Pres­i­dent claims not to be dead or im­poster

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - WORLD NEWS - SAM OLUKOYA The As­so­ci­ated Press

LA­GOS, Nige­ria — Nige­ria’s pres­i­dent took the ex­tra­or­di­nary step of deny­ing ru­mours that he died and was re­placed by a body dou­ble, telling the coun­try that he is alive and well.

“It is the real me I as­sure you,” Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari said Sun­day to a group of Nige­ri­ans dur­ing a visit to Poland, where he is at­tend­ing the UN Cli­mate Con­fer­ence.

“A lot of peo­ple hoped that I died dur­ing my ill health,” Buhari said. “I am still go­ing strong.”

The 75-year-old, who was elected in 2015 and will run for his sec­ond term in Fe­bru­ary, has been in ill health throughout his pres­i­dency. But in the video of his re­marks posted to Twit­ter by his per­sonal as­sis­tant, he joked as he dis­missed the ru­mours, to laugh­ter and head-shak­ing ap­plause by some gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials af­ter a Nige­rian posed a ques­tion about his iden­tity.

The gov­ern­ment has been tight-lipped about Buhari’s health throughout his pres­i­dency.

Ru­mours of his death started in 2017, when Buhari spent seven weeks in London for med­i­cal treat­ment. They abated when he re­turned to Nige­ria, but re­turned in full force last month, stoked by prom­i­nent op­po­si­tion lead­ers and sep­a­ratists.

Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the sep­a­ratist group In­dige­nous Peo­ple of Bi­afra said that a Su­danese looka­like, named Jubril, had taken Buhari’s place as a body dou­ble. His claims were shared widely online, of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by videos that ap­peared to por­tray a dead Buhari ly­ing in a London hos­pi­tal.

This is not the first time that Nige­ri­ans have spec­u­lated about a pres­i­dent’s mor­tal­ity. State se­crecy around for­mer pres­i­dent Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s ill health fos­tered sim­i­lar ru­mours be­fore Yar’Adua died in of­fice in 2010.

As Nige­ria pre­pares for the up­com­ing elec­tions, the op­po­si­tion said the pres­i­dent’s health ren­ders him un­fit to con­tinue his ten­ure. Some have ques­tioned his abil­ity to con­tain in­sur­gent groups and Is­lamic ex­trem­ists, which the pres­i­dent re­cently said had started us­ing drones.

In the 2015 elec­tions, Buhari made the de­feat Boko Haram a ma­jor goal for his pres­i­dency. But ex­trem­ists con­tinue to carry out deadly sui­cide bomb­ings and ab­duc­tions in the north­east and wider Lake Chad re­gion.

Muham­madu Buhari

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