ill Nigerian president gives interview

LAGOS, Nigeria – Nigeria‘s hospitalized president, Umaru Yar’Adua, gave a radio interview from Saudi Arabia early Tuesday as protesters planned to descend on the West African nation‘s capital to demand an end to a growing constitutional crisis over his long absence.

The BBC quoted Yar’Adua, 58, as saying he hoped to make “tremendous progress” and return to Nigeria to resume power in Africa’s most populous nation. Yar’Adua has been silent since Nov. 23, when he left Abuja for treatment in Saudi Arabia for what officials described as acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart.

“At the moment I am undergoing treatment, and I’m getting better from the treatment,” the broadcaster quoted Yar’Adua as saying.

In his absence, Nigerian newspapers have questioned how ill the president was and whether he could ever return to govern. Yar’Adua also did not formally appoint Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to serve in his absence, leading to fears of a constitutional crisis.

The BBC interview came only hours before protesters led by Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka and other opposition leaders planned to march on Nigeria’s national assembly to demand answers about Yar’Adua’s condition and the state of the nation as a whole.

The Nigerian House of Representatives planned to discuss Yar’Adua’s absence Tuesday as well. Three separate federal lawsuits also have challenged Yar’Adua’s absence and asked for Jonathan to be put into his place to lead the country.

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