*Says he has consolidated grip on power
*Believes Yar’Adua’s men won’t engineer political come back
Acting President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s consolidation of his grip on power is drawing applause from the United States of America which says his efforts are easing a political crisis that once fanned fears of instability in the country.
Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said Washington was encouraged that Jonathan was moving on electoral reforms, anti-corruption efforts and peace outreach in the restive Niger Delta, the centre of Nigeriaâ€™s largest energy industry.
â€œI think heâ€™s done a very good job of consolidating his authority and reassuring all segments of the community,â€ Carson, the Obama administrationâ€™s top diplomat for Africa, told Reuters in an interview.
Jonathan assumed power in early February to try to end government paralysis in the absence of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, who had been in Saudi Arabia receiving treatment for a heart condition for more than two months.
Yarâ€™Adua subsequently returned but remains too sick to govern and is essentially incommunicado – a situation that led U.S. officials to express concern over a potential power struggle among different leadership factions.
Carson said those fears had receded as Jonathan cemented his authority, including taking steps to name a new Cabinet, and that it was unlikely those who back Yarâ€™Adua would try to engineer a political comeback.
â€œWe donâ€™t know whether he will come back. But I think the country is in fact moving on,â€ Carson said. â€œWe believe those in power in senior positions have clearly opted to support a stable democracy during this period of uncertainty.â€
U.S. officials have urged Jonathan to speed preparations for elections due in 2011, saying a repeat of the vote-rigging and intimidation that marred the 2007 vote that brought Yarâ€™Adua to power would be disastrous.
Nigeriaâ€™s ruling party has said it wants the next president to be a northerner, in line with a principle that power rotates around the country, effectively ruling Jonathan out of another term.
Carson said the United States supported the rotation principle as a guarantor of stability in Nigeria.
â€œWe hope that the political balance which has given Nigeria its political stability will prevail,â€ he said.