Photos show armed men at protest against Boko Haram in 2011, not a recent political rally

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on October 13, 2022 at 12:29
  • 4 min read
  • By Tonye BAKARE, AFP Nigeria
A Twitter post shared hundreds of times claims that two photos show armed men who participated in a rally for the presidential and governorship candidates of Nigeria’s ruling party in Lagos. But the claim is false; AFP Fact Check found that the pictures were taken during a protest against a jihadist group in 2011.

“The armed squad of Lagos APC rally of today. It is obvious that 2023 will be a game of blood,” reads the tweet shared on October 9, 2022.

A screenshot of the false tweet, taken on October 10, 2022

One of the pictures shows an armed man dressed in a black and white T-shirt and jeans, walking through traffic. The second shows several men in similar attire brandishing guns and machetes.

The claim was also posted on Facebook along with the second photo.

Campaign season

Election fever is ramping up in Nigeria, where voters will elect President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor as well as governors for the majority of the 36 states and federal and state lawmakers in February of next year.

Former Lagos governor Bola Tinubu is in the running to succeed Buhari as the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The party’s Babajide Sanwo-Olu is also seeking re-election as Lagos state governor.

Supporters of both candidates, led by the chairperson of Lagos State Parks Management Committee Musiliu Akinsanya, rallied on October 9, 2022, with thousands attending.

But the claim that the photos of armed men were taken at this event is false.

Old photo from a 2011 protest

AFP Fact Check conducted reverse image searches and found that one of the photos was published online in 2011 by Deseret News, a news outlet in the US state of Utah.

The accompanying article, published in the outlet's global news section, described how members of the Yoruba militia, Oodua People’s Congress, armed with “shotguns, rifles and machetes freely roamed the streets of Lagos without a sign of police” while protesting the killings carried out by Boko Haram jihadists at the time.

A screenshot of the picture published by Deseret News, taken on October 10, 2022

The terror group began a violent campaign in 2009, and at one time, carved out a large swathe of land as its caliphate in the northeast of Nigeria.

Deseret News credited the American news agency Associated Press (AP) as the source of the news and the photo.

Another American media outlet, the San Diego Union-Tribune, published the same AP report but used a different picture showing the back of one of the armed protestors featured in the false tweet.

Both news organisations credited photographer Sunday Alamba for the respective images supplied by AP.

A keyword search for “Oodua People’s Congress” in AP’s photo database showed a larger set of pictures taken by Alamba during the protest on December 8, 2011, including those published in the US and more recently on Twitter.

A screenshot of the pictures published by AP in 2011, taken on October 10, 2022

At the time of the protest, Tinubu was a member of the now-defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, which later merged with other parties to form the APC in February 2013. He registered as a member of the APC in February 2014.

Election violence in Nigeria

Political rallies in Nigeria have turned violent in the past. Akinsanya and at least eight others were stabbed at an APC rally on January 8, 2019, weeks before the last general elections, which saw 39 people killed across the country.

Although recent governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states in the country’s southwest were largely peaceful, other elections held across Nigeria since 2019 have been plagued by fatal clashes.

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