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No, former international footballer Nwankwo Kanu hasn’t endorsed any candidate in Nigeria’s 2023 presidential election

IN SHORT: Nwankwo Kanu and other former international footballers from Nigeria did help celebrate Bola Tinubu’s 70th birthday last year. But the one-time Arsenal star hasn’t endorsed any presidential candidate. Instead, he’s urged citizens to get their voter cards.

With Nigeria’s 2023 elections just weeks away, a message going viral on Facebook claims Nwankwo Kanu, a former captain of the country’s national football team, has endorsed Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Several versions of the claim include a short video of Kanu talking about Tinubu donating N5 million to support the launch of Kanu Heart Foundation in 2000, when the politician was governor of Lagos state. The foundation helps fund surgery for children with heart disease whose indigent households can’t afford the treatment. 

Tinubu was governor of Lagos from 1999 to 2007 and has remained an influential politician in Nigeria.  

Versions of the claim can be found here, here, here, here, here and here.

Peter Obi, a leading contestant in the presidential election, is the candidate of the Labour Party. Obi and Kanu are from the Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria’s southeast geopolitical zone. 

Kanu, a former Arsenal football club star, did not mention Obi or Igbo leaders in the video. Their mention in the message seems to drive the narrative that Tinubu came to the rescue after Kanu’s kinsmen, including Obi, refused to help. 

The frontrunners of the 18 candidates in the race for Nigeria’s presidency are generally understood to be Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, as well as Tinubu and Obi. 

But has Kanu endorsed Tinubu as his candidate of choice?   


Kanu clarifies his visit to Tinubu

The video was shot when Kanu and about a dozen other former international football players from Nigeria visited Tinubu in Lagos in March 2022. This was a few days before the politician’s 70th birthday. 

They were criticised for the visit, especially on social media. 

On 20 March 2022, a day after the visit, Kanu posted a video to clarify his involvement. 

In the video, he reiterated that Tinubu’s donation of N5 million had helped start his foundation. He said he and other footballers simply wanted to congratulate Tinubu on his 70th and discuss a novelty match they had planned to mark the birthday. 

In the video, Kanu advises Nigerians to collect their voter cards and vote for “the right candidate” in the 2023 elections. He does not endorse Tinubu. 

At the time of the visit, Tinubu was not yet a presidential candidate, and there was no guarantee he was going to be on the ballot. Tinubu only became APC’s candidate in June 2022, after he beat about a dozen others to the party’s presidential ticket.

The footballer debunks the recent claim

A few days after the recent claim that he endorsed Tinubu began to spread, Kanu made another video on 27 January 2023 to debunk it. 

In the video, Kanu says: “I am not a politician, I am a footballer” and asks people “spreading fake news” in his name to stop. He says he has not told anybody who to vote for in the election. 

“Hello, my country people, do what is right and vote. Kindly stop spreading fake news in my name that I ask you to vote for. I am not the one to choose who you will vote for, so stop this rubbish with my name and go and get your PVC and vote. I am not a politician,” the text that accompanies the video on Twitter reads.

The claim that the former footballer has endorsed Tinubu is false.

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