ABUJA: Zanga zanga akan Buhari
ABUJA: Zanga zanga akan Buhari

ABUJA, NIGERIA - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has spent more time outside of the country than in it this year.

Buhari returned from London in March after being away for nearly two months, seeking treatment for an undisclosed illness. He left again on May 7.

During both absences, Buhari followed the constitution, temporarily passing executive power to his vice president.

However, citizens say it is time for the Nigerian president to make a decision: Either get back to work or step down. 

A street rally Tuesday was one of several held in the capital of Abuja over the past week. Participants carried banners with the words "Resume or Resign."

Supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari rally in
FILE - Supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari rally in support of his administration as police officers look on, at the Unity fountain in Abuja, Nigeria, Aug. 11, 2017.

The slogan stems from a hashtag campaign that started online earlier this month and quickly spread. In Lagos, there also have been street demonstrations.

On Tuesday in Abuja, the "Resume or Resign" activists entered an open market and came face-to-face with the market traders, many of whom are avid supporters of Buhari.

"Sai Buhari, Sai Buhari," the pro-Buhari supporters chanted, which means "Only Buhari" in the local Hausa language.

Some pro-Buhari supporters beat the "Resume or Resign" activists, according to reports. Local newspaper reporter Oludare Richards said he had to seek medical treatment after the Tuesday rally.

"I was hit with sticks and stones and I was covered in blood," Richards said.

While Nigerians are divided over Buhari's presidency, the calls for resignation are getting louder.

"Him remaining as president is just a virus to the country because someone sick for the first time will always be sick," said Edwin Agbo, 23.

Gloria Egere, 26, disagrees. "He should be allowed to recover and come back and continue being our president, and we love him so much," she said.

Jim Esomugha, 40, holds a different view. "It is only in this country that a president will try to run a whole country like this from another country," he said. "Don't we have shame anymore? What is going on?"

In this photo released by the Nigeria State House,
FILE - In this photo released by the Nigeria State House, Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, center, walks with government officials after Friday prayers at the presidential palace in Abuja, Nigeria, May. 5, 2017.

Chukwudi Aniobi, 33, argues that Buhari should focus on his own well-being.

"It's better for him to resign and face his health," Aniobi said. "He should hand over power to his vice. I think his vice will do better."

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been an active acting president. He has carried out the daily duties of state, and he has been pushing an economic agenda to attract foreign investors in hopes of lifting Africa's most populous nation out of its recession.

Constitutional rules

Last week, Buhari announced that he is ready to return from London and is waiting for his doctor's approval, though the Nigerian people remain in the dark about the president's exact state of health. His advisers and the first lady say he is recovering and doing fine. But doubts persist.

Nigeria's constitution requires a two-third's vote of the president's Cabinet, as well as confirmation by a medical panel that the president is "incapable of discharging the functions of his office," before he can be removed.

"There is nothing in the constitution that limits the time of absence of the president while on medical or other forms of vacation," said Mohammed Zoro, a representative in the lower chamber of the National House of Assembly and a member of the ruling party. "So constitutionally, he has not breached anything and there is no cause for alarm."

But the "Resume or Resign" campaigners are determined to have a say, vowing to continue protesting in the streets until the president returns to Nigeria.