Shortly before Nnamdi Kanu, the self-acclaimed leader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB), fled Nigeria in 2017, he dropped a myth that no one with a functional brain should have given any thought to.
According to Kanu, the man who returned to Nigeria after yet another trip to London on medical grounds wasn’t President Muhammadu Buhari, he told his audience with so much energy and conviction. He was a body double or doppelganger called Jubril from Sudan, Kanu added to applause and feral chants from listeners.
Kanu’s theory goes thus:
President Buhari didn’t make it out of that London apartment alive. When he passed on, his doctors quickly summoned a look-alike from Sudan, draped him in Buhari’s signature attires, taught him how to walk with Buhari’s upright gait and poise, schooled him on Buhari’s mannerisms and unleashed him on Nigeria.
Kanu called this “impostor” Jubril and voila, his fanatic, impressionable supporters bought his tale, hook, line, and sinker. Such is the power a demagogue wields.
The problem with a lie is that when you tell it often enough, you begin to believe it yourself and worse—other people begin to believe it too.
I first laughed off the Jubril from Sudan story when Kanu first spun it over a year ago. But now, it appears, the joke is firmly on me.
Because just last weekend, as I watched football in a pub in upmarket Lagos, educated folks spotting expensive wristwatches and designer clothing and speaking in exotic, improvised accents, were poring over two sets of Buhari pictures on their smartphones and convincing themselves that while one was the Nigerian leader, the other, who now occupies Aso Rock, is definitely the body double Kanu spoke about—Jubril from Sudan!
They were pointing at Buhari’s wrinkled hand in one photo and a relatively smooth pair of palms in the other. They were pointing at how Buhari signed on a piece of paper with a right fist in one picture and how he used a left fist on the other (no one could convince them that one picture was reversed to further exactly the kind of agenda they were really promoting here with glee). They were comparing Buhari’s chiseled jaw and different camera angles.
If you haven’t been off social media for a year now, you probably have run into the ‘Jubril from Sudan’ theory on your feeds, whether on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Nairaland. The debates are becoming even more ferocious and intense with the elections looming. I won’t be surprised if the opposition refuses to show up at debates because they would rather spar with ‘Buhari’ than Jubril from Sudan.
Opposition talking head and former minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, has even promised to reveal who the man at the presidential villa is at the appointed time!
So, there you have it. A tale initially told by someone who was looking for all the cheap popularity and propaganda he could muster to drum up more support for himself, fire up his base and further his agenda, has become mainstream—discussed at pubs by the elite, discussed at editorial meetings by journalists, discussed in hushed tones by church folks, trumpeted in commercial buses by chaps looking for idle talk to endure traffic and analyzed by ‘charge and bail’ video editors, pundits and photographers alike.
Samuel Ogundipe,a journalist with Premium Times, shared in a tweet:
“Only on November 13, the weekend editor of a major newspaper asked whether I have investigated it because their own outlet hadn’t been bold enough to touch the story. “I believe there is something not quite right with the president’s look,” the editor said”.
Only on November 13, the weekend editor of a major newspaper asked whether I have investigated it because their own outlet hadn't been bold enough to touch the story.
"I believe there is something not quite right with the president's look," the editor said. https://t.co/bP44N3jg9Y
— Samuel Ogundipe (@SamuelOgundipe) November 25, 2018
Of course, the very notion that Buhari is being represented at the presidential villa and in his bedroom by a mythical and fictional Jubril from God-knows-where is pure and unadulterated baloney! To believe it is to doubt your own existence.
It is sadly fake news, but it also tells us something about the kind of world we now live in. It is a world where the more incomprehensible and unfathomable a story sounds, the more believable and appealing it becomes for a social media crazy generation; and the more clicks and page views it garners.
One like retweet or shares later and the most ridiculous of stories finds its way into mainstream media and into every WhatsApp group ever created by your grandma.
To believe that there is a Jubril from Sudan anywhere near the presidency is to glory in the world of idiotic hallucination, Sci-Fi and hare-brained fiction.
We need to really get serious as a country and focus on the socio-economic issues that really matter.
Jubril from Sudan ko, Gawat from Somalia ni!