Tue, Dec 04, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Unusual pitch for Nigerian president

NOT DEAD, NO CLONE:Muhammadu Buhari has been plagued by health questions, and one conspiracy theory says he died and was replaced by a Sudanese look-alike

Bloomberg

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari takes part in the opening ceremony of a military staff annual conference in Maiduguri on Wednesday last week.

Photo: AFP

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has an unusual new campaign pitch: He is not dead.

In a Facebook post on Sunday following a meeting with Nigerians in Poland, Buhari said he had been asked whether it really was him speaking to the group or a clone, given speculation that he had died last year when he was absent from the country on medical leave.

“I can assure you all that this is the real me,” he said. “I’m still going strong!”

Buhari, who turns 76 this month, has been dogged by questions about his health since spending more than five months in the UK last year being treated for an undisclosed illness.

He faces re-election in February amid growing divisions within his own party and a challenge from Atiku Abubakar, a 72-year-old businessman and Nigerian former vice president who is promising an economic revival for Africa’s biggest oil producer.

A separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), has taken advantage of Buhari’s health issues to peddle a conspiracy theory that he died in London and was replaced by a look-alike from Sudan named Jubril.

Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the group fighting for an independent Biafra in the country’s southeast, was arrested and charged with treason by Buhari’s government in 2016.

While free on bail, Kanu’s residence was raided by the military in an operation that left several people dead. Kanu escaped the country and reappeared in Israel last year, according to his lawyer.

He has since been broadcasting his claims about Buhari’s alleged double via Facebook, helping to feed a social media frenzy at home.

Abubakar has also sought to take advantage of Buhari’s seeming aloofness. He has challenged Buhari to a televised debate and beat him in responding to attacks by Muslim insurgents, offering scholarships to the children of killed soldiers before the government extended official condolences.

Analysts have mixed views on which way the Nigerian electorate will lean.

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