President Buhari, dressed in a dark kaftan (3rd from right) being welcome at the Abuja airport yesterday. He is flanked by Vice president Yemi Osibanjo (2nd from left) and other top officials / Photo: NAN

Buhari returns to Nigeria; but can he govern?

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari returned home unexpectedly on Saturday after three months in Britain where he had been on medical leave.

A group of Nigerians had staged a protest outside the London residence of the ailing president on Friday, demanding that he returns home to Nigeria or resign immediately due to an undisclosed ailment that had kept him out of office for more than 100 days. Similar protests had taken place in Abuja last week.

However there is no evidence that the protests had any role in the president’s decision to return home.

Buhari’s medical leave, which began on 7 May, was his second trip to London this year after a first that began in January and lasted nearly two months.

Buhari reduced his working day to a few hours after returning to Nigeria from his first stint on 10 March, government sources said.

Buhari’s return now does not also indicate that he’s well enough for the rigours of his office. The country is currently in a state of economic crisis, which is compounded by the deteriorating security situation in the north-eastern region, where the terror group Boko Haram has increased its attacks in recent months.

Youths stage a welcome rally for Buhari yesterday. They expect the president to solve the economic and other problems besetting the country. But is the president healthy enough to tackle these challenges? / Photo: NAN


Moreover, the country is also plagued by ethno-national agitations for political reform, which should see more powers devolved to the constituent 36 states. Buhari has repeatedly rejected any far-reaching constitutional reforms.

In the midst of the antagonistic political agitations from different groups in the country, Nigeria’s federal government came into the debate forcefully by declaring hate speech as a crime of terrorism under the country’s amended anti-terrorism law last week. The objective is to prevent the debate into deteriorating into ethnic violence.

Analysts are worried that even though Buhari has returned to the country, he may not yet be healthy enough to tackle these challenges which demands studying lengthy official documents, endless meetings with government officials, security officers, national legislators and political leaders of all shades and hues, among others.

The danger of his resuming duty without being able to carry out the functions of his office is that shady groups, known as the cabal, will be exercising powers and making important decisions on his behalf to the detriment of the country.

The president is scheduled to address Nigerians on Monday.

Kola Tella

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