Nigeria's new president changes religious balance of power


From the Los Angeles Times.

By Robyn Dixon

Nigeria buried its president on Thursday and swore in his successor, Goodluck Jonathan, amid fears of a debilitating power struggle in the ruling party.

Politicians hailed the smooth power transfer, but the death of President Umaru Yar'Adua on Wednesday night after a five-month illness could lead to infighting between northerners and southerners in the ruling People's Democratic Party should Jonathan, a southerner, decide to run for the presidency in elections due next year.

Jonathan's candidacy would shatter an unwritten deal in the PDP that rotates the presidency for eight years to a leader from the mainly Christian south and eight years to someone from the mainly Muslim north. The rotation is seen as vital to Nigeria's political stability.

The arrangement, known as the "zoning" policy, was recently affirmed by the party and means an Islamic candidate should run as the PDP candidate because Yar'Adua, a Muslim, served less than four years.

But differences over the zoning policy between top ruling party figures underscore the divisions and unfolding battle for power.

Jonathan, who as vice president has been serving as the country's interim leader in recent months, has made no announcement on whether he intends to run. But if he uses his incumbency to muscle his way into the PDP's nomination as presidential candidate, he could lose votes in the more populous north, according to both ruling party and opposition politicians.

After he was sworn in Thursday, Jonathan said he took office in sad and unusual circumstances and described Yar'Adua as a man of integrity and humility. He declared a week of mourning.

"I have lost not just a boss but a good friend and brother," said Jonathan. "He will always occupy a place of pride in the political history of our dear nation."

Religion Newsnone