Nigerian President is OK

Looks like I posted too quickly on the status of the Nigerian President.

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Nigeria’s ailing President Yar’Adua breaks silence

President Umaru Yar'Adua (file photo)

President Umaru Yar’Adua has been abroad for weeks

Nigeria’s president, who has not been seen since going into hospital in Saudi Arabia for heart treatment in November, has told the BBC he is recovering.

In his first interview since then, Umaru Yar’Adua said he hoped to make “tremendous progress” and to return to Nigeria to resume his duties.

Nigerian opposition parties have been demanding evidence about the true state of Mr Yar’Adua’s health.

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Rumors that Nigerian president is now brain-damaged or dead

EDIT:  BBC is saying he may be OK:

Nothing seems to be confirmed yet, but if true Nigeria could be in for a rough political transition.

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Nigeria in crisis after president left ‘seriously brain-damaged’

Senior members of Nigeria’s political elite will hold emergency talks on Monday after President Umaru Yar’Adua was reported to have been left “seriously brain-damaged” following medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.

Nigeria in crisis after president left 'seriously brain-damaged'

Nigeria president Umaru Yar’Adua Photo: AP

President Umaru Yar’Adua has not been seen or heard from since he flew to Saudi Arabia for treatment for a heart complaint seven weeks ago. His long absence has pushed Africa’s second-largest oil exporter to the brink of its most serious constitutional crisis since the end of 33 years of military rule in 1999.

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Nigeria, Airport Security, and US Africa Policy

I’ve been away from this blog for the holidays, but now that I’m back I’m ready to start commenting on the recent news about the terrorism scare in Nigeria.

Consider the clip of the BBC news report posted below. The US has singled out Nigeria for tougher airport security rules.  Now this MIGHT be a reasonable policy idea. It definitely could play well with Americans now scared about flying (I just flew and I must say I am not scared at all by any of this.  I’m still safer flying than driving my car.)  But it could backfire in a big way in a place like Nigeria.

Nigerians are clearly worried by this turn in US policy.  And they rightfully sense that there is a double standard.  Did we publicly ask Britain to change its airport security polices after the shoe bomber incident?  No, as Nigerian information minister Dora Akunlyi mentioned in a report I heard on NPR this morning.  And of course, the US has grown a number of “terrorists” of its own.  So should the action of one individual impact our policy towards Nigeria?

The US should be aware that these policies could backfire.  According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, 79% of Nigerians had a favorable view of the US in 2009. However, that may be largely part of an “Obama effect” as the percentage hovered in the low 60s for much of the Bush Administration years.  And approval of US anti-terrorism efforts was a much lower 49% in 2006.  Unfortunately, these statistics do not mention the possible differences between Muslim Nigerians and Christian Nigerians.  The US could lose support among the Nigerian public.  We could, indeed, foster the very conditions that lead people to turn against the US.  I’m not saying this is going to happen, only that it is a concern that we should consider.

The attempted bombing by Nigerian Umar Abdulmutallab was likely a random event in terms of its connection to Nigeria.  Should we continue to pay attention to possible terrorist threats from Nigeria? Sure.  But we should do so in a way that positively engages Nigerians, not in a way that may place them in the unsavory category of terrorist-producing states.  Unfortunately, our targeting of their airport security seems to have done just that.

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US screening ‘risks Nigeria ties’

Lagos Airport, file image

Checking-in to Nigerian airports now takes longer

The US is risking its ties with Nigeria by asking travellers from the country to undergo stiffer airport security, Nigeria’s information minister says.

Dora Akunyili said she was disappointed with the US decision, which came after a Nigerian man was charged with trying to blow up a plane on Christmas Day.

Earlier senior Nigerian officials confirmed they had officially asked the US to scrap the new rules.

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