As #WhereIsBuhari trends on Twitter, with President Muhammadu Buhari failing to show up for three Federal Executive Council meetings in three weeks, and also failing to show up for Friday prayers at the mosque in the presidential villa, it was time for the dubious claim that the president had returned to duty today with a meeting with the Attorney-General and the head of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC).
The propaganda offensive seems to have been undertaken too swiftly to ensure the lies were coordinated. The president’s social media assistant and his wife seemed to put out conflicting messages on Twitter.
Bashir Ahmad: "Buhari MET with AG and GMD of NNPC this MORNING"
Aisha Buhari: "Buhari WILL meet with AG and GMD of NNPC this EVENING"
— Tomide (@MrTomide) May 2, 2017
Then, this evening, Channels TV, the pro-Buhari station, decided to make up their own version of the meeting with a broadcast that claimed that the president was back to work, showing pictures of the president, the vice president and other members of cabinet. It was clear that this was not a meeting held today because the footage showed the presence of Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Federal Government, who was suspended two weeks ago.
Channels TV, whose newsreaders kept insisting that the president’s absence in London earlier this year for 49 days was for a “medical vacation” – even after the man himself declared that he was sick – presented this old footage as if it was shot today. They then moved from those pictures to interviews with the Attorney-General and the NNPC boss, who allegedly met with Buhari.
This subterfuge begs the questions: If Buhari had returned to work, why was there no footage of this? If the president was back in ruddy health or “hale and hearty”, in the language of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and propaganda minister Lai Mohammed, why not just address the country to allay fears that something is seriously wrong?