– President Muhammadu Buhari’s medical vacation is still a trending topic in Nigeria and beyond
– Politicians have started jostling to replace the president in 2019
– There are doubts President Buhari cannot carry on beyond 2019
A report by Financial Times reveals that President Muhammadu Buhari’s five-week absence from Nigeria has triggered political jockeying within the All Progressives Congress (APC).
President Buhari’s long stay in London is creating uncertainty in the APC
This is as there are growing concerns with the ruling party about the president’s fragile health and his capacity to lead.
According to the report, not even President Buhari’s ministers know how ill he is, says senior officials.
The uncertainty has fuelled speculation that the Katsina-born former general will not be fit enough to run for a second term at 2019 elections.
Consequently, Nigeria’s ruling party officials are now consumed with who will stand on behalf of the APC in 2019.
At the heart of that issue and simmering power struggles — is the concept of “zoning”, a defining principle of Nigerian politics since military rule ended in 1999.
It holds that the presidency should rotate between the mainly Christian south and the mostly Muslim north after every two terms.
If President Buhari, a northerner, leaves office before his first term ends, Acting President Osinbajo, a southerner, would take over until elections are held.
Acting President Osinbajo has been hailed for his performance since Buhari left
But whether Osinbajo then becomes the APC’s nominee in 2019 is “anybody’s guess”, said a senior APC member from the south, predicting that the party’s northern elite might argue they need to finish “their turn”.
“Will the cabal let go?” said a northern Nigerian technocrat, using the term some employ to describe Buhari’s closest aides, “A scenario where they maintain northern control over government is what they want.”
“A lot of politicians are already looking ahead to 2019 and how best to position themselves,”said Antony Goldman, head of London-based PM Consulting, which provides advisory services to the Buhari administration. “The current speculation, actively fuelled by political interests, is only accelerating the process.”
Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara are the third and fourth highest ranking in Nigeria respectively and are members of the ruling APC
An unnamed minister said the political jostling was already becoming a “distraction”,adding that “other considerations should be the focus of the government right now”.
Still, some in government note that Osinbajo has used the president’s absence to push ahead with the sort of action Nigerians have been hoping for since electing Buhari two years ago.
“People are happier with the performance and style of the vice-president — he’s more decisive, active and charismatic,” said a senior government official.
“The country has been in a freezer for the past year,” said the head of a multinational company in Lagos, who said he now has hope the economy could turn round on the vice-president’s watch. “He [Osinbajo] listens, understands, and inspires trust.”
President Buhari has been in London since January 19. The presidency had first announced that he was there for a 10-day leave. But he has since extended the leave on medical grounds.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has dismissed some rumours that it is contemplating using the ‘doctrine of necessity’ to remove President Buhari from office.
The position of the green chamber was made known by its spokesman, Honourable Abdulrazaq Namdas on Wednesday, February 22.
The National Assembly had on February 9, 2010 invoked the ‘doctrine of necessity’ to empower then vice president, Goodluck Jonathan to act as president following the illness of late President Umaru Yar’Adua.