In the past month, Nigeria has hosted several visits from high level foreign dignitaries, including UK Prime Minister Theresa May and President of France Emmanuel Macron. But where has President Muhummudu Buhari been?
The elderly president spent 3 months in London last year with an unknown illness. Was it cancer? He was not seen for two months and his aides refused to say what was wrong with him. His deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, ran the country in his absence.
Buhari’s health appears to have improved since, though he almost never speaks to the media so it is difficult to judge.
At a joint press conference with Donald Trump in Washington in April, Buhari read his speech from a piece of paper, hardly raising his eyes and appearing frail in stark contrast with Trump’s energetic bombast.
He gave short, incoherent responses to very easy questions from pro-government journalists. According to some media coverage, after their meeting Trump described the Nigerian head of state as “lifeless.”
In Abuja with Emmanuel Macron, Buhari looked far better, smiling as he gave apparently unscripted remarks and joked with the French president about his trip.
Since then, however, Buhari has spent 10 days in London, ostensibly on vacation, but speculation was high that he was there to see his doctors.
Political intrigue is thickening ahead of next year’s presidential election. Buhari has announced he will run again, but there has been a spate of defections from his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
One of the senators who left is due to announce his intention to run against Buhari in Abuja on Wednesday, attracting large crowds just as May arrives. Rabiu Kwankwaso, a former governor of Kano with many votes behind him, will put himself forward for the main opposition People’s Democratic party (PDP).
Many Nigerians are disillusioned by a lack of progress made by Buhari’s administration. Promises to fight corruption and restore security have not been fully met.
The Guardian revealed last month that thousands of people who had fled Boko Haram were being sent back to the ruins of their houses in unsafe garrison towns, in an apparent attempt to persuade voters that the extremist group has been defeated.