Escalating numbers of dead bodies, severe hunger, constant protests, the heavily armed Boko Haram, and a very shaky administration; is Nigeria stumbling to the ground? Well, this is a question that still remains unanswered! With President Muhammadu Buhari still in his alleged “deathbed”, it’s still too early to make predictions on the fate of the once one of the greatest countries Africa ever boasted of. But as at now, any layman can attest to the fact that Nigeria is really on the brink.
Head of state Gone – Buhari Missing in Action
Mr. Buhari who has been missing in action since mid-January has continued to hide his face from the public, something that drives some Nigerians into believing that their head of state is dead! Some of his followers even asked him to bow out of office, at least until there’s progress in his health condition.
To everyone’s surprise, the first lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari recently defended her husband on a Twitter post pointing out that the president’s health was “not as awful as it’s being alleged.”
As tension piled up, Mr. Buhari, 74, needed, at any rate, a single moment of triumph over his (and the nation’s) rival, the Boko Haram to bear out that he is still the man in control. And the past weekend brought forth this desperately awaited opportunity; up to 300 Kidnapped schoolgirls who have gone through hell and back in the hands of the cold-blooded Boko Haram for the past three years were set free. This is by far Buhari’s biggest success that not only shocked the entire nation but the world at large.
Only that Mr. Muhammadu Buhari barely rejoiced in this glory. He only met with the girls momentarily on Sunday, then took wing back to London where he has been on medical leave for almost two months since 2017 kicked off.
Soothing Twitter Practices
While the nature of Nigeria’s president’s ill health is still a mystery relentlessly talked down by his advisers who describe him as “hale and hearty,” his long-drawn-out absence in public has provoked nervousness in a nation that’s making an effort to dig out of depression while on an never-ending war against the militant group, Boko Haram.
In an attempt to calm the country Mr. Buhari posted on Twitter:
“I’d like to reassure all Nigerians there is no cause for worry,”
Among the responses on Twitter were words expressing fear about a country with no ruler.
The most dreadful one read “Just resign.”
Allegations of Political Deceit
As protocol dictates, Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is the acting president while Mr. Buhari is still in London. But the question whether he can still run the nation when he’s been too sick to attend any cabinet meeting is still a sticking point.
According to Sylvester Odion Akhaine, a Professor of political science at the Lagos State University “There is today no clear leadership in Nigeria, his absence harbors budding seeds of instability.”
Critics have even pointed out that the timing of the girls’ let go was backed by political reasons, perhaps to distract the country from Mr. Buhari’s last trip to London.
What’s more, the governor of Ekiti State, reported that Ekiti has been the president’s commonplace for “issuing flying doubtful kites and selling despicable dummies to sidetrack the people and conceal the problem at hand.”
A Weeping Nation
All of this is taking place when Nigeria is suffering from the low oil prices and a humanitarian calamity caused by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram in the country’s northeast region, where some citizens are on the edge of famine. As if that’s not enough trouble, irritated residents of the oil-rich southern region, where most people feel deceived of their share of oil wealth by the government are blowing up oil pipelines.
Given all these doubts, different groups want Mr. Buhari to walk out of office or at least opt for a long medical leave of absence until doctors confirm he is healthy enough to lead the Nation. A request that Femi Adesina, the president’s special adviser turned down.
President Buhari began his term in 2015 shouting two major promises: Ending corruption and overpowering Boko Haram. And so far, he has made steps forward on both goals.
Under his regime, millions of dollars have been uncovered in the residence of a former national oil manager. Mr. Buhari’s administration also charged a retired national security adviser with the theft of millions of dollars that were budgeted to purchase weapons to help fight the war against Boko Haram.
At some stage during his reign, Mr. Buhari’s, an ex-general, Nigerian soldiers have made progress against the Boko Haram. They have stormed forest hide-outs and scattered the militants far into the countryside. It’s true that the group no longer controls a large part of Nigeria but still plans suicide attacks and raid military posts from time to time.
What Nigeria is up for!
The world is never too quick to forget the horrifying events of past years, decades or millenniums. We have seen more than one enough cases of presidential ill-health and succession. How can it fade away from their memory, when Nigeria almost fell apart when their Late President Musa Yar’Adua was twiddling his thumbs far off in Saudi Arabia and his vice Mr. Goodluck Jonathan had no legal power to take over his duties? That was a reasonable ground to announce presidential disability, but no one was brave enough to.
More serious repercussions of presidential infirmity have been exemplified on two major incidents in the United States. To begin with, we recall the great President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924). Towards the end of 1919, Wilson became debilitated by partial paralysis and was completely unable to perform his office duties. As most governments prefer to act, Woodrow’s condition was concealed from the citizens as his wife prepared to effectively take over the presidency.
The second case was that of President Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) who was disabled on more than one occasion. A heart attack (1955), an ileitis attack (1956) and a serious stroke (1957), where the first two attacks had him bedridden for around six months.
Like in the incident of Goodluck Jonathan and Yar’Adua, Richard Nixon who was President Dwight’s Vice did not have the legal authority to take over the President’s duties. In his place, a Presidential Assistant named Sherman Adam took over the president’s office.