When President Muhammadu Buhari first left Nigeria for the United Kingdom on January 19th, 2017 for sick leave, he returned two months later, in March. On May 7th, however, the President announced that he would be returning to the U.K. for medical reasons. He has yet to return since then, leading to speculation about Buhari’s ability to run the country. Yemi Osinbajo, his Vice President has served as acting President since Buhari left for the U.K. nearly two months ago.
Besides the daily uproar from citizens who are being left in the dark as to the president’s condition, Buhari’s absence creates a number of problems. In this article, I present four problems created by the absence of the President. Economically, the president’s absence deters investors and contributes to the rise in inflation in the country. In terms of security, his absence has fueled the ethnic violence within the country and dampened counterterrorism efforts. As such, many have called on the President to resign.
The Nigerian economy is currently in a recession, and reports broke on June 29th that the Presidential Aircraft that took Buhari to London early in May is costing taxpayers £4,000 daily. The presidency has claimed that these statements are untrue, saying that they “have been assured that where the waiver is not granted, payment will not exceed £1,000, which is a quarter of the amount being peddled.” Nonetheless, Nigerians’ frustrations about this and other issues stemming from Buhari’s absence can be seen across Nigerian social media platforms and throughout Nigeria.
Due to the confidence-driven nature of the market, it is no surprise that investment decisions have been halted. Because the President has been out of the country for an extended period of time, with the population uncertain about his state of health, both domestic and foreign investors have had cause to worry. Stocks listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) have taken a beating as investments in the first quarter (Q1) of 2017 faltered, with the value of listed equities dropping by a whopping N418 billion within the period.
Continued Rise in Inflation
“The ordinary man who shares sympathy with the president on his failing health is currently under a heavy burden of a heated polity and the pangs of soaring cost of living,” says Charles Enilama, a reporter with a local Nigerian news channel. Over the past six months, the price of food items and drugs have risen steadily in response to the rising level of inflation, which reached 18.7% in the first quarter of 2017. The President’s absence is stalling policies and procedures that could help improve the situation, and the acting president is treading carefully so as to not be labeled as disloyal or overly ambitious.
Security in Nigeria has been a never-ending roller coaster ride in recent years. Fulani Herdsmen took the country by storm early last year as they began wreaking havoc on small villages. In fact, according to a report compiled by SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based intelligence consulting firm, clashes involving Fulani herdsmen accounted for more deaths than Boko Haram. Boko Haram itself still remains a threat as well. The absence of a leader, has only heightened internal security issues issues.
Tensions have risen between the Coalition of Northern Group (CNG) of Northern Nigeria, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) of Southeastern Nigeria, and various ethnicities within the nation. Hate messages have passed frequently between them and the Arewa Youth, a sect within CNG and IPOB, over the past few months. Recently, things went south after the Arewa Youth released a video demanding that the Igbos, a tribe concentrated in the Southeast, vacate the north within three months. Without a firm leader assuring the nation of strength in its unity, the country continues to grow apart culturally, with the IPOB fighting to create their own nation apart from Nigeria.
Dent in Anti-Terror Efforts
Since Buhari assumed the role of President in 2015, he has fought strongly against corruption as well as terrorism. According to a report by Stratfor, “the group’s violent campaign began to ebb only when Buhari took office in 2015, concentrating the country’s available manpower and resources on beating back the militants in an effort to protect and appease his northern supporters.” Since he assumed office, many of the Chibok girls, abducted by Boko Haram in 2014, have been released to their families. With Buhari gone, Osinbajo may redirect the country’s resources towards economic stabilization, therefore withdrawing the military and resources from the North. This could empower Boko Haram to resume its activity in the North, creating further problems for the troubled region.
It is unclear when Buhari will return to the country and whether he will resume his duties as President. However, he met with a number of Governors in London this week, who reported that the President’s health has improved greatly. With the evident gap left by the Buhari’s absence, in the meantime, it is left to Osinbajo to step up to the plate and ensure the security and economic situation of the country do not deteriorate any further.
Featured Image: 70th Anniversary General Assembly Debate by United Nations Photos, Flickr Creative Commons
Bukie Olokun is a graduate student at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. She is majoring in International Development with a minor in Intelligence and Security. Passionate about global security, she joined iJet’s International Intern’s Program as an Intelligence Analyst this summer. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, meeting new people, and engaging with different cultures.