Claim: A viral WhatsApp message titled, 'Fulanis In Nigeria Are Repeating What They Did In the Central African Republic And How They Were Tackled' was purported to have been written by former Nigeria President, Olusegun Obasanjo.
Verdict: The message is misleading. Obasanjo is not the author of this message.
The Nigerian social media space has been used several times to share fake news, incite violence, and create fear in the minds of people. This is despite the limitless good opportunities it offers the teeming population.
Recently, stories regarding herders-farmers' clash in southern Nigerian communities have become commonplace in the news media and on social media platforms.
Given this and other security threats, some Nigerians have called on the government to allow citizens to carry AK-47 rifles due to the security challenges faced in most parts of the country.
Narratives regarding the Islamisation and 'Fulanisation' of Nigeria by the Buhari administration have also gained prominence in social debates and discussions.
Also, multimedia files projecting these fears are being shared regularly.
However, in a bid to further push this kind of narrative, a message was put together and attributed to former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo. The message has been shared several times on WhatsApp.
Obasanjo, who was in power as both military Head of State and civilian president, is one who had written letters to past and current presidents of the country showing concerns over the state of the nation while proffering possible solutions to the problems.
An example is one written to ex-president Goodluck Jonathan in December 2013 titled 'Before it is too late'.
He also wrote another to Buhari in 2018 advising him to take a rest from politics. It was titled, 'The Way Out: A Clarion Call For Coalition For Nigeria Movement'.
Obasanjo has also presented himself as a strong advocate for a better Nigeria through constant interviews in the media by expressing his opinions on the state of the nation.
Beyond WhatsApp groups, the message has also been shared to other social media platforms such as Facebook and some other popular websites.
Part of the message reads, “Fulanis In Nigeria Are Repeating What They Did In the Central African Republic And How They Were Tackled –Olusegun Obasanjo
“Another civil war in Nigeria has become imminent and inevitable. The reason for its inevitability is simply because Muhammadu Buhari, the Northern Nigeria Fulani oligarchs, and the wider network of Fulani in Sub-Saharan Africa have concluded plans to adopt Nigeria as the homeland for all Fulani in Africa.
“Fulani have realised that the wandering and rootless lifestyle of cattle herding is no longer tenable in the twenty-first century. Fulani need to have land to call home and rear cattle and that land should be Nigeria. The indigenous peoples of Nigeria have clearly, vehemently, and stridently opposed this diabolic plan and both sides are mobilising for war.
“The Fulani won't relent and the indigenous people will not give up their land. The same Fulani Project, having failed so shamelessly and woefully in the Central African Republic, will not be allowed to fail this time as the Nigerian Fulani project is better funded with the massive [stealing] of the sovereign wealth of Nigeria through nationwide kidnapping for ransom by lower-class Fulani and the seizure of the reigns of Government and wealth by the elite Fulani.
“Kidnapping and the seizure of the institutions of Government are all for the purpose of implanting Fulani into the mainstream and control of politics and the economy of Nigeria for the objective of funding the Fulani Project in Nigeria.”
The message also quoted Obasanjo as saying that the Central African Republic had gone through the same Fulani invasion of farmlands and communities currently being experienced in Nigeria, urging Nigerians to rise and defend their lands.
Dubawa read the 20 paragraph-long message which sought to 'inform' Nigerians on plans by Buhari to take their lands for Fulani people, how the herdsmen invasion was tackled in the CAR, and what Nigerians can do to curtail herdsmen invasion.
The message also cited the alleged instances wherein Buhari showed a favourable disposition towards the Fulanis.
Dubawa reached out to Obasanjo's Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, who dismissed the viral message, noting that there is no basis to believe it.
Akinyemi noted that Obasanjo's standard mode of communication has been made public over time, urging readers to look out for the date of the message, and if it had been duly acknowledged by him.
He said, ”In the last four, five years, we have been seeing how this man sends out communication. Before anyone will believe this, it is either coming from his office dated and duly acknowledged by him, not just Olusegun Obasanjo as his name appears in the message.”
Further checks by Dubawa showed that there was no such report in credible news outlets.
Conclusion: This message is misleading and false. Obasanjo did not author the viral WhatsApp message titled, 'Fulanis In Nigeria Are Repeating What They Did In the Central African Republic And How They Were Tackled'.
The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2021 Kwame KariKari Fellowship in partnership with SaharaReporters to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.