The political and security situations in Nigeria could deteriorate rapidly in the near future, unless the country speedily returns to a clear constitutional track, the International Crisis Group, ICG, a global conflict prevention think-tank, has warned.
In a commentary jointly authored by ICG President, Louise Arbour and its Nigerian board member, Ayo Obe, titled â€œLeaderless Nigeria could spin out of controlâ€, the organisation observes that President Umaru Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s long hospitalisation abroad, his failure to hand over power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, and the governmentâ€™s deception of the public on the true state of his health, are creating serious threats to security and peace in Nigeria and West Africa.
These threats, the Brussels-based ICG argues, include the deepening rivalry between the northern and southern political elite over Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s succession, the unraveling of the Niger Delta peace process, and diminishing accountability in the federal cabinet which could be increasing corruption.
The organisation also observes that â€œthe lack of Nigerian leadership of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, which Yarâ€™Adua currently chairs, â€œhas slowed efforts at resolving the problems in Guinea and Nigerâ€.
Crisis Group, consistently ranked as one of the worldâ€™s top ten conflict research organisations, warns that failure to sustain those efforts could lead to a deterioration of the political and security situations in both countries.
Most ominously, the group warns that if the present constitutional confusion deepens, it could hand ambitious military officers a pretext to stage a coup, erasing the countryâ€™s democratic gains.
In order to avert these threats, the group urges President Yarâ€™Adua to comply with the constitutional provision that requires him to inform the National Assembly when he is â€œproceeding on vacation or otherwise incapable of discharging the functions of his officeâ€.
ICG also urges members of bodies such as the National Council of State, which includes all the countryâ€™s former leaders, civilian and military, to prevail on Yarâ€™Adua to comply with the spirit of the constitution.
Furthermore, it urges Nigeriaâ€™s friends abroad to insist that all parties, including the military, respect the constitution and its provisions for managing this kind of crisis.
In a related development, the latest edition of the ICGâ€™s global monitoring bulletin, Crisis Watch, published yesterday, lists Nigeria along with earthquake-devastated Haiti, as the two countries where political and security situations deteriorated most significantly in January 2010.
It observes that the country is experiencing â€œa deepening political crisis at the centreâ€, fears of reprisal violence in some northern states following the recent violence in Jos, and â€œrisks of a serious deterioration in security in the Niger Delta region over Februaryâ€.