Nigeria after the coup: no law, no budget, but many high hopes
Nigeria is waiting for the other boot to drop. The first boot dropped New Year's Eve when a lightning military coup toppled Nigeria from its rank as the world's fourth-largest multiparty democracy after India, the United States, and Japan.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Now this vast country of more than 90 million people, accounting for nearly a quarter of black Africa's population, is waiting for the other boot to drop: the formation of the new Cabinet.
Until that happens - and two weeks have already elapsed since the Dec. 31 coup - Nigeria is in a state of limbo with no law, no Constitution, and no budget.
Yet the political uncertainties have not inhibited the irrepressible mood of this stimulating, sassy capital where everybody feels just as good as everybody else, and where drivers display their rivalry by racing pell-mell, horns blaring , down narrow thoroughfares scattering people from crowded streets and large lizards from the sidewalks.
Overloaded buses, jaunty with such religious slogans as ''Praise the Lord'' and ''If you miss Christ you miss all,'' throw up coils of dense fumes which hang in the heavy tropical heat.
Everybody, though, gives way to ubiquitous Army personnel, crisp in their smart berets and sharply creased trousers. Yet the mood of these rifle-toting troops is carefree.
''Have a happy new year,'' says a young soldier leaning into an open car window at an Army roadblock on the way in from the airport. ''And what new gifts have you brought me from America for the new year?'' he asks.
He and his rifle are an acknowledgment that the military is now on the streets and in power in an attempt to halt extortion and other rampant forms of corruption that have beset the nation.
Leading the nation in this new crusade is a tough, no-nonsense former military governor, Maj. Gen. Muhammad Buhari, widely seen here as an island of probity in a sea of corruption. Nobody doubts that Buhari intends to put the country back on its economic feet with a rigorous austerity program. The signals as to how he will do it, however, have been slow in coming.
There is no law because the Constitution has been suspended. Nothing has yet been put in its place. In 1966 when the military took over, things fell into place in two days. Some sections of the Constitution were abrogated, some retained.
Two weeks after the latest coup, the country awaits a decree from the top promulgating the new law. Without such a diktat there is no law, no legal framework in which the country can operate.
''We're in a legal vacuum,'' says an informed source.
The judiciary is one of the three branches of government that has been retained. But jurists are unsure of how judges will write their opinions in the absence of law.
Nigeria also has no approved budget - and thus no money to spend. Former President Shehu Shagari was ousted before the new budget could take effect.
President Buhari's first test comes when he installs his new Cabinet. It is expected to be predominantly civilian with a smattering of the military. If he can attract civilians who have already earned the public's trust, he will not only have won a crucial ally - the middle-class professional - but he will also have succeeded in broadening his national mandate, which is deemed essential if he is to embark on his promised program of austerity.