Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the military staff annual conference, on November 28, 2018, as part of his trip to visit troops on front lines of Boko Haram conflict. (Photo by Audu MARTE / AFP)
Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari has denied speculations that he had passed on at a London hospital where he was receiving treatment.
Buhari has made several trips to London for medical treatment since mid-2016. Initially, the presidency claimed he had a “persistent ear infection”.
Several high-profile figures in Nigeria, including a former government minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, have claimed that Buhari has died and been replaced by a lookalike from Sudan.
Tweets, Facebook posts and YouTube videos repeating claims that the president is an imposter called “Jubril” have been shared and viewed over 500,000 times.
Reacting to this, Buhari while speaking in Poland on Sunday said the speculations were all “hopes that he had died”
“It is me,” Buhari declared, while he also stated that he will “soon celebrate my 76th birthday and I will still go strong.”
Claims about Buhari’s identity emerged a month after Buhari returned from another lengthy medical trip to the British capital.
The earliest online mention of the claim was in a video posted by Twitter user @sam_ezeh on September 3, 2017.
The video has since been shared more than 5,000 times on Facebook and Twitter.
In it, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, Nnamdi Kanu, speaks to his supporters and says Buhari had actually died.
“The man you are looking at in the television is not Buhari… His name is Jubril, he’s from Sudan. After extensive surgery they brought him back,” he says.
In separate broadcasts on the outlawed pirate radio station Radio Biafra, Kanu has called Buhari “Jubril Al-Sudani”.
But on each occasion, he gave no evidence for the claim.
The IPOB leader is a fervent critic of Buhari and the Nigerian government. His movement wants a separate independent state for the Igbo people who dominate southeast Nigeria.
On April 5, 2018, Fani-Kayode, a former government special advisor and minister under president Olusegun Obasanjo, repeated the claim on Twitter.
The rumour appears to have been fuelled further by a real-life event in May 2018, when a Nigerian diplomat — Habibu Almu — was found dead in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
Nigeria’s foreign ministry said on May 14 that Almu had been “stabbed to death” and that a Sudanese woman of Nigerian origin had been arrested.
Sudanese police said the killing did not appear to be politically motivated but Kanu and others have claimed the death was linked to an apparent cover-up of Buhari’s death.
Reacting to the allegation of an impostor in Aso Rock, the Personal Assistant to President Buhari on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, said the intelligence of some Nigerians has been insulted by the outrageous lies that the president is a body double.