|Tuesday, December 4, 2018|
Miami, Florida, USA
onders shall never end in Nigeria. Due to the high level of uncertainty leading to apprehension, Nigerians are bombarded daily by incredulous tales that befuddle the mind. One of the mind-boggling stories is that President Muhammadu Buhari died in 2017 and was secretly buried in Saudi Arabia. To ensure that power remains in the hands of those who control the state, it is speculated that a replacement from Sudan was put in place to act as President Buhari. The alleged replacement is known as Jubril Al Sudani. Despite the incredulity of the story, it is gaining ground in the minds of many Nigerians as the question rages on concerning whether President Buhari is really the president or someone else.
Those who believe that the current Nigerian leader is not President Buhari but a replacement, are convinced that Nigeria is being ruled by a foreigner acting as a Nigerian leader. The story started to germinate when a blogger published a story indicating that President Buhari had passed away. The rumour picked up steam when Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) spread through a press statement. A former British lawmaker and military officer, Eric Stuart Joyce, also joined the fray by saying that President Buhari died while receiving treatment in London (dailypost.ng/2017/05/23//ex-british-lawmaker-eric-joyce-insists-buhari-dead/). Then, Mr. Kanu, accentuated the story again by saying that Habibu Almu, the Nigerian diplomat who was killed in Sudan was responsible for recruiting Jubril Al Sudani to act as President Buhari (dailypost.ng/2018/11/19/namdi-kanu-reveals-nigerian-involved-recruitment-jubril-aminu-transformed-buhari/) . Since the initial Kanu's press statement, the story has spread beyond expectation and has become part of the catalogue of issues that President Buhari and the APC administration have to deal with. Mr. Kanu has appeared on video repeatedly to reinforce his view that President Buhari is no longer alive and Jubril Al Sudani is a replacement to deceive the Nigerian people.
On the other hand, those who believe that President Buhari is still the same Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and not any Jubril Al Sudani or an impostor, maintain that the story is fake and should be discounted. Former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State finds it unbelievable that such a "fake" story is being accepted as a fact by a considerable number of Nigerians. He considers it "disgusting that some Nigerians were so gullible to believe that the President Muhammadu Buhari, PMB, in Aso Villa, Abuja is different from the authentic PMB" (https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/uduaghan-shocked-people-believe-theres-fake buhari-in-aso-villa/). Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, a major leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party in Rivers State tends to blame the Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) and the alleged plunderers of the country's wealth as being responsible for peddling the unbelievable story that an impostor from Sudan is acting as President Buhari. He citied the names of prominent Nigerians who visited the president while he was receiving treatment in a London hospital to confirm the fact that President Buhari is alive (https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/11/fake-buhari-narative-is-follery-ungodly-despicable-and-mischief/).
Whether the story is a fake concoction or a mischief intended to create doubt about President Buhari is not the issue here. Rather, the fact that the presidency has inadvertently, through various actions and inactions, contributed immeasurably in elevating the believability of the story is the focus here. Therefore, the purpose of this write-up is to explore the manner in which the presidency has contributed in germinating, nurturing and magnifying the believability of the story. It is argued here that while the president's detractors are responsible for peddling the "fake" story, nevertheless, President Buhari and his aides are greatly responsible for making the story believable through their actions and inactions, during and after the hospitalization of the president. The following circumstances, as demonstrated by the actions and inactions of the presidency, are indeed responsible for nurturing the believvability of the story:
First, when rumours began to circulate that the president was seriously ill, federal government officials, including the Minister of Information and Culture, denied the story and insisted that President Buhari was in good health. Then the story changed when presidential aides informed Nigerians that the president had "ear infection." However, after a prolonged stay in a London hospital, the fact that the president was seriously ill became obvious. As Nigerians increasingly expressed concern about the health of their president, his aides came up with the story that President Buhari was recuperating in the Nigerian Mission in London after undergoing a successful treatment.
Second, as soon as it was reported that President Buhari was seriously ill and needed immediate medical attention overseas, his aides and members of the All Progressived Congress party, tried every possible means to control the flow of information about the situation. Secrecy was maintained to the point that the Nigerian public was kept in the dark about what was happening to their political leader. It should be recalled that only trusted members of the political elite, family members and special friends were allowed to visit the president in London. Thus, the more the aides tried to control the flow of information about the condition of the president, the more they created opportunities for individuals to create stories to fill the void left open by the president's handlers. Eventually, people began to speculate that the president was in a very bad shape and might not survive the ordeal. In a democracy, it is strategically unwise for government officials to keep the citizens in the dark about their political leader. Unfortunately for President Buhari, his aides or handlers helped immeasurably in creating the speculation that he was dead because they tried to manipulate the story by creating false narratives that tended to misled Migerians.
Third, considering the fact that President Buhari and the APC had promised to bring change, Nigerians expected the president and the ruling political party to be much more transparent by communicating to them in a candid manner about what was happening to their president. Instead, there was an official incommunicado, thereby, increasing rumours about the situation. When the presidency postponed the dates for the supposed return of the president to Nigeria, the critics concluded that the president might have passed away. A prolonged stay in London finally nailed the coffin to the story that President Buhari had passed away. If the presidency had been transparent, the speculation about his death would not have arisen.
Fourth, the president's handlers also refused to inform Nigerians about the particular medical malady that afflicted the president. Thus, even towards the end of 2018, Nigerians have still not been officially informed about the illness. The refusal to inform Nigerians about the president's medical problem simply added fuel to the speculation that President Buhari passed away in early 2017.
Fifth, due to the prolonged stay in a London hospital, Nigerians started to intellectualize about the cost of such a long stay in a foreign hospital. Again, instead of candidly informing Nigerians about the total cost of the medical treatment, the presidency intentionally decided not to release information about the financial cost of the treatment. This allowed detractors to create stories about the enormous cost it took to treat the president in a foreign hospital. The unwillingness by the presidency to inform Nigerians about the cost of the medical bills simply increased the level of anger among many Nigerians, particularly his critics, considering the fact that President Buhari had promised during his presidential campaign not to fund any foreign medical treatment for Nigerian public officials. Here again, his handlers failed to pay attention to the incongruity between the promise that the president made while he was campaigning and the fact that Nigeria was spending tremendously to fund his medical bills in London.
Sixth, the secrecy maintained by the presidency throughout President Buhari's London medical treatment simply reenacted the drama that took place when the late President Umaru Yar'Adua was rushed to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. In fact, in the case of President Yar'Adua, even the Vice President and other top government officials were not allowed to visit with the president while he was in a Saudi hospital. The secrecy and the refusal to allow certain officials to visit President Yar'Adua led to speculation that he was already dead and his handlers did not want Nigerians to know that he had passed aware. Later, when his family and aides decided to bring him back to Nigeria, a military unit was deployed at the Abuja Airport to provide security and ensure that no Nigerian, apart from the inner circle members of the presidents' aides and family members, was allowed to see the president as he returned from Saudi Arabia. The secrecy simply reinforced the belief that President Yar'Adua had passed away and they were simply returning his body for burial. Similar to President Yar'Adua's case, when President Buhari was in the hospital, only a selected few members of his aides were allowed to see him, as indicated above. There is speculation that even his wife was not allowed to visit with the president on his sick bed (saharareporters.com/2017/06/13/aiisha-buhari-did-not-see-president-during-her-london-visit-source/says). Of courses, a support group for the president countered and insisted that Mrs. Aisha Buhari actually visited the husband. Thus, the eerie resemblance in the manner in which President Yar'Adua and President Buhari were treated while they were sick, no doubt, contributed immensely to the rumor that President Buhari had passed away. It should be recalled that Yar'Adua's aides too did not want Nigerians to know that he had passed away. They stage-managed the death to suit their strategic political plan.
Seventh, while the supposed death of President Buhari is most likely a "fake concoction," nevertheless, Nigerians had a template to follow in reacting to the official mismanagement of President Buhari's health issue. The template or rubric came from that of the mismanagement of the health issue of the late President Yar'Adua. Hence, it is not surprising that an increasing number of Nigerians are doubting whether the current president is actually President Buhari. The reason is that President Buhari handlers behaved exactly as President Yar'Adua's handlers. The only exception is that President Buhari handed over power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo while President Yar'Auda did not do so to Dr. Jonathan. Apart from the fact that President Buhari handed over power to the vice president, the officials in both Yar'Adua and Buhari administrations acted disdainfully towards the vice presidents and the Nigerian people.
Eighth, apparently, the story that Jubril Al Sudani is a replacement for President Buhari cannot be dismissed offhandedly, even if the story is false. The reason is that the Federal Government, especially, the presidency and the APC, are responsible for creating an environment which allowed people to fill in the missing gaps in official communication concerning the health of the president. This led to the speculation that current President Buhari is an impostor stage-managed by a cabal that is sabotaging the democratic process in Nigeria.
Ninth, the rumor that current President Buhari is actually an impostor from Sudan cannot be dismissed off-handedly on account of the fact that since President Buhari returned from London, his actions and inactions have tended to reinforce the perception that he is not Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, in the minds of many Nigerians. The following actions and inactions support the suspicious feeling that this Buhari is behaving differently from Gen. Buhari, in the following ways:
Tenth, the fact that a Nigerian diplomat named Habibu Almu died mysteriously in Sudan increases the perception that something fishy is going on in Nigeria. The reason is that Kanu and many others believe that Almu was responsible for recruiting Jubril Al Sudani from Sudan to serve as a body double following the alleged passing away of President Muhammadu Buhari in London. They added that Halibu Almu had to be killed to keep him from spilling the beans. Indeed, the mysterious and sudden death of Almu is similar to the mysterious and sudden death of the INEC Resident Commissioner in Kano State who died when a mysterious fire engulfed his house, thereby, killing him and his family after the 2015 presidential election. The rumour about the sudden death by fire of the INEC Commissioner was that he had to be neutralized because he knew too much about what happened during the presidential election in Kano State in the 2015.
Eleventh, some people have insinuated that a minute's silence was held at the African Union (AU) in honor of President Buhari when he allegedly passed away. The African Union has not made any statement to counter the rumour.
Twelfth, while the story of a body double serving as President Buhari is most probably a fake concoction, nevertheless, there are strong circumstantial evidences to indicate that something fishy is really going on in Nigeria. While discerning minds could say that only simpletons could believe that Jubril Al Sudani is a body double for President Buhari, however, the notion of a body double acting as a political leader is not unusual in the history of the world. There are many examples to cite from but a few will do here: (a) Josef Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union had three or more body doubles during his hey days (htps://rarehistoricalphotos.com/stalin-body-double-1940s/). B) During the Second World War, body doubles were commonly used to deceive and trick the enemy or obtain critical information. (C) Saddam Hussein, the former leader of Iraq too relied on body doubles to confuse would-be-assassins, just like Stalin (https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2003/dec/16/20031216-102509-5288r/). (d) The most recent case of a body double involved a Saudi Arabian man who pretended to be Jamal Khashoggi, the murdered Saudi journalist in Turkey. To create the impression that Khashoggi left the Saudi consulate before his mysterious death, the impostor walked out of the consulate pretending to be Khashoggi. Unfortunately for the impostor, a critical review of the video revealed that he wore a shoe which was quite different from that of Khashoggi, thereby, revealing the fact that he was an impostor.
Thirteenth, when the Federal Minister of Information and Culture responded to the rumour of Jubril Al Sudani being a replacement for President Buhari by saying it is "idiotic to say President is cloned. I don't see any serious government responding to that" (http:s//punchng.com/it-is-idiotic-to-say-buhari-is-cloned-fg-2/), it simply raised the temperature of the debate and magnify the rumor because Mr. Kanu responded very quickly by saying that "introduction of cloning into the narrative was a diversionary attempt to confuse the people" (dailypost.ng/2018/12/03/buhari-not-cloned-nnamdi-kanu-replies-fg/). Although the Federal Government, as indicated by the Minister of Information and Culture, can say that no serious government would respond to such an idiotic rumour, silence on the part of the presidency is most likely to increase the believability of the story, thereby, turning a greater number of Nigerians against the president.
While there is no concrete evidence to back the story that President Buhari is dead and has been replaced by an impostor named Jubril Al Sudani, nonetheless, the actions and inactions of the presidency increased the believability of the rumour. Therefore, a conclusion is drawn that the presidency is responsible for turning a mere "rumour," as his supporters tend to say, into a believable story. First, federal officials and the president's handlers flatly denied the story that the president was seriously ill. Then, they manipulated the story when it was revealed that the president needed an urgent medical care. Third, they refused to inform Nigerians about the medical condition of the president. Fifth, they refused to reveal the cost of his treatment. Sixth, the president seems too absent-minded, thereby, creating doubt about his Nigerian nationality. Seventh, he seems very uncomfortable in communicating with Nigerians personally, hence, others have to speak on his behalf, even in critical national situations. Added to these circumstances is the sudden death of a Nigerian diplomat in Sudan. These circumstances create room for speculation to take hold. So, the question lingers on as to whether President Buhari is Maj. Gen. Buhari or Jubril Al Sudani acting as President Buhari.
Fortunately, President Buhari finally broke the silence by speaking about the issue when he said "I'm my real self not cloned." Unfortunately, he made the statement in Poland instead of in Nigeria. The fact that he made the statement in a foreign country is likely to fuel another round of speculation that he intentionally avoided speaking to Nigerians directly in Nigeria. Therefore, to eliminate any doubt about him, he should hold a press conference in Nigeria and directly address the Nigeria people. If he does so and allow Nigerian journalists and citizens to ask pertinent questions about the matter, he would bury the rumor for good and refocus attention on his reelection effort. Otherwise, the rumour will continue to grow to the point of threatening the national security of the country. Indeed, only President Buhari can declaratively bury the rumour by speaking to the Nigerian people candidly.
The lesson here is that the presidency and future leaders of Nigeria must learn from this unfortunate story and avoid manipulating information to create a certain narrative that can lead people to speculate about what is happening. In the era of the social media, communication flows both hierarchically and horizontally, hence, a government must be very careful in the manner it communicates to the citizens.