Rumours that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is dead are persisting, in spite of the presidency’s efforts to dismiss such claims. Allegations emerged earlier in January after Buhari, 74, announced he would take a 10-day-long vacation to relax and undergo a medical checkup in the UK.
Some local media speculated on whether Buhari was going abroad to seek medical attention, as he did in 2016 when he travelled to London to treat an ear infection.
The claims were dismissed by both the president and his spokesperson Femi Adesina, stressing that the leader would resume office on 6 February.
However, rumours on the leader’s alleged death continued. Fake versions of news websites Metro UK and the Huffington Post – both domains were registered in Arizona, US, and are owned by the same company – reported respectively that Buhari had died and “was caught committing suicide”.
The claims were quickly dismissed by Buhari’s spokesperson Garba Shehu, who reassured Nigerians that the president was “alive and well.”
“President Buhari is not magical. He cannot be holidaying in the UK and be in Germany, dead or alive at the same time,” he said after some claimed Buhari had died in Germany. “He is unlike a past President [Goodluck Jonathan] who was at Ota, with Chief Obasanjo and attending the Trump inauguration in D.C, being in two places at the same time!”
One day later, the presidency released pictures of Buhari “relaxing” in the UK. However, some alleged the pictures had been photo-shopped, with some calling on Buhari to personally dismiss the death claims.
On 31 January, the presidency said Buhari had phoned minister of youth and sports, Solomon Dalung, to offer his condolences for the death of his wife.
Meanwhile, civil society groups protested at the headquarters of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and the Central Bank of Nigeria, in the federal capital of Abuja, calling for an end to the death rumours.
‘What’s wrong with a vacation?’
Buhari is to return to Nigeria and resume office in four days. Some have criticised the leader for going on vacation just days after the army mistakenly killed dozens of refugees and aid workers in an airstrike supposed to target Boko Haram militants.
Others also took to social media to comment on Buhari’s holiday, with some suggesting he should have travelled to the country’s northeast to visit survivors of the army’s bombing, which occurred in the town of Rann, Borno state.
Before leaving Nigeria, Buhari said vice-president Yemi Osinbajo would act as president in his absence. The leader added had met security chiefs to discuss, among other things, the progress of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) troops in The Gambia.
Finally, responding to questions on the nature of his holiday, the leader told journalists at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport: “What’s wrong with going on vacation? Didn’t I go last year at the same time? “