With the president missing for more than three months, concern is growing in Nigeria about the direction of the country. In the capital of Abuja, some of that apprehension spilled over into protests for and against President Muhammadu Buhari on Aug. 10 and 11. The president has been absent since May 7 and is reportedly in London because of health problems. His seeming disappearance has proved controversial, especially because there has been so little evidence — audio, video or photographic — showing the leader in the past 96 days. There have been only a few photos of Nigerian political leaders meeting with the president at his London residence and a reputed audio recording in June of the president wishing Muslim Nigerians a happy Eid al-Fitr, an Islamic religious holiday.
Protesters demonstrating against the president demanded his resignation, stating that his protracted absence from Nigeria underscores his inability to lead the country. Counterdemonstrators eventually met the protesters and praised Buhari's tough stance on the corruption afflicting Africa’s largest economy. The protests and counterprotests remained mostly peaceful, however, as local security forces oversaw the rallies.
Regardless of the immediate demands or goals of the two groups, the prolonged illness of Buhari has heightened concerns about the future of the country. While acting President Yemi Osinbajo has deftly managed to take over the reins during a time of persistent financial weakness, Nigeria’s 2019 presidential election — and whether Buhari will lead the All Progressives Congress party ticket — is increasingly in doubt. Consequently, Nigeria’s more ambitious political players are taking note of the burgeoning displeasure over Buhari’s absence.