ElectionsFact Check

Viral tweets from parody account allege Babangida’s support for Peter Obi

Claim: Using the name of Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria’s former military leader, a Twitter user – in a series of viral tweets – showed support for former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s public endorsement of Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party.

Viral tweets from parody account allege Babangida’s support for Peter Obi

Verdict: The alleged tweet showing support for Peter Obi in the name of Ibrahim Babangida is a parody account. The tweet and contents are not from the former head of state. This claim is false. 

Full Text

On January 1, former president Olusegun Obasanjo wrote another long epistle as he would usually do on public matters. Many Nigerians wondered what the man of many letters had to say this time. 

Mr Obasanjo addressed the electorate, especially the youth, in a new year letter ahead of the forthcoming general election; he also endorsed Peter Obi of the Labour Party saying, Obi is the most appropriate presidential candidate to succeed the incumbent president,  Muhammadu Buhari.

“None of the contestants is a saint, but when one compares their character, antecedent, understanding, knowledge, discipline, and vitality that they can bring to bear and the great efforts required to stay focused on the job, particularly looking at where the country is today and with the experience on the job that I personally had, Peter Obi as a mentee has an edge,” Mr Obasanjo wrote in his open letter to young Nigerians.

But Mr Obasanjo received knocks from opposition parties following his public endorsement of Mr Obi. Supporters of Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accused Mr Obasanjo of planning to achieve his third term ambition by endorsing Mr Obi. They said the former president’s endorsement of any candidate is worthless.

However, on January 2, 2023, following the controversy that trailed Mr Obasanjo’s endorsement, a Twitter account purported to be that of a former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, was used to release several tweets showing solidarity with Mr Obasanjo over his endorsement of the LP presidential candidate. The tweets would soon go viral on social media, with unscrupulous persons engaging the claims massively. 

“I am not against any political party or any political candidate; however, if the reason you want to attain the role of leadership is because you think it’s your turn; or it should remain in a certain geo-political zone. You don’t have my support. I am who I am,” the Twitter user claimed Mr Babangida said.

In another instance, the Twitter thread also reads: “Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo will forever be a true elder statesman and a boss in the military. No serving General in the Nigerian Army today joined the military earlier than 1982. By then, Obasanjo had already finished his military career. I respect him a lot, with his endorsement.”

A few days after, over 20,000 Twitter users liked the tweets, and over 5,000 retweeted, while more than 800,000 accounts generally viewed the posts. DUBAWA observed that hundreds of Twitter users, primarily supporters of Mr Obi’s presidential ambition, embraced the tweets from the cloned account, praising the two former military heads for endorsing their candidate while sharing their comments on the tweets attributed to Mr Babangida.

“A general is always a general. That’s the standard,” said Salim Ado Abdullahi (@salim_ado), a Twitter user. “Our elder statesman has spoken,” Garkuwa Umar (@garkuwa_umar), another supporter of Mr Obi, wrote, corroborating. Many comments under the tweets came similarly. 

Verification 

Interestingly, cross-checking the authenticity of viral tweets is not far-fetched. The ghost author of the purported tweets states categorically on the bio page that the Twitter account is a “parody.” 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “parody” as “a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or ridicule.”

A further check on the account in question — “@General_Ibbro” — showed it is not short of a satirical personification of the former military president. The trajectory of the tweets on the account revealed that the author is a critic of the current administration, hiding under Mr Babangida’s name to express his opinions on public issues.

Viral tweets from parody account allege Babangida’s support for Peter Obi
A screenshot of the alleged account indicating parody encircled.

For example, on November 12, 2022, the same parody Twitter operator claimed Mr  Babangida said: “All the current Presidential Aspirants and candidates have my blessings. I am not supporting anyone, but I will obidently wish all of them the very best in the forthcoming elections.” 

But a psycho-linguistic analysis of the said tweet by this researcher — based on the semantic analysis of the choice of wording and contextual tracking of the phrases and sentences — revealed that the author was indirectly selling Mr Obi to the audience without necessarily mentioning his name. The use of obidiently, (please note the spelling of the word as it is different from ‘obediently’, an English lexicon), a cognomen emanating from obidient, a derivative noun referring to Mr Obi’s political movement, suggests where the interest of the author belongs.

However, on January 7, the media office of Mr Babangida urged Nigerians to disregard any social media account opened in his name. An aide to the former military officer, Salman Yusuf, said in Minna, Niger State, that his principal does not comment on national issues on social media. 

“We wish to state that IBB has never owned nor operated any social media account, and he does not intend to operate any now or in the near future,” a statement by Mr Yusuf reads, urging social media users to ignore “warped imaginations and antics of cyber criminals who do not mean well for the country.”

Conclusion

Nowhere in the media did Mr Babangida make the statements attributed to him via the parody Twitter account. The claim is, therefore, false and misleading.

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