Connect to share and comment

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua dies

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua, 58, died Wednesday after a lengthy period of ill-health which left Africa's most populous country without effective leadership for more than five months.

Vice President Goodluck Jonathan announced that Nigeria will have seven days of mourning. Jonathan is expected to be sworn in immediately as Nigeria's leader and commander in chief. Jonathan as president will tip the balance in Nigeria's factionalized politics because he is a Christian from southern Nigeria. Yar'Adua was a Muslim from the north.

Nigeria has recently suffered from rounds of religious and ethnic violence between Christians and Muslims in rural areas around the northern city of Jos.    

Yar'Adua came to office in 2007 promising that he would fight corruption and resolve the unrest in Nigeria's oil producing Niger Delta area. In 2009 he offered an amnesty to the rebels who had disrupted oil production and for a time it looked like his effort would help solve the problems.

But during his prolonged absence due to ill health, the situation in the Niger Delta region deteriorated and early in 2010 the rebels announced they would resume their violent attacks on oil installations and kidnapping of oil personnel. These attacks are blamed for significantly reducing Nigeria's oil production.

Even before he went to Saudi Arabia, Yar'Adua was not in good health and was known as "Baba Go Slow" for the lack of energy in his government. "Go slow" is the term used to describe the notorious traffic jams in Nigeria's largest city and commercial center, Lagos.

Yar'Adua died late Wednesday at his presidential villa, according to Nigerian state broadcasting. He suffered from heart failure, diagnosed as pericarditis which is an inflammation of the lining around the heart.

He went to Saudi Arabia last November for treatment and was not seen or heard for months, until he gave a halting interview to the BBC. Yar'Adua returned to Nigeria in February but was not seen publicly.

Yar'Adua will be buried Thursday in Katsina, his home state in northern Nigeria. He is survived by two wives and nine children.