Leaked cable: Late Nigerian president ‘comatose’

LAGOS, Nigeria : Nigeria’s late President Umaru Yar’Adua was “in a semi-comatose state” as his oil-rich nation teetered on the edge of a constitutional crisis in February over his illness, according to a secret U.S. diplomatic cable released Wednesday by WikiLeaks.The cable recounts a frank conversation then-Vice President Goodluck Jonathan had with the U.S. ambassador before Yar’Adua’s death thrust him into the nation’s highest office. The cable described how Jonathan even said to then-Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders that “there were a lot more qualified people around to be vice president.”Ima Niboro, a spokesman for Jonathan, could not be reached for comment Wednesday night. A spokesman at the U.S. embassy in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja declined to comment. WikiLeaks is a website that specializes in publishing leaked material and recently made a number of U.S. diplomatic cables public.

Yar’Adua, perpetually troubled by a chronic kidney ailment, left Nigeria on Nov. 23, 2009, to seek medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. His physician later told journalists Yar’Adua suffered from acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart.However, Yar’Adua’s stay in Saudi Arabia drifted from days to weeks to months, stalling government activity in a nation vital to U.S. oil supplies. The Feb. 26 cable describes a conversation Sanders had with Jonathan in which he said “everyone’s confused.”He put the blame on the confusion on Turai Yar’Adua, the late president’s wife, as well as three advisers who he believed had “nefarious purposes” to continue the “charade,” according to the cable.Jonathan warned Sanders a cabinet meeting “was disastrous and included yelling and screaming.” He also acknowledged his own limitations in the ruling People’s Democratic Party, as an unwritten power-sharing agreement between the nation’s Christian south and Muslim north would have Yar’Adua serve two, four-year terms.Yar’Adua never completed his first term. He died May 5. Jonathan, who earlier became acting president through an extraconstitutional vote by the National Assembly, was sworn in May 6.”I was not chosen to be vice president because I had good political experience,” the cable quotes Jonathan saying. “I did not.

There were a lot more qualified people around to be vice president, but that does not mean I am not my own man.”The cable shows Sanders, at the behest of the U.S. State Department, urged Jonathan to consider himself as a national figure. Jonathan apparently demurred at whether he would seek the nation’s office in next year’s election.”Even if he decides to contest for the presidency, Jonathan seems sincere in wanting to leave a lasting legacy of electoral reform for Africa’s most populous nation,” a note by Sanders at the end of the cable reads. “It is always hard to judge how some will behave (or surprise you) when leadership is unexpectedly thrown in their lap. The verdict is out on Jonathan, and his previously underwhelming personality and performance needs to keep us in the cautious lane, but so far, so good.”The cable also claims that Nigeria’s secret police, the State Security Service, nearly let a suspected bombmaker trained by the Somali terror group al-Shabab onto an international flight. Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed faces terrorism charges in federal court in New York.The secret police “not only knew about the Interpol notice, but simply said they did not want to hold him any longer,” the cable reads.Al-Shabab, which vows allegiance to al-Qaida and whose members include foreign fighters, controls large parts of southern Somalia and much of the capital, Mogadishu – Yahoonews