Fears for Nigeria as ill president languishes in hospital
Nigeria has begun the new year in the grip of a constitutional crisis as the mystery over the health of its president, who is believed to be in hospital in Saudi Arabia, deepens.
No-one knows who is running Africa's most populous country, prompting warnings that a dangerous power vacuum is developing in a country with a long history of military coups.
President Umaru Yar'Adua has been out of the country for more than a month, but his medical condition remains unclear and there is no agreement on a succession. Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, who has not had executive power signed over to him, has been reduced to giving vague reassurances such as “the ship of state continues to sail”.
The 58-year-old president, known as “Baba Go-Slow” to many in Nigeria due to the sclerotic pace of reform, has a long-standing kidney complaint and was flown to a clinic in the Saudi city of Jeddah on 23 November with chest pains.
He has since been diagnosed with acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane around the heart that restricts its action. No further details have been revealed about his condition. Lawyers are pushing for an independent medical examination to establish his fitness to govern.
The election of Mr Yar'Adua, a Muslim and northerner, saw the first democratic transition of power since Nigeria's independence and was meant to signal a new era.
But election observers concluded that the poll was seriously flawed.