Posts falsely claim Nigerian presidential candidates threw in the towel to support each other

Separate claims that two rival presidential candidates stepped down mid-election to back each other instead surfaced on social media as Nigerians went to the polls to elect a new leader. But these claims are false: neither candidate – Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi – had retired from the presidential race by the time polls officially closed on voting day.

“BREAKING NEWS: Atiku bows to pressure, endorses Peter Obi of Labour Party as the most credible candidate for the Presidential Election tomorrow. Says he holds the key to a new Nigeria. Vote LP (sic),” reads a Twitter post published on February 24, 2023 – a day before polling stations opened.

A screenshot of the false post, taken on February 25, 2023

Abubakar, 76, a two-time vice president from 1999 to 2007, is a perennial contestant — he ran for president in 2007 and 2009, and lost his party’s primaries in 1993, 2011 and 2015.

The tweet was published by an account that regularly shares content in support of the Labour Party’s Obi.

It has since been retweeted more than 2,300 times and drawn over 10,000 likes from 112,000 followers.

The same claim also appeared elsewhere on Twitter.

But checks on Abubakar’s verified Twitter and Facebook accounts showed no evidence of him announcing an endorsement for Obi as of the afternoon of Saturday, February 25, 2023.

Abubakar posted pictures of himself casting his ballot at his polling station on Saturday morning.

Also, the party’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as its website make no mention of Abubakar withdrawing and throwing his weight behind Obi.

Neither the candidate nor his party have made any such announcement in the media.

Obi for Abubakar?

Another post claimed the opposite -- that Obi was backing Abubakar.

Obi, 61, is a two-time governor of Anambra state in southeast Nigeria. His popularity among young people -- who constitute the highest number of registered voters in Nigeria -- surged during campaigning.

“The Labour Party Presidential candidate for the 2023 General elections, Mr Peter Obi has withdrawn from the race and declared his support for the People’s Democratic Party’s candidate, H.E. Atiku Abubakar (sic),” reads the text on a Facebook video posted in the early hours of election day on February 25, 2023.

A screenshot showing the false post, taken on February 25, 2023

The post was shared by an account called “Barnabas Tv” and has since received more than 2,900 views.

The narrator in the video claims that the decision to support Abubakar was reached during a private meeting in Abuja.

“This was disclosed in a private meeting between Mr. Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar at his Abuja residence this afternoon,” said the narrator.

The post also appeared on Facebook here.

Again, neither Obi made nor his party made any such announcement.

Checks on Obi’s verified Twitter and Facebook accounts found no declaration in support of Abubakar as of the afternoon of February 25, 2023.

Obi, too, posted pictures of him and his wife casting their ballots at their voting centre on Saturday morning, in Agulu, Anambra state in southeast Nigeria – more than 500 kilometres away from Abuja where the Facebook video's narrator claimed that a meeting took place.

AFP Fact Check asked both parties and the electoral commission for comments. Their answers will be added when we receive them.