Christian sworn in as Nigerian president after death of Yar'Adua

By Ecumenical News International
May 12, 2010

Nigeria's acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, has been sworn in as the country's president following the death of his Muslim predecessor, Umaru Yar'Adua - writes Lekan Otufodunrin.

"God bless Nigeria," Jonathan said, after taking his oath of office on 6 May 2010. He praised Yar'Adua, who had died the previous day after a long battle against heart-related disease which had included treatment in Saudi Arabia.

"Nigeria has lost the jewel on its crown; even the heavens mourn with our nation tonight. As individuals and as a nation we prayed for the recovery of Mr President. But we take solace in the fact that the Almighty is the giver and taker of life," Jonathan had said in an earlier tribute.

He pledged his "total commitment to good governance, electoral reform and the fight against corruption".

Jonathan is expected to serve as president until next year when a general election will be held.

There is widespread speculation that Jonathan will seek to stand in that election. Members of the ruling People's Democratic Party from the north of the country are, however, insisting on a Muslim northerner as a candidate.

Nigeria's 149 million people are almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, with Christians in the majority in the south but outnumbered by Muslims in the north.

The west African country has recorded many cases of religious clashes during the past three decades, especially in the northern areas.

There has been an agreement in the ruling party that the presidency should alternate between southerners and northerners every eight years.

Bishop Mike Okonkwo, a Pentecostal Christian who is a former vice-president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, described Yar'Adua's death as a great loss to the country and he urged the ruling party to give full support to Jonathan.

A Muslim northerner is expected to be named as vice-president.

Retired Anglican bishop Emmanuel Bolanle Gbonigi of Akure in southwestern Nigeria urged Jonathan to live up to the expectations of Nigerians.

Yar'Adua won presidential elections in 2007. His predecessor was General Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian from the south who served two four-year terms, following an earlier period as the country's military ruler in the late 1970s.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]


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