The militants, who demanded a larger share of the nation’s oil wealth for Deltans, now feel they have a voice in the capitol, Cheto said. Simultaneously, the non-military approach used by Osinbajo, which includes promises of development money, has undercut the case for militancy.

But President Muhammadu Buhari has been abroad for much of the year receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness. That creates a political opportunity for vested interests in Buhari’s inner circle, who are uncomfortable with the northern-born president’s relatively close relationship with his deputy, Cheto said. This could undermine militants’ trust in the capitol to the extent Osinbajo is marginalized.

In Cheto’s worst-case scenario, an ailing Buhari steps down and his aides push out Osinbajo, severing the militants’ link to the government and sparking renewed attacks on oil infrastructure.

“At the moment it would be very difficult, but not impossible. I can’t see a path to that kind of outcome, but this is Nigeria,” she said.

RBC Capital Markets lists Nigeria at its highest geopolitical risk level, due to “the potential for a turbulent political transition.”

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