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Posts misleadingly claim Nigerian ruling party’s VP candidate said he was unfit for election

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Several social media posts recently claimed that the vice-presidential candidate of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) said he was “sick and unfit” ahead of February’s elections. The posts implied that Kashim Shettima said he was not fit to run. However, this is misleading: while he acknowledged in a Facebook Live session that he was diabetic and had high blood pressure, he said both he and the APC’s presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, were both healthy enough to stand for election.

“Breaking: vice presidential candidate of the APC has confirmed that he’s sick and unfit as the Nigeria elections approaches (sic),” reads a tweet shared on January 10, 2023.

A screenshot of the false tweet, taken on January 23, 2023

The post, shared by a known supporter of opposition candidate Peter Obi, has been retweeted more than 1,300 times.

It included a screenshot of an Instagram post from Nigerian news outlet Premium Times, which featured photos of Tinubu and Shettima and a quote from the latter about their health.

The misleading claim was also shared on Facebook — including here — and a news blog.

Campaigns for who succeeds President Muhammadu Buhari have intensified as the election on February 25 draws closer.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has spent stretches of time abroad for medical treatment

With Buhari spending stretches of his tenure abroad for medical treatment, the health of candidates vying to become the next leader of Africa’s largest economy has been a central theme in campaigning.

Ever since he won the APC’s nomination for presidential candidate, Tinubu’s health has been the subject of controversy and false claims due to occasions on which his hands trembled and speech sounded slurred during campaign rallies.

AFP Fact Check has debunked several claims about his health, including here and here.

During a January meeting in Abuja with other party members, Tinubu reacted to speculation about his physical fitness.

“As you can see, they call me weak, but I am canvassing back and forth and, in every corner, and space of the nation. My opponents are not. I am outworking them because this election is a great mission for me, much more than my personal ambition,” he said.

Officials from his party, including vice-presidential candidate Shettima, have also dismissed the claims that Tinubu would be unfit to lead the country.

Meanwhile, the claim that Shettima declared himself medically unfit to contest the election is misleading.

Misconstrued statement

The Premium Times screenshot used in the false claim features a quote from Shettima that reads: “Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is even healthier than me as I have diabetes and hypertension, which he has none. Even the early Parkinson’s disease people talked about is a lack of sleep.”

A Premium Times article explains that Shettima made the statement while participating in a Facebook Live session where he insisted that Tinubu was healthy enough to contest the elections and lead Nigeria if he wins.

The session was conducted in Hausa, one Nigeria’s main languages, on January 1, 2023, and was moderated by Bulama Bukarti, a senior fellow at the Tony Blair Institute.

A screenshot shows Kashim Shettima (bottom right) during the Facebook Live session, taken on January 24, 2023

At 10’40”, Bulama asked Shettima a question about Tinubu’s fitness to withstand the rigour of being a president.

To underscore how healthy the presidential candidate was, Shettima told his interviewers that he was diabetic and had an “onset of high blood pressure.” These conditions, he said, made Tinubu healthier than him.

“Even the Parkinson’s disease people talked about earlier was due to lack of sleep,” he said about Tinubu.

Shettima did not declare himself unfit at any point during the session and has continued to appear at campaign rallies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated the prevalence of diabetes in Nigeria 4.3 percent and hypertension at 31.2 percent. While both conditions can be fatal, diabetes and hypertension can be managed with proper care.

The vice-presidential candidate doubled down on his statements at a banquet held for Buhari in Lagos on January 23, 2023, panning the “mischievous fixations” on Tinubu’s health.

“We are not preparing for an Olympics but an institution that thrives on the superiority of ideas and established track records,” Shettima said.

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