Nigeria's Sick Leader Holds Second Prayer Meeting

Yar’Adua’s inner circle, led by his wife Turai, have started to allow select groups of guests to meet the president, raising questions about whether the leader’s health is improving and whether he would be well enough to return to power.

The 58-year-old leader has not been seen in public in five months and little is known about his medical condition since few people have seen him.

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, who has assumed executive powers in Yar’Adua’s absence, and other top political leaders have yet to meet the president since he returned from hospital in Saudi Arabia two months ago.

Jonathan is hoping to assert his authority and push through key reforms in sectors ranging from banking and energy in sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest economy.

But a power struggle could limit progress and stall government business.

Jonathan is expected to swear in and assign portfolios to 38 new ministers on Tuesday, a month after dissolving Yar’Adua’s cabinet.

Pastor Emmanuel Kure, leader of the Throneroom Trust Ministry in Kaduna state, said Yar’Adua prayed with him and three other Christian leaders for about 10 minutes at the president’s residence in the capital Abuja on Monday.

“The prayer was for the Lord to perfect his healing,” Kure said, adding that he was invited by Yar’Adua on Saturday.

He declined to elaborate on the meeting or discuss Yar’Adua’s health. “I do not want to get involved in the politics. It is not my place,” Kure said.

The president also prayed with four senior Islamic clerics at his residence last Thursday.

Ustaz Musa Mohammed, the chief imam of Nigeria’s National Mosque, said the president had some difficulty speaking on Thursday but he believed Yar’Adua would recover from his illness.

Opposition parties on Sunday urged Jonathan’s new cabinet to take immediate constitutional action and vote on whether Yar’Adua was fit enough to remain president.

Under the Constitution’s Section 144, two-thirds of ministers must agree to remove Yar’Adua and have the support of a medical panel including the president’s own doctor before Jonathan can be officially sworn in as head of state.

“The (Conference of Nigerian Political Parties) challenges the new cabinet, as a matter of urgent national importance, to invoke Section 144 and break the gridlock and the paralysis of a divided presidency,” said the group’s spokesman Osita Okechukwu. Reuters