Nigeria signals normality by putting Osinbajo in charge

Ebun Francis with agency report

Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, is making wide use of powers granted by President Muhammadu Buhari, who is on extended sick leave abroad, as the country seeks to avoid a debilitating power vacuum while it confronts its first recession in 25 years, Reuters reports.

The Country was gripped by instability in 2010 when then President Umaru Yar’Adua spent three months in a Saudi hospital while his aides shrouded his illness in secrecy. His deputy Goodluck Jonathan only took over after he died in the midst of a constitutional crisis.

But this time, before President Buhari left home almost a month ago to be treated in Britain for an undisclosed illness, the 74-year-old appointed his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, as Acting President.

“The nation came to a political standstill because of the failure of Yar’Adua to submit a letter transferring power to Vice President Jonathan,” a government official said, asking not to be named.

“In this present scenario, this is not the case. No vacuum was left because President Buhari sent a letter to the National Assembly,” he said.

Osinbajo has thrown himself into his work, holding cabinet meetings and traveling to the Niger Delta in an attempt to end militant attacks on oil facilities which cost up to $100 billion in lost revenues in 2016.

Investors welcome the fact that the government will not postpone a long-awaited reform plan intended to stimulate an economy hit by low oil prices.

“Obviously the fact that the president is away creates uncertainty, but we believe Vice President Osinbajo is capable of running things in the meantime,” said Cobus de Hart, senior economist at South Africa’s NKC African Economics.

However, Officials refuse to disclose what is ailing Buhari, saying only that he has been having tests and is not in a serious condition.

But Diplomats say Buhari has made several visits to Britain to see his doctor, routing official trips even to destinations as far afield as Asia via London so as not to have to declare medical leave all the time.

In contrast to Yar’Adua, whom officials cut off from the world on his sick bed in Saudi Arabia, the presidency publishes almost daily pictures of Buhari receiving visitors in his London drawing room. He took a phone call from U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday, both administrations say.

In an indication that his British stay might drag on, the speakers of both of Nigeria’s chambers of parliament flew to meet Buhari at Abuja House, a Nigerian government residence in west London, according to an official picture.

“I thanked them for visiting. I am also grateful to Nigerians, Christians and Muslims alike, for their prayers and kind wishes for my health,” a smiling but thinner-looking Buhari said, according to an official tweet late on Wednesday.