In spite of his obvious infirmity, loyalists to Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari are prepared to campaign for his re-election in 2019. But they may be in for a resounding defeat if numbers from the latest Guardian Poll and rounds of protests in the nation’s capital, which entered the fourth day yesterday, are anything to go by.
There is a growing level of disenchantment with the Buhari government which came into power on the wings of promises to reposition the country by fighting corruption, improving security and remodelling the economy.
While appreciable progress has been recorded in the fight against insurgency in northeast Nigeria and corruption, the country’s economy is in the throes of a stubborn recession that has led to the death of many businesses while inflation continues to journey upwards.
Expressing their displeasure with the bad turn of events, 67% of 1933 respondents to poll conducted on the newspaper’s website, Twitter and Facebook pages said the ailing president should resign from his position owing to his prolonged absence.
A paltry 19% expressed support for the former military ruler while a further 11 % responded that it Buhari’s prerogative to either resign or continue to lead the country. Only a meagre three percent of the respondents felt unbothered by his absence.
The president left for London for a medical check up on May 7, leaving Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to lead the country.
The president, in a recent letter to Guinea’s President Alpha Conde, said he would only return to Nigeria “as soon as doctors give the go-ahead.”
He had earlier left Nigeria on January 19 for London to “undergo routine medical check-ups” during a short holiday. He only returned on March 10 after an extended period of medical treatment.
He tacitly acknowledged that he was very ill, telling his cabinet members that “I couldn’t recall being so sick since I was a young man.” He also said he had “blood transfusions, going to the laboratories and so on and so forth”.
His absence in Nigeria since May 7 has birthed rounds of protests and calls for him to resign. But his aides insisted that calls for his resignation were unnecessary distractions.
“It is very insensitive of anyone to begin to call on someone who is unwell to resume,” Lauretta Onochie, President Buhari’s personal assistant on social media said earlier in the week.
“Governance is going on, the role of the President is that of coordination; governance is a collective duty.
“When he was leaving, power was fully transferred to the Vice President and today, we have an Acting President,” she added, echoing earlier points made by the president’s spokespersons.
Validating that position, the spokesman for the Nigerian Senate said in a statement on Tuesday that the 74-year old Nigerian leader has not violated any constitutional provisions in spite of being out of the country for more than 90 days. He condemned protesters who have been gathering at the nation’s capital Abuja since Monday as paid “cheap publicity” seekers.
“The President has broken no law and therefore we do not see any justification for this diversion and noise making,” said Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
“The sponsors are merely seeking cheap publicity at the expense of the peace of Nigeria.
“We, in the National Assembly, are satisfied that there is no vacuum. The Federal Government is working. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo is providing the required leadership. So, there is no reason for the protests.”
But one of the organisers of the Abuja protests disputed the allegations that the protests were sponsored. He said all his group wanted was for the president to obey Section of 144 of the Nigerian Constitution.
“What our group is saying is that the President needs to come back home and resume and work on the mandate that he promised the people,” Deji Adeyanju told Channels TV.
“We are saying that Section 144 is the only thing that can help to solve the problem,” he added.
Regardless of the vote of confidence given the president by the Senate, his polls numbers are not looking good. It will take more than the reliance on his loyal base for him to win a reelection in 2019 if at all he runs again.