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Nigeria’s President Buhari denies claims that he died and has been cloned

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."

LAGOS | Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has denied claims that he died and was replaced by a clone, calling the speculation “ignorant rumours.”

Responding to a question from a Nigerian in the Diaspora who wanted to know if he was real or the much talked about ‘‘Jubril from Sudan’’ — his supposed double — President Buhari described the authors of the confusion about him as ‘‘ignorant and irreligious.’’

‘‘A lot of people hoped that I died during my ill health. Some even reached out to the Vice President to consider them to be his deputy because they assumed I was dead. That embarrassed him a lot and of course, he visited me when I was in London convalescing… It’s real me; I assure you,’’ he said.

Buhari tweeted on Sunday that he addressed the reports while at a meeting in Poland.

“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,” Buhari said.

“The ignorant rumours are not surprising — when I was away on medical vacation last year a lot of people hoped I was dead.”

The Nigerian leader said he was looking forward to celebrating his 76th birthday on December 17 and jocularly added: ‘‘If I am getting harassed by anyone, it is my grandchildren, who are getting too many.’’

Long absence

Buhari spent long periods in London receiving medical treatment in 2017, on one occasion leaving Nigeria for more than three months.

His absence prompted intense speculation in the country about the President’s health and many false reports circulated online saying he had died.

The earliest mention of the claim of an imposter was in a Twitter post by user @sam_ezeh on September 3rd, 2017.

A video outlining the claim has since been shared more than 5,000 times on Facebook and Twitter. In it, Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), tells his followers that Buhari had died.

“The man you are looking at on the television is not Buhari… His name is Jubril, he’s from Sudan. After extensive surgery they brought him back,” he says.

Reno Omokri, a former aide to President Goodluck Jonathan and Femi Fani Kayode, a former government special advisor and minister under president Olusegun Obasanjo, have both repeated the claims.

But on Instagram and Facebook Sunday, President Buhari said the belief that he had died had prompted people to reach out to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo asking to be his deputy.

“That embarrassed him a lot; we discussed it when he visited me while I was convalescing,” Buhari said. “I can assure you all that this is the real me. Later this month I will celebrate my 76th birthday. And I’m still going strong!”

Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said on Facebook that a Nigerian at a meeting in Krakow on Sunday had asked Buhari if he was real or “the much talked about ‘Jubril from Sudan’ — his supposed double” — prompting the President to affirm his identity.

Shehu said Buhari was in Poland to attend the UN Climate Change Conference, COP24.

Buhari’s focus

President Buhari used the occasion in Poland to reiterate that his government will continue to maintain focus and deliver on the three focal points of his campaign in 2015: security, economy and the fight against corruption.

‘‘Those in the North East will tell you that in spite of the recent setbacks, there is a difference between the time we came and before.

‘‘We are not doing badly on security, economy and agriculture. We have virtually stopped the importation of food especially rice and we are saving a lot of money.

‘‘We now have food security and that has come with fiscal security because a lot of young educated people have not regretted going back to the farms and earning a respectable living.

‘‘I am afraid, this is not receiving good publicity… but a lot of people in the rural areas are enjoying the benefits of our interventions in agriculture,’’ he said.

Buhari was elected President of Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and top oil producer, in 2015.

The former general became president in his fourth attempt at leadership since he was ousted from power in 1985.

Buhari was among military strongmen who dominated Nigeria decades ago. A military coup brought him to power in 1983, and another military coup toppled him two years later.

CNN & Agencies

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