As Nigeria’s parliament reconvenes on Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued absence will be painfully obvious. The president announced he was extending his medical leave indefinitely two weeks ago; he’s now spent more than a month in London, where he’s being treated for an unknown illness.
Amid the uncertainty, Nigeria’s well-supplied rumour mill has been working overtime; suggestions that the leader is gravely ill, or even dead, have been making the rounds on social media.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has stepped in to fill the presidential void and has done a commendable job. Last week, Mr Osinbajo made a well-received visit to the troubled Niger Delta region, Nigeria’s oil heartland. Earlier in February, he met with protestors to reassure them of the government’s commitment to shoring up the flailing economy.
But Nigeria faces huge headwinds – economic and otherwise – that require a strong, attentive and resolute leader. The country is in the midst of its first recession in 25 years, exacerbated by attacks on oil installations, low oil prices and an undervalued currency.
Before he disappeared, President Buhari presented parliament with a record $24 billion budget that he hoped would help pull the economy out of its predicament. Lawmakers will debate these spending measures on Tuesday’s sitting but will ultimately require the president’s signature to enact them. Just when Mr Buhari is able to provide that service remains to be seen.
Go deeper: Danger in the Niger Delta
Simon is the founder of Foreign Brief who served as managing director from 2015 to 2021. A lawyer by training, Simon has worked as an analyst and adviser in the private sector and government. Simon’s desire to help clients understand global developments in a contextualised way underpinned the establishment of Foreign Brief. This aspiration remains the organisation’s driving principle.