Nigeria In Turmoil During President’s Absence

January 27, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

Nigerian President Mallam Musa Yar'ardua at a meeting at the council chambers at the Aso Villa in Abuja on June 24, 2009. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)
Nigerian President Mallam Musa Yar'ardua at a meeting at the council chambers at the Aso Villa in Abuja on June 24, 2009. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)
Since Nigerian President Mallam Musa Yar'ardua disappeared from sight with an acute heart condition two months ago, the troubled nation has plunged into turmoil and seems adrift.

Despite the mounting pressure from critics, among whom is his former mentor and predecessor Nigerian President Obasanjo, to step down, on Wednesday the Nigerian cabinet announced that the president was fit enough to perform his functions.

The president, however, was asked by the Senate to provide a sick letter so that vice president Mr. Goodluck Jonathan would be entitled to exercise full presidential powers.

“Presently there is a party tussle on how to resolve the presidents absence … there are no clear directives to the ministries on how to implement certain actions,” said Nick Nwolisa the head of Programs Development and International Relations, and columnist at Nigeria World.

Business circles have complained that important government business largely has been left undone over the past few months.

An Eventful Two Month Absence

In these two months, there was the failed terrorist attack by the infamous “Nigerian bomber” Umar Farouk, who happens to be the son of a former Nigerian minister. The attack prompted the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to blame Nigerian leaders for their failure to curb the increasing "radicalization" among Nigerian youth.

“The world is probably taking a closer look at Nigeria now because of the terror plot by Umar Farouk. But over the years Nigeria has always had religious extremists who perpetuate terror and it was only a matter of time before they gained international status, ” said Nick Nwolisa.

On Jan. 8 rebels attacked a Nigeria Chevron oil pipeline in the Niger Delta. A month before that the Dutch-British owned oil company Shell had already put its onshore oil fields in Nigeria up for sale, a move believed to be partly related to growing violence in the region.

Last week, a violent religious clash between Christians and Muslims claimed the lives of some 450 people. And as the last bodies from the massacre were recovered from wells and sewer pits, a Nigerian naval helicopter crashed, killing four. This latest incident is also believed to be related to terrorism.

Preventing a Military Coup

To prevent a coup, the Nigerian army ordered a restriction of movement for its soldiers on Monday. Soldiers need passes and valid reasons to go anywhere.

“We are aware of the fact that there is tension in the country. We know it's not a secret," Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazau was reported as saying by AP. "And we also got intelligence information that some people are trying to infiltrate our ranks."

Lt. Gen Danbazau warned that a military coup would drag Nigeria “back to the dark days of our nation's history.”

Nick Nwolisa thinks democracy could still work but that the system needs to be attuned to Nigeria’s natural conditions. “Nigeria has a lot diversity. It is always very difficult to put people of different cultures, traditions, and beliefs to live together. This is the mistake the colonial masters made in most of the African nations.”