Where oh where has the Nigeria President gone and is he coming back?

The ongoing saga of the ‘missing’ President Buhari of Nigeria continues and the Nigeria people are left guessing and wondering about his return…

In what seemed like a normal action, President Buhari requested a medical vacation on January 17th and flew to London, where, it was communicated, the 74-year-old president was receiving treatment for an undisclosed condition. He was scheduled to return on February 6th but on February 5th, the President requested an ‘indefinite extension’. So, what exactly does that mean, and what is President Buhari doing? These are questions that have the Nigerian population swirling with confusion and concern. Is the President hiding a grave illness or is he just taking a nice long holiday trying to escape the turmoil and problems in his home country?

It is certainly true that President Buhari has a lot of problems to solve back in Nigeria. The fight against the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram continues to be a long and difficult one. Thousands have been killed and many more have fled their homes to escape the violence. (It was reported that the President himself received death threats from the terrorists in 2016 and the United Nations is warning of a large-scale humanitarian crisis due to all the displaced citizens). In addition, the President must continue the fight against the endemic corruption in his country, particularly in the oil industry.  This corruption has been, and continues to undermine Nigeria’s biggest natural resource and what should be a huge economic advantage for Nigeria. Instead it is reported that between two and twenty billion went missing last year. (The fact that an actual number is elusive is also a factor of the corruption and lack of oversight).

For many Nigerians, a missing president invokes Deja-vu of 2010. In late 2009, the then President Yar’Adua was flown to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, leaving the country without an official replacement for 3 months. This cause and already struggling government and economy to degrade further. The seriousness of Yar’Adua’s condition was not shared with the citizens, and although President Yar’Adua returned to Nigeria, he died a few months later in May 2010.

To his credit, President Buhari did transfer power to his vice president Yemi Osinbajo before departing on leave so governing can continue. However, this has done little to assuage the fears of the Nigeria people about his health (some even suspecting that he is dead) and more recently some anger that perhaps the President is really just enjoying himself in London at the expense of the Nigerian citizens.

Many Nigerians were heartened by the report of the February 13th phone call with U.S. President Trump (learn more) indicating that the President was indeed alive and well enough to meet with world leaders, but some Nigerians were skeptical that the phone call was not even real, asking for proof. Certainly, this indicates the lack of trust many Nigerian citizens have for their leadership and the long credibility journey ahead.

Although President Buhari has not officially spoken to his people since he left, the government has recently communicated that the President is returning soon. Time will tell… hopefully we will all be pleasantly surprised and see his plane touch down in Nigeria again soon.