Old photo shows Nigerian president-elect Bola Tinubu with opposition politician, not chief justice

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on March 14, 2023 at 17:33
  • 4 min read
  • By Tonye BAKARE, AFP Nigeria
Social media accounts recently claimed that an old photo they shared shows Nigeria’s president-elect Bola Tinubu and the country’s chief justice. But the claim is false: the photo, which was taken in London in 1996, shows Tinubu and an opposition politician, Dele Momodu.

“Tinubu and Current Chief Judge of FRN (sic),” reads a tweet shared on March 11, 2023. FRN is an acronym for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

A screenshot of the false tweet, taken on March 11, 2023

The tweet features two men standing on a pavement. Below them is a caption: “That picture is Tinubu and the current chief judge of the federation. No wonder he said we should meet him in court.”

Retweeted more than 340 times, the tweet was shared by a supporter of Nigerian opposition leader Peter Obi.

It was published in response to a tweet by Nigerian broadcaster Channels Television about a court ruling stating that only the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can determine how results of elections can be transmitted from polling units to collation centres.

Several accounts on Facebook shared the same picture with similar captions (including here and here).

INEC declared Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress as the winner of Nigeria’s presidential election held on February 25, 2023, ahead of People’s Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar and Obi of the Labour Party.

Obi and Abubakar rejected the results and headed to the courts, with both claiming to have evidence that they won the election. Their parties said INEC violated the election guidelines on the uploading of the results from the polling units to a central website.

However, INEC and Tinubu’s campaign team insisted that the election was fair and welcomed the legal challenges to the former Lagos governor’s victory.

“Going to court is part of the electoral process, and it is the most decent, statesmanlike and civilised course of action to take,” Bayo Onanuga, a spokesman for Tinubu’s campaign, said in a statement on March 2, 2023.

However, the claim that the photo shows Tinubu and Nigeria’s current chief justice is false.

Old photo with opposition politician

By conducting a reverse image search, AFP Fact Check found that an opposition politician, Dele Momodu, shared the original picture on January 28, 2021. It showed three men instead of two -- the third man had been cropped out in the false posts.

Momodu, a former presidential aspirant in the PDP, said the photo showed himself, Tinubu and journalist Maxi Onumonu. He explained that the photo was taken in London in 1996 “during the NADECO days”.

A screenshot of the tweet showing the original picture, taken on March 14, 2023

NADECO refers to the National Democratic Coalition, a pro-democracy group that campaigned against the regime of late Nigerian strongman General Sani Abacha.

On April 3, 2021, Momodu posted the same picture again, this time with Onumonu cropped out.

“It was at the naming ceremony of my second son ENITANYOLE MOMODU in London, July 14, 1996,” Momodu explained in the caption. “We were in exile then.”

A screenshot of the tweet, taken on March 14, 2023

Tinubu and many members of NADECO were forced into exile by Abacha’s regime. Tinubu said in a 2021 interview that he was in “Britain” during his exile from Nigeria.

Momodu said in a post on Instagram that the claim that the photo showed Tinubu and Nigeria’s chief judge Justice Olukayode Ariwoola was an indication of “how insane social media has become!”

Ariwoola was sworn in as Nigeria’s chief justice on October 12, 2022. His profile published on the Supreme Court’s website showed that in 1996, he was a judge in Oyo state in southwest Nigeria.

The Supreme Court did not immediately reply to AFP Fact Check’s request for comment.

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