Doctored photo falsely ties Nigerian presidential candidate to separatist group

Copyright © AFP 2017-2023. All rights reserved.

Nigerian opposition leader Peter Obi has emerged as one of the top contenders looking to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in February’s election. A recent tweet claimed to show a picture of the Labour Party candidate sitting at a table with two Hero Lagers, a beer brewed in southeast Nigeria and often associated with the Biafran separatist movement. But the claim is false: AFP Fact Check found that the photo, posted by a rival politician, has been digitally altered to add Obi’s face and the beers.

“Too much pleasure dey worry this wuna [your] presidential aspirant. Double hero beer with Biafra trademark and isiewu full time (sic),” reads the tweet, which has been viewed more than 754,000 times since it was published on January 24, 2023.

Isi ewu is a traditional Igbo dish of spicy goat head from southeastern Nigeria.

A screenshot of the false tweet, taken on February 6, 2023

The tweet, shared by a politician who failed to secure the presidential nomination from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), features an image purportedly showing Obi sitting at a table with two Hero Lagers and three bowls of food.

Nigerians head to the polls on February 25, 2023, to elect Buhari’s successor, along with governors for the majority of the 36 states as well as federal and state lawmakers.

Obi is one of the top three presidential contenders among the 18 candidates, enjoying significant support from young people.

APC supporter Adamu Garba, who tweeted the image and the claim, has repeatedly tried to link Obi with the Biafran separatist movement.

Garba lost out to Bola Tinubu in his bid to become the APC's presidential candidate. He briefly left the party before rejoining in July 2022.

But the claim that Obi was pictured with Hero Lager is false.

Obi and beers digitally added

Using a reverse image search, AFP Fact Check found a similar image posted on January 23, 2023, by popular Twitter user @JayNaija of himself eating amala, a yam-based dish native to the Yoruba ethnic group.

A screenshot of the tweet, taken on February 6, 2023

AFP Fact Check used several elements to confirm that this is the original photo that was then edited to make it look as though Obi was pictured with Hero Lager.

In both images, the angle of the right arm is the same.

In addition, the sauce bottles align with the placement of the beer bottles.

The bowls of food are also identical, with two having the same distinct pattern around the inside.

Lastly, the same man and water bottle appear in the top-left corner of each photo.

A comparison of screenshots showing the original photo, left, and the altered version, taken on February 6, 2023


Additionally, in the false image, there are clear signs of digital editing around the bottles of lager, including a so-called “halo edge” – a band of lighter-coloured pixels – which occurs when an image is inserted.

A halo edge is also visible around Obi’s head and neck, which are out of proportion to the rest of the torso.

While many people commenting on the picture realise it is a poorly edited photo, it is part of a pattern by Garba of attempting to tie Obi to a separatist movement, which could potentially dissuade some Nigerians from voting for him.

Biafran-linked beer

Calls for a separate state of Biafra remain loud in Nigeria more than 50 years after secessionist leader Chukwuemeka Ojukwu declared the independence of the country’s southeast in 1967. This was followed by a brutal 30-month civil war.

Though the breakaway state has since rejoined the rest of the country, members of the separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and those sympathetic to its cause still refer to themselves as Biafrans.

The Nigerian government designated IPOB as a terrorist group in 2017.

Obi, from the southeast, has repeatedly fought against accusations that he supports or is affiliated with IPOB.

Garba is originally from northern Nigeria, where IPOB and the Biafran separatist movement are sore points that exacerbate pre-existing tensions between the country’s north and south.

Hero Lager is often associated with the Biafran separatist movement. It is commonly referred to as “Oh Mpa”, referring to Ojukwu, meaning “oh my father”.

The label on the beer features a rising sun, the same symbol found on the Biafran flag, and contains similar colours to those seen on the banner.

A screenshot of a Hero Lager beer advert, left, and the Biafran flag, taken on February 6, 2023


Disinformation has dogged campaigning ahead of the polls.

The candidates are being closely scrutinised for any indication that they are unfit to govern, including potential ties to polarising groups or allegations of corruption.

You can find AFP Fact Check’s investigations linked to the Nigerian election here.

Nigeria elections 2023