It’s been over two months that the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, has not been seen in public. He’s been in a secret location somewhere in London, United Kingdom, treating himself for an undisclosed ailment, according to statements from his office.
Mr. Buhari left Nigeria on May 7, reportedly on the advice of his foreign doctors, to undergo some medical tests or treatment, the second time this year, after a previous trip there between January 19 and March 10 lasted 50 days, and triggered rumours that he had died or was incapacitated.
As Mr. Buhari remains in his undisclosed location, a Nigerian governor has claimed in recent days that the President was dying and had been on life support since June 6.
Governor Ayodele Fayose alleged that the health of the President had so much deteriorated that only three persons were allowed to see him. He said even the President’s wife, Aisha Buhari, was not allowed to see him during her last visit to the United Kingdom.
Mr. Fayose, a member of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, is known for spreading fake news or raising false alarms without any evidence to support them, and his so-called investigations seemed to have been picked up from several online newspapers that had claimed the President was dying.
Still, the absence of President Buhari, and rumours within the corridors of power that Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, is not allowed to perform his duties as head of state while Mr. Buhari recovers, have only exacerbated claims that Nigeria might be thrown into a big crisis should Mr. Buhari die.
The Chief of Army staff, General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, who is the head of the Nigerian army, triggered panic weeks ago when he alleged that some people were planning a coup against the Buhari administration. He warned soldiers who were hobnobbing with some politicians with intent to overthrow Buhari to desist from it.
But, to many Nigerians in the Southwest where Mr. Osinbajo, a Christian, hails from, General Buratai’s words were seen as an attempt by the northern elite to overthrow the government should Mr. Buhari, a Muslim from the north die.
In an interview last week on BBC’s Hardtalk programme, General Buratai, refused to discuss the health of the President, but said there was no vacancy in the villa, as Mr. Buhari had formally handed power to the Vice President.
But Mr. Buratai is being regarded by many people in the south as a dangerous general capable of overthrowing the government should anything happen to Mr. Buhari. General Buratai is also from the north, so is the head of the secret service.
Adding to this instability are frequent protests in the southeast by a group of young Igbo who are demanding a break up from Nigeria, and the formation of an independent state of Biafra where the Igbo, they claim, would be the dominant population and would finally taste peace and justice, 50 years after losing the Biafra war in 1970.
The frequent protests by the Igbo to leave Nigeria triggered warnings from some Hausa youth in the north that the Igbo in that part of the country should pack their bags and their houses and return to Igboland in eastern Nigeria latest on October 1.
With threats and counter-threats from north to east and political suspicions between the north and the west, Nigeria seems to be traversing a very delicate time in history.
Worse, increased attacks by Boko Haram in the northeast where millions of people remain displaced only serve to make things worse.