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Nigeria: President Yar’Adua dies 0

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died Wednesday night at age 58 in the presidential villa in the capital, Abuja. His death was confirmed by presidential spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi, according to the Associated Press.

The death, which occurred at 9 pm local time (2000 GMT) according to Adenyini, follows a long illness that was surrounded by secrecy and intrigue.

“He has been battling acute pericaditis, an inflammation of the membrane around the heart, since November last year for which he received treatment at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,” ThisDay newspaper is reporting in a home page news crawler.

The funeral is expected to take place on Thursday, in accordance with the Muslim practice of burial within 24 hours.

Goodluck Jonathan, who served as Yar’Adua’s vice president and became acting president in January after a court conferred on him the authority to carry out affairs of state, will now be able to claim greater legitimacy in the presidential post.

In an interview with Voice of America, Political Science Professor Kabiru Mato of the University of Abuja said the death of President Yar’Adua after a long illness is a great loss not only to the late president’s immediate family but to all Nigerians.

“This is a moment of sober reflection for virtually all Nigerians because losing a very important personality like the nation’s number one is a great loss, not only to his family, not only to people within his political formation, but it is a great loss to Nigeria as a whole,” he said.

He praised the late Nigerian leader for his handling of the militant crisis in Nigeria’s volatile oil-rich Niger Delta region.

“We have seen the way he was able to address a very yearning issue of the restiveness in the Niger Delta area, the sincerity with which he approached the amnesty exercise which granted Nigeria the opportunity to continue to produce oil in the region,” Mato said.

As AllAfrica.com highlights, the next test for Nigeria’s democracy will be selection of a vice president, who also could become the ruling party’s presidential candidate in the next election, scheduled to take place a year from now. Under an informal arrangement, the presidency has alternated between the country’s northern and southern regions. If the arrangement endures, Jonathan as a southerner would serve only the remaining 11 months of Yar’Adua’s term.

“It’s a shame that the drama surrounding President Yar’Adua’s illness has eclipsed the important contributions he made to Nigeria during his months in office,” said Jean Herskovits, research professor of history at the State University of New York at Purchase, who has been visiting Nigeria for four decades, most recently in March.

“Notably he started the process of electoral reform and supported reform in the banking sector,” she said of the late president. “Now the political maneuvering will shift to who will fill the vacant vice-presidency, with implications for the fast approaching 2011 elections.”

By Staff – Afronline.org (Source: AllAfrica.com, VOA News, This Day and agencies)

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