Would the real Buhari please stand up?
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told a group of Nigerians living abroad in Poland last week that he rumors that he had died and been replaced by a “clone” were not true, after a ‘fake news’ report claiming that he had been replaced by a Sudanese imposter went viral, prompting the AFP to perform a “fact check.”
As the rumor goes, Buhari died while on a “medical vacation” in London last year, where he receive treatment for an undisclosed illness. In his place, senior officials in his administration hired an imposture – Jubril, from the Sudan – to run the continent’s largest economy.
One of the questions that came up today in my meeting with Nigerians in Poland was on the issue of whether I‘ve been cloned or not. The ignorant rumours are not surprising — when I was away on medical vacation last year a lot of people hoped I was dead. pic.twitter.com/SHTngq6LJU
— Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) December 2, 2018
The rumors are spreading at an inopportune time: Buhari, who is seeking a second term, is facing an election in February 2019. Which is probably why he felt the need to step up and address the rumors.
“It’s the real me, I assure you,” Buhari said in a town hall on Sunday in Poland, where he was attending a United Nations climate conference. “I will soon celebrate my 76th birthday and I will still go strong.”
Because his political opponents seized on the rumor to try and discredit Buhari.
With the text came a video of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra, telling supporters that the country’s elected leader had died. Kanu has repeated the claim, each time without evidence, on his pirate station, Radio Biafra. He has labeled the purported look-alike “Jubril Al-Sudani.”
Asked about the impostor theory in the appearance on Sunday, Buhari blamed his political opponents, saying, “A lot of people hoped that I was dead and hoped I died.” He said the false reports of his death even prompted some to reach out to his vice president because they assumed he would replace him. “That embarrassed him a lot because he visited me when I was in London convalescing,” Buhari told his audience in Poland.
According to the AFP, the first online mention of the rumor identified by the Paris-based news agency was in a Twitter post from September 2017, where a user wrote “The Man Who Parades himself as ‘Buhari’ Is Not The Real Buhari. Is Jubril From Sudan.”
Then again, maybe Buhari’s opponents have a point. Because denying that you’re a clone is exactly what a clone would do.