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No, Nigeria’s Peter Obi did not pose for photo with pro-Biafran activist Simon Ekpa

IN SHORT: A photo posted on social media shows Peter Obi posing with Simon Ekpa, who’s accused of sponsoring violence in southeast Nigeria. The photo is manipulated.

A photo circulating on Facebook shows the Nigerian Labour Party’s Peter Obi standing next to Biafran separatist Simon Ekpa.

In the photo, Obi appears to hold a book with Ekpa's image on it. It looks as though the two are standing in an aeroplane.

Claims suggest Obi, who came third in Nigeria’s February 2023 presidential election, is in cahoots with Ekpa. Ekpa has been accused of planning and sponsoring unrest and the forceful implementation of the Monday sit-at-home in southeast Nigeria. He lives in Finland

One post reads

This was Peter Obi the Presidential Candidate of Labour Party in a pose with Simon Ekpa and helping to promote a book he wrote about himself, the IPOB leader. This is the one that wants to rule Nigeria. Our youth will get sense by force when they realize that all they are seeing are just lies. 

Notice the misguided Aisha Yesufu in the background. Check it for those who want to suggest photoshop, this is real picture. We indeed dodged a bullet by now Simon Ekpa and MNK would have been CDS and NSA respectively. 

Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, or MNK, is the founder of the Indigenous People of Biafra, a group leading Biafra agitations. “CDS” refers to the chief of defence staff, while the “NSA” is the national security adviser.

Ahead of the 2023 election, Obi and his party debunked many claims linking him with Biafran separatists. These groups agitate for the restoration of the Republic of Biafra, a secessionist state, which declared independence in 1967 and rejoined Nigeria after a 30-month civil war

Being associated with pro-Biafrans makes a presidential candidate less desirable in other parts of Nigeria outside the southeast, which is the geopolitical zone Obi is from. 

Obi is in court challenging the election of president Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress.

The photo was also posted here, here and here, with similar claims.

But did Obi pose for a photo with Ekpa?


Manipulated photograph 

A reverse image search of the photo did not yield useful results. However, there are indications that the photo was manipulated

Parts of the photo are blurred, including Ekpa’s right arm, slightly in front of Obi, and Obi’s right arm. This is suspicious. 

The bottom of Obi’s left trouser leg is cut off, and the colour of the rug appears to be blue between the two men, while it’s grey in the rest of the photo. 

The image of activist Aisha Yesufu, who appears to be standing behind Obi, is also blurry and her stance appears unnatural. 

Yesufu travelled with Obi to many campaign events across the country, supporting him. Adding her image to the photo may be an attempt to make it seem more credible. 

Another sign that the image is manipulated is the phrase “CAVEAT LECTOR”, which appears to be inscribed on a panel in the aircraft but looks out of place. It is Latin for “let the reader beware”. 

Labour Party says manipulated photo meant to ‘mislead the people’

The chief spokesperson of the Labour Party’s presidential campaign council debunked the claim that Obi and Ekpa had met and showed the manipulated photo side-by-side with the original. 

“They continue to manipulate ,fake information, and mislead the people because they lack legitimacy,” he wrote in a tweet on 27 July 2023. 

The original photo shows author Suraj Oyewale giving Obi a copy of his book, A Mat of Roses. 

Oyewale also announced on Twitter (rebranded X in July) that the photo had been digitally manipulated. 

He tweeted: “Disclaimer. This in-flight picture Mr @PeterObi graciously accepted to take with me yesterday when I presented to him a copy of my book has been photoshopped by some agents of fake news. Aisha and Simon Ekpa were photoshopped into the picture, which I understand is now being shared on Whatsapp, the HQ of fake news. Please ignore.”

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