In February, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari rejected three bills passed by the country’s National Assembly. The three bills proposed establishing a police procurement fund, chartering an institute of public management, and creating the Nigerian Council of Social Work. Buhari rejected the bills, citing a lack of clarity in their legal framework. All three were mired in cryptic language and unnecessary regulation.
Normally, an executive veto in a contentious, vibrant democracy would hardly be noteworthy. In the case of Buhari, however, there are dogged questions about his fitness for office given his poor health. In 2017, Buhari spent 153 of the first 231 days of the year on medical leave, according to Al Jazeera. In fact, he was out of the country, receiving treatment in the United Kingdom. Commentators from Al Jazeera have noted that he looks far meeker than he did on the campaign trail in 2015. In the cutthroat world of Nigerian politics, this cripples Buhari’s ability to carry out the corruption reforms he promised, as an opinion piece from the Council on Foreign Relations suggests, and leaves a power vacuum for others to step into.
Buhari did not personally deliver his decision; rather, the veto announcement was read by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu on behalf of the president, according to Premium Times. Buhari’s inability to complete this simple duty of state bodes ill for the president’s ability to govern going forward. Now more than ever, as Nigeria battles Boko Haram in the North and a persistently low price of oil ravages government revenues, a strong executive is needed to guide the ship. In fact, in 2016 Nigeria’s GDP contracted by 1.6 percent according to the World Bank, and, while the recession ended in mid-2017, growth is still sluggish. Meanwhile, the median age in Nigeria is approximately 18 according to the World Health Organization, and the growing population is in need of jobs faster than the economy is currently providing them.
The 2015 Afrobarometer survey found that unemployment, electricity, poverty, crime/security, and corruption are the problems that are most cited by Nigerians among their top three priorites, with unemployment as Nigerians’ top concern. More than 90 percent of Nigerians say that “some,” “most,” or “all” public officials are corrupt.
For those unhappy with the status quo, there is little to no chance that Buhari is removed from office for a lack of ability to carry out its functions under the country’s Constitution of 1999. First, two thirds of his cabinet would have to vote him incapable. Next, that decision would have to be veri ed by a five-person medical panel chosen by the Senate president. Finally, the two heads of the bicameral legislature would have to publish the finding. Interestingly, signs point to Buhari preparing to run for reelection in 2019, according to Reuters. Buhari is currently 75 and would be 80 by the end of a second term.