Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari used a U.N. speech Sunday to deny that he had died and been replaced by Sudanese imposter, Reuters reported.
The remarkable claim was made during an event in Krakow, Poland. Buhari was asked to shed light on a growing social media conspiracy theory that posits he died during a medical procedure in the U.K. in 2017, and was replaced as president with a doppelgänger.
The claims have gained traction in recent weeks as Buhari seeks re-election in February. YouTube videos about the conspiracy have been viewed millions of times.
“The ignorant rumors are not surprising — when I was away on medical vacation last year, a lot of people hoped I was dead,” 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!”
The rumors grew as a result of the Nigerian government’s botched communications about Buhari’s medical procedure last year. The president spent five months in London for treatment, but the illness remains a mystery.
Buhari said that while he was convalescing in London, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was asked by several individuals if they could become his deputy when he took over from Buhari.
“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,” Buhari said.
Among those pushing the conspiracy theory is Buhari’s political opponent Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra. Kanu said Monday that Buhari’s statement was not enough to convince him the real president was not dead.
“You need not be an Einstein or a native doctor to know the man in Poland is not Buhari. All you need is common sense, ability to reason and a functioning eyesight,” Kanu said on Twitter.
Cover image: Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 25, 2018. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)