It now appears very unlikely that Yar’Adua will ever return to office, but that only intensifies the battle ahead of the election due by 2011.
According to an unwritten agreement within the ruling PDP party for rotating power between Nigeria’s regions, Jonathan would not be able to stand because he is from the south and the next term should still go to Yar’Adua’s north – although no doubt some of his aides will be wondering whether they really need to stick to that.
Most likely the fight for the PDP nomination will be among northerners and there is no shortage of contendors. But it also means it needs to be someone happy to serve only one term so that the presidency can return to the south in 2015.
Although the army has firmly insisted on staying on the sidelines so far (perhaps another good reason for the backslapping in Abuja), there is no guarantee it would if the transition turns out to be chaotic, corruption soars on a spending spike and there is no improvement in the irregularities that are anything but irregular when it comes to Nigerian ballots.
One also has to think about the machine that was ruling the country all the while Yar’Adua was not available. Is the new President Goodluck Jonathan going to be able to take charge of the machine? Is he going to be deferring to it/them? Those are going to be crucial questions in the next few months.