Nigeria: After Buhari…?

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BY LAGUN AKINLOYEMAY

Nigeria: After Buhari…?

With the president on medical leave again, ambitious figures are positioning themselves favourably for what might happen next.
Several influential politicians are watching Buhari’s ongoing medical problems closely.
Secrecy creates suspicion. In the cutthroat arena of Nigerian politics, it can also reveal ambition. The ongoing silence around of the health of Nigeria’s president has done just this.

For several weeks, Muhammadu Buhari has barely been seen in public. And on 7 May, he sought medical treatment in London, where he previously spent nearly two months from mid-January to March for the same reasons.

Now as then, the lack of information about his diagnosis has led to great uncertainty and speculation back in Nigeria.

On leaving, Buhari handed over the reins to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. But unlike in previous instances when the vice-president stepped into the constitutionally-mandated role of Acting President, Osinbajo is now only “Coordinator of National Affairs”.

According to Sola Tayo, Associate Fellow at Chatham House, this reduced position may be indicative of the “reluctance of the president to totally relinquish power during his absence”.

However, this has only added to confusion and questions over where the power lies while Buhari is away. Osinbajo, whose previous stints standing in for his boss earned him wide praise, may be officially in charge. But the president’s inner circle – a group led often referred to as “The Cabal” – is the most influential power bloc in the presidency and may be eager to curtail the vice-president’s growing influence.

Either way, as the 2019 elections draw closer and Buhari’s health problems continue, ambitious figures within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are sensing an opportunity to position themselves favourably. The president’s absence has kick-started another cycle of intrigue, relegating policymaking and much needed debates over the economy once again.

Who’s in charge?

Buhari’s presidency since he came to power in 2015 can at best be described as lacklustre. Nigeria is witnessing its worst economic crisis in a generation, unemployment is high, and there has been renewed insecurity in the Niger Delta and the east.

Buhari, a retired Major General who ruled Nigeria as a military dictator from 1983-5, has reverted to type. He has been open about his disdain for Abuja politics and has surrounded himself with a small group of family members and trusted allies from his days in the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).

Influential figures such as Chief-of-Staff Abba Kyari, Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS) Lawal Daura, and his nephew Mamman Daura, are said to be in full control of the state apparatus.

Because of this, many within the ruling APC feel short-changed. Several figures invested heavily in Buahri’s election victory, both politically and financially, expecting to have a significant role in government. But they have only seen their influence decline with the party in power.

The president’s medical leave, however, presents an opportunity for these individuals to strategise in the event that Buhari cannot continue. Several bigwigs appear to be watching developments with very keen interest.

Credit: African Arguments


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