The president is back. Muhammadu of House Buhari, First of His Name, Prime Citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Lord of the Six Geopolitical Zones, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is back after a 50-day absence from the Iron Throne. He landed at the Air Force Base in Kaduna at 7:40 this morning, because the international airport at the capital has been shut down.
In case you (somehow, I don’t know how) missed it: President Buhari left Nigeria on January 20, 2017, on a sick leave, to return on February 6, 2017. He did not return on that date as planned, instead, he wrote to the senate, stating he would need to extend his vacation indefinitely to await results of some medical tests. He would also stay back in London to rest, based on the doctor’s orders.
Despite his return, the question of his health remains a big issue
Now that he is back, he returns to a country that is as broken as he left it. The question now is, is he healthy enough to continue? He says he is fine, and while that may be true, the questions will not go away. The pictures shared by the presidency on social media as proof that he was ‘hale and hearty’ didn’t do much to inspire confidence. What’s more? The wobbly manner in which questions about his health were dealt with by his media aides did little to nothing to steady the ship. But he is here now, and the best way to prove doubters wrong will be to swing into action and continue the good work the acting president has done in his absence.
The economy: What happens to the Naira now?
While Buhari was away, the Naira gained on the dollar and even did so again late last night, but Nigeria’s currency remains unstable today as it was 50 days ago. This time around, the Naira’s value increased because the Central Bank of Nigeria interjected $1.14 billion to the interbank market primarily to service letters of credit and invisibles, according to Harrison Owoh, an economist. As long as demand for FOREX exceeds supply and as long as Nigeria continues to consume more than she produces, the Naira will remain weak against the dollar. But the road to that point is not straightforward. It’s paved with good intentions, yes, but it’s also riddled with tricky policies that could have a massive effect on the livelihood of millions of Nigerians.
Security: Healing the Niger Delta and solving the Fulani Herdsmen conundrum
The relationship between the southern part of Nigeria and the centre seat of power is not particularly hot and steamy. It is complex, touchy and as old as independent Nigeria. The Niger Delta is Nigeria’s oil basin and has constantly been a cauldron for heated oil battles, mostly concerned with power and wealth distribution. It has since seen the rise of militants and former Nigerian president, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s amnesty programme, which hasn’t done enough to end the trouble in the area. There are also severe cases of oil spills and environmental degradation, one recently leading to a lawsuit between the Ogale people and Royal Dutch Shell in a London court. The perception is that President Buhari doesn’t care much for the Niger Delta. In contrast, while he was acting president, Yemi Osinbajo visited communities in the region and was said to have had positive discussions with leaders in the area. Will President Buhari continue on that path? We’ll find out.
Another looming security problem apart from the Boko Haram menace, is the out-of-handedness of Fulani herdsmen who have reportedly killed hundreds of people in the north. In December 2016, herdsmen attacked villages in Southern Kaduna, killing several people in the process, but the president kept mum on the matter. The herdsmen have not been properly dealt with and they remain a looming problem, one that the president must attend to, and quickly, before the situation gets out of hand, as if it already isn’t.
Averting the famine crisis in the northeast
There is a looming famine crisis in northeastern Nigeria. Women, men, and children are starving to death in IDP camps and barren lands, the result of the Boko Haram crisis in the area. These people have been chased out of their homes and forced to live in nigh-unbearable conditions, not knowing where their next meal will come from. Those living in IDP camps, where they should feel a bit more secure, are having it just as bad. Corruption and malpractice in the camps mean that resources meant to feed large crowds are being diverted to the barns of a select few – the camp overseers.
If the president truly cares about human lives, he will pay attention to the northeast, and he and his team will find proper solutions to the problem. Humanitarian aid won’t be enough if there are no sustainable solutions in place.