The rumour mill was active again on Sunday, December 15, 2019 with the fake news that Nigeria’s former self-styled military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, had died.
It was the third time this year alone that the man known as the Evil Genius has been reported dead.
His spokesman, Kassim Afegbua, said that much in a statement he titled “IBB is Alive and Bubbling.”
The statement said: “It has become consistent fake news for quite some time now wishing our own IBB, the one we easily refer to as ‘the last don’ of Nigeria politics, dead.”
While hoping that the controversial Anti Hate-speech Bill which is before the Senate will come to effect to deal with purveyors of fake news, Mr Afegbua said Babangida on Sunday attended to friends and associates who came to see him at his Minna Hilltop mansion in Niger State.
One of those who visited Babangida was former Senate President David Mark.
According to Afegbua, Babangida “is full of life and in his characteristic bubbling mood.”
He described death “as the irrevocable end of all creation” and it “will surely come to everyone someday and at the appointed time and hour.”
Babangida spoke about his own mortality in 2016 after returning from a medical trip to Germany.
That was not the first time he would be travelling to the country to medical treatment.
His long stay, however, sparked speculation that he had died.
Speaking to journalist in the company of some of his acolytes on his return to Nigeria, Babangida said “The rumour does not shock me neither does it bother me because I know I must go and meet my creator.
“There is nothing really to worry about because my religion has told me much about death and we must all go at the appointed time.
“Therefore as a Muslim, I strongly believe everybody has to die. It could be now or in hundred years time or two days to come but the time doesn’t matter because nobody can predict that day or time.”
On May 17, 2019, an online publication claimed that Babangida had died.
That set in motion another round of media frenzy on the wellbeing of the man who annulled the freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria in 1993.
What the publishers of the fake news did not know was that the man was actually preparing to break the Ramadan fast on that day with his children and associates.
Dismissing the report, one of his aides told the media that “this is to tell you that the man is still very healthy and a testimony that he will still live long.”
Rumours of Babangida denying gained traction after he fell while declaring his intention to contest for the 2011 presidency in Abuja in 2010.
His ambition of returning to Aso Rock as a civilian 18 years after he was forced to step aside in 1993 was not the only thing that took a hit that day. His energetic public persona was also dealt a huge blow.
From the man who actively participated in virtually all the coups Nigeria has ever had to outsmart General Muhammadu Buhari to power in 1985, images started appearing of a frail Babangida who had difficulty moving around.
To his credit, Babangida has long informed Nigerians that he has an infirmity known as radiculopathy – disease of the root of a nerve, such as from a pinched nerve or a tumour.
He is also believed to have pellets lodged in his leg from the Nigerian civil war.
Now largely confined to his sprawling Minna home, the man who quit active politics in 2011 as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has become an unfortunate subject for morbid newsmongers.
To such people, Afegbua’s prayer is “May Allah forgive them.”