Nigeria: Lookback at Buhari’s legacy, as potential successors crop up

By 'Tofe Ayeni
Posted on Tuesday, 19 January 2021 16:33, updated on Thursday, 21 January 2021 11:24

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (Bayo Omoboriowo/Nigeria State House via AP)

In May, President Muhammadu Buhari will reach the halfway point of his second and final four-year term. It is that point in Nigeria's political calendar when the main players' focus shifts from public administration and towards the succession. Buhari's second-term was overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and rising violence.

As a former military leader, Buhari will face growing pressure to stop the rot in the security services, where the senior officers are behaving increasingly assertively towards politicians. Advisors say he also wants to make a concerted defence of diversity and religious tolerance.

The death from complications arising from coronavirus in April of Abba Kyari, the President’s chief of staff, created a vacuum that has been filled slowly and inconsistently.

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Kyari’s replacement, veteran diplomat Ibrahim Gambari, 76, has a less close personal relationship with the President and is more cautious; particularly on internal party issues and national security. The pace of government has slowed further, with decisions delayed or diluted, reports Africa Confidential.

Potential successors

  • Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State, founding father of the ruling All Progressives’ Congress and billionaire businessman, is campaigning under the South-West Agenda 2023 (SWAGA).
  • Technocratic Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, a former protégé of Tinubu’s – like most politicians from the south-west – is also a contender but may have to mend some fences in the party and with Buhari if he is to consolidate his claim.
  • Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, is a popular contender: politically astute and trusted by Buhari.
  • The opposition People’s Democratic Party will likely be represented by former president Goodluck Jonathan or former vice-president Atiku Abubakar.

Buhari’s next two years 

Buhari’s core priorities are: improving security, tackling corruption and diversifying the economy. However, he faces growing youthful opposition, in the form of the #EndSARS coalition that campaigned against police brutality.

The economy is in a difficult state due to the combined effect of the coronavirus pandemic, the latest lockdowns in the 36 states and the oil price crash.

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Living standards are under huge pressure, with close to 30% unemployment, food shortages, and the service sector hit by a pandemic-driven slowdown.

Bottom line

One can only speculate who will run for office in 2023, but some candidates will start making moves towards campaigning this year.

Buhari will have to focus on getting the country back on its feet. The government will have to borrow heavily to fund the Naira 13.6 trn ($35.6bn) federal budget, signed on 31 December by Buhari, with its ambitious capital expenditure plans.

Read the article on Africa Confidential here.

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