Claim: Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, is dead and has been replaced in the statehouse with a lookalike: here’s a picture of the lookalike, who has now grown chubby.
Verdict: False. The picture is a manipulated version of Buhari’s official portrait as president that was released in 2015.
A Facebook page that purports to be run by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, shared a picture with its over half a million followers on November 30. The post (archived here) shows President Muhammadu Buhari ㅡ but a chubbier version of the man.
“Buhari appears to be dead and replaced by a body double because he is wracked by the ravages of dementia ~ Farooq Kperogi • November 28, 2020,” he started by quoting a newspaper columnist and Associate Professor of Journalism at Kennesaw State University.
He then made an oft-repeated claim by members of IPOB: “All of you will keep dancing around the glaring truth that original Buhari rigged into Aso Rock in 2015 is dead and buried in a shallow grave in Saudi Arabia until you are all dead at the hands of Fulani terrorists he created and supported.”
“Buhari is long dead. Imagine the 2020 version of your Buhari they unveiled for you gullible Nigerians last week,” he added in a possible reference to the attached picture. “Is this the Buhari of 2015 to you? No wonder Europeans colonised us with such ease.”
The post had gathered over 1,300 comments and was shared over 3,300 times as of 10 a.m. on December 8.
The comments showed that not only did the page’s followers believe that Buhari was dead, they also considered the picture to be authentic.
“The Buhari of 2015 was the best customer to hospitals. All of a sudden, this current Buhari is now as fresh and healthy as a newly born. Doesn’t really add up,” wrote Eze Miracle Arinzechukwu.
Another follower, Tochukwu Ekpa, replied: “The gullible zoologians have long lost their sense of reasoning. Even if the real Buhari who’s in a shallow grave in Sadia Arabia is still alive today, it’s not normal for an old man to get fatter and look more young than 20 years ago. They have failed!”
“Is this person also Buhari, because I don’t understand this country anymore. How many Buhari do we have?” asked Queen Isaac Emejuru. “Is like this one is Buubuu not Buhari [sic].”
The picture appeared on Twitter in the same period.
Also on November 30, Emeka Gift had tweeted it with the caption: “#BuhariMustGo and #SackTheServiceChiefs is trending because of #ZabarmariMassacre.” The post had over 500 retweets as of December 8. Many of the comments again showed that the picture was considered genuine by many people.
Two days earlier, the picture was uploaded by Oluchi Christy alongside three other photos of Buhari. “The Buhari they are showing us on television these days is just getting fat & fatter everyday even at old age, contrary to the real Buhari in the picture 3 & 4 we have always known as slim lakpacious man from birth; till 2017 when different pictures of him began to surface on TV,” she wrote.
Using the reverse image search tool, TinEye, HumAngle traced the original publication of the picture of Buhari to May 17, 2015, less than two weeks to the presidential swearing-in ceremony.
One of the first websites to share the picture, alongside the official portrait of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, was Abu Sidiqu.
Channels TV reported on the same day that the photographs were taken by Bayo Omoboriowo, “the StateCraft Inc. photographer responsible for many of the images from the recently concluded election season that culminated in Buhari’s victory.”
Omoboriowo was, soon after, appointed as Personal Photographer to the President.
The original picture featured Buhari with significantly more modest body size.
There are readily available applications that make it possible to make people add weight in pictures, just as there are tools to make people look more skinny. One of the former apps is Fatify, which is available both for Android and iPhone users.
“Fatify is a fun free app that lets your face swap for a fat, jiggly, animated one. It’s the best free photo booth app for Android and it makes a fat version of you with just a tap of your phone’s camera,” states the app description on Google Play Store.
Similar results can be achieved by using the liquify tool available on Adobe Photoshop, an image editing software. There is also the fat maker tool on PhotoFunia, a web-based editing app, which relies on automatic face detection.
Meanwhile, checks showed that the quote attributed to Kperogi truly belonged to the US-based associate journalism professor. It was, however, used in a misleading context.
The quote, “Buhari appears to be dead and replaced by a body double because he is wracked by the ravages of dementia,” is from an opinion piece published on November 28. But rather than support the claim favouring Buhari’s death, Kperogi described it as a “preposterous conspiracy theory” which was too silly and infantile to deserve the attention of any serious person. He also said it was implausible.
“In any case, I’d addressed this in a December 8, 2018 column titled, ‘Buhari: Not a Clone but a Clown’, where I described it as an ‘insanely absurd IPOB whispering campaign’ and as ‘so ludicrous, so off-the-wall, and so patently illogical that even acknowledging it would be an exercise in the legitimisation of stupidity’,” he wrote.
“The truth is that even if they wanted to, Buhari’s inner circle is too incompetent to pull off installing a body double in Aso Rock to replace a supposedly dead Buhari.”
The picture is the edited version of Buhari’s official portrait released in May 2015. The quote from Farooq Kperogi was also used in a misleading way.