Nigerian president returns, reviving uncertainty

Wed Feb 24, 2010 2:59pm GMT

By Nick Tattersall and Felix Onuah

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua returned under cover of darkness on Wednesday after three months of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, reviving uncertainty over the leadership of Africa's most populous nation.

Vice President Goodluck Jonathan will continue to run affairs of state as Yar'Adua recuperates but the secrecy of his return raised concern that the 58-year-old leader's health will remain too frail for him to resume office.

"President Yar'Adua wishes to reassure all Nigerians that on account of their unceasing prayers and by the special grace of God, his health has greatly improved," Yar'Adua's spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi said in a statement.

But Yar'Adua was whisked by ambulance from Abuja airport in the early hours of Wednesday under tight security. There was no inspection of the presidential guard or formal reception by dignitaries as might be expected after such a long absence.

"The secrecy that shrouded his packaged return is a prima facie evidence that President Yar'Adua is incapable of exercising executive powers," the CNPP opposition grouping said.

"We demand to see our president."

Analysts say those close to Yar'Adua, including his powerful wife Turai, have grown concerned about Jonathan's assertive behaviour since he assumed executive powers two weeks ago and wanted him back quickly, raising the prospect of a power tussle.

After a hurriedly summoned cabinet briefing, Information Minister Dora Akunyili said Jonathan had spoken to Yar'Adua's aides and would meet his wife later on Wednesday.   Continued...

<p>Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua and his vice Goodluck Jonathan, March 28, 2007. REUTERS/Sunday Aghaeze</p>
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