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No, Nigeria’s Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu didn’t promise to release pro-Biafra leader Nnamdi Kanu to the Igbo people if re-elected

IN SHORT: Ahead of Nigeria's governorship elections on 18 March 2023, social media posts are claiming that the Lagos governor has promised Igbos in the state that he will release Biafran secessionist leader Nnamdi Kanu if re-elected. But this is false.

A post circulating on Facebook in Nigeria claims that Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has promised to release secessionist leader Nnamdi Kanu “to the Igbos if he is re-elected”.

The post, with a photo of Sanwo-Olu in Igbo dress, reads: “Lagos state governor promises to release IPOB's Nnamdi kanu to the Igbos if he's elected in the second term.”

The Igbo people predominantly live in southeastern Nigeria. Kanu is from Abia, a state in southeast Nigeria.

The Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), and its military wing, the Eastern Security Network, seeks to restore the Republic of Biafra, established with the secession of Nigeria’s eastern region in 1967. After a brutal 30-month civil war that ended in January 1970, the region was reabsorbed into Nigeria. 

In September 2017, the Nigerian government banned Ipob and labelled it a terrorist organisation. 

Kanu has been jailed by the Nigerian government on a series of charges, including terrorism. He is still in custody despite being acquitted by a court ruling in October 2022. 

Sanwo-Olu is seeking re-election as the governor of Lagos state in the 18 March 2023 election

In presidential elections on 25 February, Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state and the country’s president elect for the All Progressives Congress (APC), narrowly lost Lagos state to Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP). This is despite Tinubu traditionally enjoying a stronghold in Lagos. 

There are therefore speculations that Sanwo-Olu, who is seeking re-election under the APC, may lose the state to LP candidate Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour. It is widely believed that Igbo people in Lagos largely voted for Obi in the presidential election.

The Facebook post implies that the governor is trying to win over Igbos voters by promising to release Kanu if he wins the election.

The same claim also appeared here and here on Facebook.

But did Sanwo-Olu make this controversial promise?


‘Nothing like that,’ says governor spokesperson

We found no evidence of any statement like this searching through Sanwo-Olu’s official Twitter account.

There have also been no reports of such a statement in the Nigerian media, which would be expected if it were accurate.

“No, there’s nothing like that,” the governor’s spokesperson Gboyega Akosile told Africa Check. “The photo was taken over four years ago.”

There is no evidence that Sanwo-Olu has promised to release Kanu if he is re-elected governor of Lagos state.

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