chadian rebels. Likewise, Deby’s message to JEM was unequivocal – after the January agreement he despatched a team to the area around the Oure Cassoni refugee camp near Bahai in the far north east, and told JEM to get out of Chadian territory.

US Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration and the Sudan Assessment and Evaluation Commission give a report on how implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is progressing.

Loomnie has a links roundup on Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua’s death.

Roving Bandit on ethnic grievances and civil war.

Matthew Tostevin on African business: “African business leaders are much more optimistic than the global average.”

The Mezze points us to a documentary on Mecca.

Chris Blattman has some useful tips for international air travel.

Texas in Africa on savior vs. empowerment paradigms in international development.

And on a lighter note, click through for a video on skateboarding in Uganda.

Nigeria: President Goodluck Jonathan’s Inaugural Speech

Goodluck Jonathan officially became president of Nigeria yesterday. The BBC has video of the swearing-in ceremony.

I was able to find a video of his inaugural address, but it is a little hard to understand. Thankfully, a transcript (copied below) is available here.

1. My dear brothers and sisters, it is with deep sense of loss and profound sorrow that I received the news of the passing on of His Excellency, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

2. Our President passed away peacefully in the Presidential villa in Abuja yesterday evening, the 5th day of May 2010. While we submit to the will of God as a people of faith, this sad event has placed our nation in deep mourning.

3. On behalf of the good people of our great Country Nigeria, I stand by our First Lady, Her Excellency Hajia Turai Yar’Adua, the Children, our Mother, Hajia Habiba Musa Yar’Adua, and the entire Yar’Adua family and offer our heartfelt condolences on the demise of our amiable leader.

4. President Yar’Adua’s contribution to political development and good governance would never be forgotten. He will therefore always occupy a pride of place in the political history of our dear Nation. He was a man of great personal integrity, deep devotion to God and outstanding humility. In all his public service, he displayed uncommon commitment to the peace, progress and unity of our country. He has left for us a profound legacy that provides a firm foundation for Nigeria’s future. His exit has therefore created a huge vacuum in his personal contributions to the political growth and development of our nation. I have lost not just a boss but a good friend and brother.

5. Having taken the oath of office in line with the Nigerian Constitution, under these very sad and unusual circumstances, I urge all fellow citizens to remain steadfast and committed to the values and aspirations of our nation. While this is a major burden on me and indeed the entire nation, we must in the midst of such great adversity continue to garner our collective efforts towards upholding the values which our departed leader represented.

6. In this regard our total commitment to Good Governance, Electoral Reform and the fight against Corruption would be pursued with greater vigour. As I had stated time and again, we must enshrine the best standards in our democratic practice. One of the true tests would be to ensure that all votes count and are counted in the upcoming General Elections. Similarly the effort at ensuring the sustenance of peace and development in the Niger Delta as well as the security of life and property around the entire country would be of top most priority in the remaining period of this administration.

7. I want to reassure all Nigerians that the pledges which we had made to improve the socio-economic situation which we face through improved access to electricity, water, education, health facilities and other social amenities would continue to be given the needed emphasis. The welfare of our teeming workers and the unemployed youths would also be accorded a new impetus.

8. My brothers and sisters, I call on all Nigerians to pray for the repose of the soul of our departed President. May God, in his infinite mercy, and compassion grant him eternal peace.

9. God bless Nigeria.

Electoral reform is emerging as one of the biggest issues – virtually every analysis I’ve read has talked about it. Of course, the other issues Jonathan mentioned (governance, corruption, infrastructure, electricity, and conflict in the Niger Delta) are also important.

What do you think is next for Nigeria?

More on Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua’s Death

As I said yesterday when the news broke that Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua’s had died, my sympathies go out to his family and to all his mourners in Nigeria and elsewhere. I do not want to convey any insensitivity by moving quickly into analysis. The death of a national leader would be a serious and emotional event for any country.

Abuja, Nigeria

A number of news outlets have obituaries, including the BBC and The Guardian, that provide background on Yar’Adua’s presidency and illness. Reuters has a factbox on Yar’Adua’s life, and the BBC and Al Jazeera have videos. Analyses by international sources are focusing on various themes – the New York Times on the constitutional crisis precipitated by Yar’Adua’s illness, Al Jazeera English on continued political tensions in Nigeria, the Times of London on a coming “power struggle” among the country’s elites, and CNN on Yar’Adua’s record in office.

In the Nigerian press, some papers are simply reporting the news, though I am sure that by the time I have posted this tomorrow morning lengthier opinion pieces will be appearing by the score. The Punch highlights some Nigerian reactions:

Kwara State governor Bukola Saraki, who is also the chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, said, “As a Muslim, the first reaction is that everyone will pay the ultimate price and death will come when it will come. The passing on of the President at this point in time in our national history is not only tragic but devastating. It‘s indeed a colossal loss to the nation and Africa.”

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, in his tribute, wrote, “What passes for the Nigerian nation is nothing more than a tragic arena, and Yar‘Adua is only the latest tragic figure. The vampires, including those within his own family, turned him into a mere inert resource for their diabolical schemes.

“They have a reckoning with their conscience, assuming they know what the word means. One can only hope that, while mouthing sanctimonious platitudes such as ‘Power belongs to God,’ they have now learnt that the politics of Do-or-Die cannot guarantee who does and who dies. They must stop playing God. I pray for the repose of the soul of their latest, much abused innocent victim. Wole Soyinka.”

In his reaction, Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko described the President‘s transition as a sad loss to the nation. Mimiko, in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Kolawole Olabisi, described the late President as an apostle of democracy, who maintained a firm belief in the Rule of Law and fairplay.

In his reaction, Kogi State Governor Ibrahim Idris said in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Richard Elesho, “We would like to keep our fingers crossed, taking into cognisance that the power of life and death are the in the hands of God. We have to accept it as the will of God. We condole with the family and pray God grants them the fortitude to bear the loss. The man suffered for so long. It’s indeed a big loss.”

The Punch also provides some critical information about rules of succession:

By virtue of Section 146 of the 1999 Constitution, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan automatically becomes the President. It reads, ”The Vice-President shall hold the office of President if the office of President becomes vacant by reason of death or resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or the removal of the President from office for any other reason in accordance with section 143 of this Constitution.”

In a separate article, The Punch details plans for Goodluck Jonathan’s inauguration today and includes quotations from Jonathan’s statement on Yar’Adua’s death.

One Nigerian paper already weighed in last night with an editorial: Next told Jonathan that it is “time to act”:

Mr. Jonathan no longer has Mr. Yar’Adua’s shadows hanging over him. He must now take up the full powers of the presidency.

Mr. Jonathan’s first challenge upon being sworn in as Nigeria’s substantive president would be to select a deputy. Behind the scenes in the State house for the past few months, presidency sources have disclosed that there has been a robust lobbying process by politicians desirous of the number two position.

[…]Analysts who spoke to NEXT jointly agreed that the time has come for Mr. Jonathan to shelve his ‘excessively deliberate decision making’ process and come up with a more assertive and decisive stance considering that he has now become the head of all the services and parastatals of government.

Also pointing out the fact that Mr. Yar’Adua’s passing has now placed the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) under the complete control and leadership of Mr. Jonathan, analysts opined that former governors under the political platform, who hitherto wielded substantial power and influence in the party, may now be on the losing end.

Still, even if Jonathan wants to take complete control over the PDP, rifts within the party and tension between Jonathan and state governors will present serious obstacles. Nick Tattersall of Reuters writes, “The death of Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua is unlikely to plunge Africa’s most populous state into crisis, but it intensifies what was already shaping up to be the fiercest succession race since the end of military rule.” NPR has more context on the political situation.

As transitions take place at the top, I am wondering what ordinary Nigerians are thinking. Tomorrow I will continue looking through the comment sections of online news sources, Nigerian and international, but of course that only offers a perspective on views among Nigerian internet users. I am also thinking about this Washington Post piece, published before Yar’Adua’s death, on low expectations among ordinary Nigerians concerning democracy and next year’s elections. Whoever emerges as president after all the coming transitions will face challenges not only at the elite level, but also in shoring up the government’s legitimacy with the people.

Goodluck Jonathan Shakes Up Nigeria’s Oil Sector

Acting Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has drawn attention for shaking up the cabinet, replacing powerful ministers chosen by ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua with his own picks, and tasking the cabinet with a far-ranging agenda designed to address Nigeria’s problems.

Bayelsa State, Nigeria

But the BBC says Jonathan’s boldest moves are taking place in the oil sector:

Nigeria’s Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has sacked the head of the national oil company Mohammed Barkindo.

He will be replaced by Shehu Ladan, who was himself dismissed from the state-run NNPC by President Umaru Yar’Adua before he fell ill last November.

The BBC’s Caroline Duffield in Abuja says the move will be seen as evidence of Mr Jonathan’s determination to remould Nigeria’s political landscape…news of Mr Barkindo’s sacking from the inefficient Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) took the country by surprise and will be read as an aggressively political act.

Jonathan is making some pretty major changes.