Ten days after Nigerian leader Muhammadu Buhari left the country for England to seek medical attention for his deteriorating health, an information war appears to have broken out between those who want him dead and those striving to counter that narrative with their own propaganda.
On the first hand are those using various clones of international news websites to spread rumors that the president is dead. One of those phony websites last weekend made a parody of CNN, but while CNN has a .com domain, the fake website appeared with a .tv web address.
On the other hand of the battle are those trying to counter the rumors by spreading an old picture of a considerably-healthier President Buhari and Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The picture was actually taken when Mr. Buhari visited the Lambeth Palace in May 2016.
The presidency has debunked the story about the president’s death, with Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu taking to Twitter to condemn the rumor mongers and assure Nigerians of the well-being of his principal. He did not refer to the part about Buhari’s “recent” visit to the archbishop.
Baseless rumors are trending again that an unpleasant thing has happened to our beloved President, Muhammadu Buhari.— Garba Shehu (@GarShehu) May 14, 2017
While the presidency assured Nigerians that the president is very much alive, it continues to avoid making available any details of his health status. It is even more confusing that Mr. Garba has been reported as saying that the presidency will rely on third party on information in that regard.
President Buhari left the country on May 7 shortly after receiving the 82 Chibok girls who were freed by Boko Haram in exchange for two of its kingpins who were being held by the Nigerian Army.
Presidential spokesperson Femi Adesina informed Nigerians that the length of the president’s stay in London would be determined by his doctors.
The current trip is the second time the president will be traveling for medicals this year. On January 19, he left on a “medical vacation” that eventually lasted about 50 days. Addressing his Ministers upon his return on March 10, he said he had never been “so sick” since he was a young man, adding that he had received blood transfusion.