Constitutional Limbo Ends With Nigerian President's Death

The succession drama consuming Nigeria just closed a chapter today: 58-year-old President Umaru Yar'Adua, hospitalized since November due to heart problems, has died. A former chemist and businessman, Yar'Adua entered politics in 1999, then went on to become Nigeria's first university-educated president in a landslide victory in 2007. While he pledged to stamp out corruption and pursue free-market reforms, Yar'Adua's time in office was marked by difficulties. Accusations of ballot-stuffing plagued his election victory, while critics lamented the slow pace of reforms. His one major victory, a ceasefire in the troubled Niger Delta, was scuttled by his illness, as parties to the agreement became increasingly convinced he lacked the power to enforce it.

But fortunately for Nigeria, the president leaves a capable deputy in his stead. Goodluck Jonathan took over as acting president in February, once Yar'Adua became too sick to carry out his duties, and has so far received high marks. Not only does he benefit from a reputation as a competent, honest politician, but because his family is from the same tribe as the rebels in the delta, he is seen as being the country's best bet for clinching a sustainable peace deal. Up until now, he has been hindered only by a constitutional crisis, since Yar'Adua failed to hand off his powers formally. Just this weekend, looking ahead to next year's election, Jonathan laid out his priorities for Nigeria, which included providing a regular power supply, reenergizing the peace process in the violence-prone Niger Delta, and readying the country for free and fair elections. With the uncertainty over the succession finally resolved, a new chapter now opens for Jonathan: delivering on those promises.

Constitutional Limbo Ends With Nigerian President's Death | World