Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari left the United States after day 3 of events at the United Nations General Assembly wrapped up.
The 74-year-old is heading to the United Kingdom for routine medical check up. This is his third trip to the U.K. His second trip lasted over 100 days leading to protests at home and abroad calling on him to resign.
The nature of Buhari’s condition remains unknown as the government insists it is a private matter. The last known medical condition for which he sought attention last year was an ear infection, the presidency said at the time.
His spokesperson, Femi Adesina had stated last Friday that the president will stopover in London before returning home. “President Buhari will transit through London on his way back to the country,” he said at the time.
Buhari whenever he was leaving for medical vacation properly handed over power to his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo – the professor has always worked in the capacity of ‘Acting President,’ whiles his boss was away.
Buhari is perhaps the most talked about of Africa’s sick presidents due to his absence. Since his second medical trip to London which lasted over 100 days.
Protests and the position of the legislature
A section of the populace continues to pray for his return. There are also protesters calling for him to drop down (to Abuja) or to bow out.
The #ResumeOrResign protests became a regular feature in the capital, Abuja – it was spearheaded by some known faces in the country’s arts industry. They were met at the time by counter protests.
Nigeria’s constitution is clear on the factors that can cause a president to leave his office. That he stays out of the country for a number of days or months even years is not part.
The National Assembly in a recent response to calls for them to force Buhari to resign said he had properly handed over power and thus he had not broken any law by his absence.
What are the political stakes?
The country goes to the polls in 2019 and already top party members are saying it will be a Buhari on the ballot paper all things being equal. The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will seek to exploit his health for political capital if he contests.
But unlike the case of President Yar’Adua and his then vice Goodluck Jonathan, there is no political tension in Africa’s most populous nation even with the president’s absence because there is no “vacuum.”
Osinbajo duly signed the last budget into law because he had powers of Acting President, but political and economic watchers insist that the uncertainty is unhealthy for Africa’s most populous nation, which just came out of recession recently.
The question still remains: how long will Mr. President stay in Abuja House, London on his third trip – or perhaps more appropriately – when is he returning to Abuja this time around?