|Goodluck Jonathan was named acting president.|
ABUJA, Nigeria - Nigeria’s Parliament empowered Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to run Africa’s most populous nation yesterday in place of an ill and absent president, striving for a political end to a crisis that ground the government to a virtual halt and triggered the resumption of an insurgency in the vital oil sector.
But the move is not contemplated in the constitution, legal specialists say, and could cause more friction between the Christian south, which gains the presidency at least temporarily, and Muslim north.
Jonathan said in a televised address last night that he had assumed power as acting president and commander in chief of the country of 150 million people. He urged all Nigerians to continue to pray for elected President Umaru Yar’Adua, who left Nigeria for Saudi Arabia on Nov. 23.
Yar’Adua’s physician has said the 58-year-old, who long has suffered from kidney ailments, is being treated for acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart.
“The events of the recent past have put to the test our collective resolve as a democratic nation,’’ Jonathan said. He later added: “We have all shown that our unity as a people, our love for this country, and our hope for its great future cannot be shaken.’’
Much of the Nigerian government has been at a standstill. Yar’Adua did not write a letter to the vice president alerting him of the medical absence and empowering him to act as president, as called for in the 1999 constitution.
Yar’Adua’s absence has caused a cease-fire he negotiated with insurgents in the country’s oil-rich Niger Delta to unravel, and oil contracts have gone unsigned.
The political turmoil recently prompted US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and European leaders to call on the nation to follow its constitution.