On February 5, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced the extension of his two-week vacation in London to accommodate unspecified medical tests. In response, the following day, hundreds of Nigerians took to the streets to protest his political neglect. President Buhari’s aides have yet to elaborate on the exact cause of the extension or the date of his return. Instead, his Twitter account reassured the public the President is alive and prepared to resume his duties, though he has transferred his powers to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in his absence.
On Monday, February 13, just over a week after the announcement, President Buhari spoke to President Trump about acquiring military equipment needed to combat Boko Haram. Protesters contend this to be the only area in which Buhari has found success, as President Buhari has failed to realize much of his manifesto. The 2015 conflict internally displaced an upwards of two million Nigerians. During this time of crisis, President Buhari gained support for his election through his Nigeria for Change campaign, in which he promised to eliminate government corruption in favor of the wealthy, thereby relieving economic strain on the poor. However, President Buhari has failed to prosecute any major officials on grounds of corruption, and the Nigerian economy has worsened.
According to Bloomberg News analyst Yinka Ibukun, Nigerian stocks have fallen 7 percent this year and 4.6 percent since President Buhari left to London on January 19. Since he took office, the price of gas in Nigeria has increased 67 percent. As the value of their oil and their currency, the naira, decreased globally, Nigerians have been forced to pay unaffordably high prices for food and daily goods. In response, protests began. Some signs read “There can’t be a set of rules for the poor and another set for the rich,” and others read “Food, medicine, everything is three times more expensive but salaries have not increased.” The United Nations cautions that inaction could lead to “a famine unlike any we have ever seen anywhere.”
The events shaking Nigeria at the moment echo those of November 2009, when then-President Umaru Yar’Adua traveled to Saudi Arabia to be treated for a heart condition. Unlike Buhari, he left his position empty for three months before officials appointed his vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, as acting president. Following the death of Yar’Adua in May 2010, government officials disputed over the appointment of the next President. While Northern officials wanted a Muslim to assume the position, Southern politicians wanted the Christian Vice President to fill the role. These tensions have reemerged since Muslim President Buhari formally transferred power to Christian Vice President Osinbajo in his absence. For years, presidents have sought to uphold a religious balance and promote unity by appointing a Vice President who does not share their faith. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, 6,758 Nigerians have died due to sectarian violence since 2012. As politics destabilizes, the nation may face an increase in such violence between rival tribes, farmers, herders, and, on a greater scale, terrorist organizations against the public.