It was a reactionary weekend for Nigerians on social media as they had to contend with rumors that their President, Muhammadu Buhari, who traveled to London last week Thursday to “undergo routine medical check-ups” during a short holiday, had died.
President Buhari’s death rumor was met with varying reactions, ranging from celebratory to plain old indifference. Late on Saturday, the Presidency had been quick to react to President Buhari’s death rumor, insisting that all is well with the 74-year old Nigerian leader.
One of President Buhari’s media advisers, Femi Adesina, tweeted;
“Best wishes to all who wish PMB well. As for those who carry evil rumors, may they receive grace to repent.”
Yet another Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, reacting to President Buhari’s death rumor said;
“He is alive and well! President Buhari is not magical. He cannot be holidaying in the UK and be in Germany, dead or alive at the same time.”
President Buhari’s death rumor began its erroneous journey from Metro-uk.com which ascribed the source of its story to unnamed officials of the Nigerian High Commission in London. The article also referenced a presidential aide who claimed Buhari died of an “unknown disease”.
Politicians have always been the major victims of death rumors in Africa but death rumors or hoaxes are a problem of the wide world. In fact, Wikipedia has a “list of premature obituaries“, where names of people who have been victims of death hoaxes are documented.
Here are 4 other African President’s who have been victims of death hoaxes;
President Robert Mugabe
The nonagenarian is the President of Zimbabwe and has, arguably, been a victim of more death hoaxes than any other African leader or celebrity. His foreign vacations often lead to wild reporting of his death.
In August last year, the cycle had once again repeated itself after the President took a trip to Dubai. The leader joked about it when he got back in September, stating that he had come back from the dead;
“Yes, I was dead. It’s true I was dead. I resurrected as I always do once I get back to my country. I am real again.”
President Jacob Zuma
The President of South Africa has also been a victim of numerous death hoaxes. By 2014 they had already gotten so constant that an online poll was conducted to ask South Africans what they thought about the rumors.
A majority, 94% of the respondents, said that the rumors were no longer funny and only 6% insisted that it was “still funny”.
President Paul Kagame
President Paul Kagame was also a victim of a death hoax in 2014. On 10th January 2014, the false rumor of President Kagame’s death had spread like wildfire in the city of Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The DR Congo and Rwanda had not been friendly at that point and as the rumors of Kagame’s death spread in the city, celebrations erupted. Hundreds of people had headed towards the Rwandan border to celebrate his death and a fake cross and coffin were borne in the wake of the celebrations.
The Rwandan government soon doused their celebratory spirit as they denied the news of the death of their leader on social media. The Twitter account of the Rwandan presidency later tweeted a photo of the president shaking hands with visiting MBA students from The Wharton School, at the University of Pennsylvania.
President Peter Mutharika
Last year’s United Nations General Assembly took place in New York City and ended on September 26. The Malawian President, Peter Mutharika, was in attendance and gave an address where he requested the help of the international community to feed his hungry citizens.
After the President did not return to Malawi at the close of the UN General Assembly, questions started to arise. The hashtag #BringBackMutharika trended on social media and the people started sharing fears that he was dead.
President Mutharika’s case was not helped by the fact that back in 2012, former President Bingu wa Mutharika, the current president’s brother, died while receiving treatment in South Africa. The people of Malawi demanded evidence that their President was alive and he did finally return hale and hearty.