Thought Experiment: So what if Buhari had actually died?

Disclaimer: We are not one of those who wish any ill-luck on President Buhari. Spare us and just hear us out.

Last week, there were rumours flying around following President Muhammadu Buhari’s vacation that he’d fallen ill and had given up the ghost in the United Kingdom. While those rumours were false and most likely ill-motivated considering the fact that the Presidency has vigorously issued statements to counter the rumours and assure us that Buhari is “hale and hearty”, it is quite understandable that Nigerians got easily riled up by those rumours.

First, President Muhammadu Buhari is 74 years old which puts him way above the World Health Organisation’s 53.4-year life expectancy for Nigerian men (based on data published in 2015). Also, considering the fact that the topmost cause of death according to the same data happens to be Influenza and Pneumonia, his travel to the United Kingdom in winter may have been some sort of trigger. But the President is alive and that point is mute.

Secondly, and as the popular saying goes: “once beaten; twice shy”. The ordeal in 2009/2010 with the former President Umaru Musa Yar’adua has taught us better than to keep silent in the face of such rumours.

However, last week’s rumours happened and Nigerians, through a combination of past experience and the uncommendable handling of the situation by the media experts in the Presidency, if they hadn’t before, now have a reason to entertain the possibility of such an event happening.

Now, what would have happened in the event that the President had actually died last week? We think we’d have had a paradoxical twist on our hands (again) where things would have changed – except not quite.

Let’s break it down:

In accordance with the provisions of Section 146 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo would have mandatorily become the new President (sort of like what’s happening till February 6th), the 16th Head of State and the 5th democractic President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Constitution provides that where the office of the President becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, impeachment or permanent incapacitation, the Vice-President shall hold the office. The use of “shall” leaves no room for contest. The only exception would have been if Professor Osinbajo’s office was also vacant at the time. In which case Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Senate President would have had to temporarily hold the office for a maximum of three months within which time a new President will be elected. But that’s not the case here right?

So Professor Yemi Osinbajo in accordance with Section 146 will now be the President and so that leaves the Vice-President’s office vacant. Oh! It probably means we won’t have the four or more Presidential media aides we have been bestowed because the new President will not be under any compulsion to retain them. Besides, the Vice-President doesn’t seem like he’d need that many media assistants as he’s managed with Mr Laolu Akande fairly well so far. In any case, it’s all a thought experiment.

Back to empty Vice- president’s office…

Under these “experimental” circumstance, the Vice-President would have had to nominate a new Vice-President and subject to the approval of the House of Representatives and the Senate, appoint that new Vice-President. Imagine the scramble that would have happened here – with North demanding that the office be zoned “back” to them and the East and South-South jumping at the opportunity to get back in the game.

The Constiution sadly does not stipulate a time-frame within which this appointment must be made so we imagine we’d still have an empty Office of the Vice-President this week. Things like this don’t happen within days in Nigeria. Although President Goodluck’s nomination of Namadi Sambo only took the National Assembly about two weeks to approve.

We’d continue with the cabinet reshuffling we imagine a President Yemi Osinbajo would have made but we are not trying to ruffle any feathers here.


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