*Says he has consolidated grip on power
*Believes Yar’Adua’s men won’t engineer political come back
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan’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 Nigeria’s largest energy industry.
“I think he’s done a very good job of consolidating his authority and reassuring all segments of the community,” Carson, the Obama administration’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 Yar’Adua, who had been in Saudi Arabia receiving treatment for a heart condition for more than two months.
Yar’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 Yar’Adua would try to engineer a political comeback.
“We don’t know whether he will come back. But I think the country is in fact moving on,” Carson said. “We believe those in power in senior positions have clearly opted to support a stable democracy during this period of uncertainty.”
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 Yar’Adua to power would be disastrous.
Nigeria’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.
“We hope that the political balance which has given Nigeria its political stability will prevail,” he said.
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