Nigerian president says he’s alive, not an impostor

Muhammadu Buhari waves to the crowd during the 58th anniversary celebrations of Nigerian independence, in Abuja. Nigeria’s president has taken the extraordinary step of denying rumors that he died and was replaced by a body double, telling the country that he is alive and well. (AP Photo)
Updated 03 December 2018
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Nigerian president says he’s alive, not an impostor

  • Muhammadu Buhari has been in ill health throughout his presidency
  • Rumors of his death started in 2017, when Buhari spent seven weeks in London for medical treatment

LAGOS, Nigeria: Nigeria’s president took the extraordinary step of denying rumors that he died and was replaced by a body double, telling the country that he is alive and well.
“It is the real me I assure you,” President Muhammadu Buhari said Sunday to a group of Nigerians during a visit to Poland, where he is attending the United Nations Climate Conference.
“A lot of people hoped that I died during my ill health,” Buhari said. “I am still going strong.”
The 75-year-old, who was elected in 2015 and will run for his second term in February, has been in ill health throughout his presidency. But in the video of his remarks posted to Twitter by his personal assistant, he joked as he dismissed the rumors, to laughter and head-shaking applause by some government officials after a Nigerian posed a question about his identity.
The government has been tight-lipped about Buhari’s health throughout his presidency.
Rumors of his death started in 2017, when Buhari spent seven weeks in London for medical treatment. They abated when he returned to Nigeria, but returned in full force last month, stoked by prominent opposition leaders and separatists.
Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the separatist group, Indigenous People of Biafra, said that a Sudanese lookalike, named Jubril, had taken Buhari’s place as a body double. His claims were shared widely online, often accompanied by videos that appeared to portray a dead Buhari lying in a London hospital.
This is not the first time that Nigerians have speculated about a president’s mortality. State secrecy around former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s ill health fostered similar rumors before Yar’Adua died in office in 2010.
As Nigeria prepares for the upcoming elections, the opposition said the president’s health renders him unfit to continue his tenure. Some have questioned his ability to contain insurgent groups and Islamic extremists, which the president recently said had started using drones.
In the 2015 elections, Buhari made the defeat Boko Haram a major goal for his presidency. But extremists continue to carry out deadly suicide bombings and abductions in the northeast and wider Lake Chad region.
Deadly attacks against the Nigerian military are on the rise. In November alone, 39 Nigerian soldiers were killed and another 43 were wounded, according to the presidency.
In late November, Buhari pivoted from repeated claims from his government that Boko Haram had been “crushed,” instead urging the military to “rise to the challenge.”
The group also claimed it is “full control” of Arege, a town near Lake Chad, after Nigerian soldiers fled their barracks.
The group also posted a statement Monday on the main IS website claiming that, after two days of attacks against the barracks, many soldiers were also killed and wounded.
The Nigerian military has not responded to the claims.


India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

Updated 11 December 2018
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India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

  • Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition
  • Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling party could lose power in three key states, four TV networks said on Tuesday, citing votecount leads, potentially handing Prime Minister Narendra Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014, and months ahead of a general election.
The main opposition Congress party could form governments in the central states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and in the western state of Rajasthan, all big heartland states that powered Modi to a landslide win in the 2014 general election.
Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition, despite his high personal popularity in the face of criticism that he did not deliver on promises of jobs for young people and better conditions for farmers.
“We’ve all voted for Congress this time and our candidate is winning here,” said Bishnu Prasad Jalodia, a wheat grower in Madhya Pradesh, where it appears as if Congress might have to woo smaller parties to keep out Modi’s party.
“BJP ignored us farmers, they ignored those of us at the bottom of the pyramid.”
The elections are also a test for Rahul Gandhi, president of the left-of-center Congress, who is trying to forge a broad alliance with regional groups and face Modi with his most serious challenge yet, in the election that must be held by May.
In Rajasthan, the Congress was leading in 114 of the 199 seats contested, against 81 for the BJP, in the initial round of voting, India Today TV said.
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress was ahead in 59 of the 90 seats at stake, with the BJP at 24. In Madhya Pradesh, the most important of the five states that held assembly elections over the past few weeks, Congress was ahead, with 112 of 230 seats. The Hindu nationalist BJP was at 103, the network said.
Three other TV channels also said Congress was leading in the three states, with regional parties leading in two smaller states that also voted, Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.
Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters.
Local issues usually dominate state polls, but politicians are seeing the elections as a pointer to the national vote just months away.
Indian markets recovered some ground after an early fall as the central bank governor’s unexpected resignation the previous day shocked investors.
The rupee currency dropped as much as 1.5 percent to 72.465 per dollar, while bond yields rose 12 basis points to 7.71 percent after the resignation of Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel.
The broader NSE share index was down 1.3 percent, with investors cautious ahead of the election results.
“As the three erstwhile BJP states have a large agrarian population, the BJP’s drubbing could be interpreted to mean that farm unrest is real,” Nomura said in a research note before the results.
“A rout of the BJP on its homeground states should encourage cohesion among the opposition parties to strengthen the non-BJP coalition for the general elections.”
Gandhi, the fourth generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has sought to build a coalition of regional groups, some headed by experienced firebrand, ambitious politicians.
Congress has already said it would not name Gandhi, who is seen as lacking experience, as a prime ministerial candidate.
“When one and one become eleven, even the mighty can be dethroned,” opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav said of the prospect of growing opposition unity.