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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 24th August 2017

Buhari's quiet return

Blue Lines

After three months' medical leave, President Muhammadu Buhari's return to Abuja on 19 August has failed to inject a new spirit of dynamism into government business.

A cabinet meeting planned for 23 August was cancelled at short notice. That was, we were told, to allow Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to discuss investigations into two suspended officials, Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir Lawal, and Director General of the National Intelligence Agency Ayodele Oke.

Another reason, still less plausible, for the cancelled cabinet was the need for renovations at the Presidential offices. 'There are rats in the building,' said an official wryly, unclear whether the rodents were metaphorical ones. The inertia over the cases of Lawal and Oke shows the strict limits of Osinbajo's power as acting President in Buhari's absence. Although Osinbajo said he consulted regularly with Buhari, he was unable to sack either Lawal or Oke, let alone name replacements.

Osinbajo, who insists that substantive progress has been made on economic restructuring and security reform, admits to frustration at the pace of the promised fight against corruption. Not only have cases against officials from the previous government dragged on but there are signs of a new wave of crooked foreign exchange and oil deals. Sceptical about the executive's political will, senior politicians in the National Assembly claim to be amassing evidence on these cases.