The Nigerian president has denied rumors he died following a period of ill health and was replaced by a Sudanese clone.
Muhammadu Buhari addressed the speculation as he met members of the Nigerian community in Poland, where he is attending the UN COP24 climate summit.
“It’s the real me, I assure you,” he said, answering a question from the audience. “I will soon celebrate my 76th birthday and I will still go strong.”
The repeated claims, spread on social media and in YouTube videos, alleged that the Nigerian leader was an impostor named “Jubril”.
One of the questions that came up today in my meeting with Nigerians in Poland was on the issue of whether I‘ve been cloned or not. The ignorant rumours are not surprising — when I was away on medical vacation last year a lot of people hoped I was dead. pic.twitter.com/SHTngq6LJU
— Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) December 2, 2018
According to a statement issued by the president’s spokesman Garba Shehu, President Buhari said: “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.”
The leader branded those behind the rumors “irreligious” and “ignorant”, but said later in a tweet that they were “not surprising”.
It comes after Mr Buhari spent a large part of last year being treated for a serious illness in London.
he nature of his ill health has never been revealed to the public.
The lack of detail about the president’s condition, his gaunt appearance and a reduction in public appearances have fueled the rumors.
Meanwhile, pirates have kidnapped 12 people from a Swiss merchant vessel off the coast of Nigeria.
The MV Glarus was carrying wheat between Lagos and the southern Niger Delta oil hub of Port Harcourt.
It was boarded by pirates when it was around 45 nautical miles south west of Bonny Island.
The pirates took 12 of the ship’s 19 crew members captive.
Massoel Shipping, which operates the MV Glarus, said in a statement: “The company is working with the authorities and specialists to secure the speedy and safe release of those being held.”
Seven of those kidnapped are from the Philippines, according to the Nigerian Maritime Agency.
There is also one person each from Slovenia, Ukraine, Romania, Croatia and Bosnia.
Kidnapping for ransom is a big problem in Nigeria, with the Niger Delta region a particular target as it is the source of most of the country’s crude oil.
In August, security firm EOS Risk Group said there had been 34 Nigerian pirate attacks on merchant and fishing vessels in the Gulf of Guinea between January and June this year.
The firm warned that instability in the Niger Delta would increase in the run up to Nigeria’s general election in February next year, possibility resulting in more piracy.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
December 4th, 2018