I have not spoken to Yar’adua – Ojo Maduekwe

But He is Getting Better! – Nigeria’s foreign minister has told the BBC that, as far as he knows, President Umaru Yar’Adua is conscious and is recovering in hospital in Saudi Arabia. Ojo Maduekwe, who admitted he had not spoken to Mr Yar’Adua, was responding to fears about a power vacuum as the president has been away for six weeks. The foreign minister said there was no crisis as Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan was “doing a great job”.

The authorities have said Mr Yar’Adua is being treated for a heart condition.

The BBC’s Will Ross in Nigeria says Mr Yar A’dua has suffered from serious health problems for years and has been absent before. But this time more than six weeks have elapsed with no clear proof of where or how the president is faring, and many Nigerians feel they deserve to be better informed, he says.

Mr Maduekwe said he had not spoken to Mr Yar’Adua since he left the country, but said the president was “getting better”. “Those who are around him give us a very optimistic assessment,” he said. “I would like to hear his voice, but I think more important than my hearing his voice, or his hearing my voice, is that he gets well soon.”

Several legal cases have been launched to try to ensure that power is transferred officially to the vice-president. But Mr Maduekwe said the vice-president automatically stood in when the president was away, although he could not perform all of the president’s functions.

Our correspondent says some Nigerians regard the president’s absence as a dangerous state of affairs – especially for a country which turned its back on unpopular, turbulent military rule, only a decade ago.