Nigerian opposition figure Peter Obi is among the candidates hoping to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023. He is popular among young Nigerians, with a large following on social media. Facebook accounts recently claimed that a CNN journalist named her son after Obi and pointed to this as proof of his growing popularity outside Nigeria. However, the claim is false; the journalist gave birth to a boy in 2018, but she did not name him after Obi.
“CNN 'Brianna Keilar' newscaster named her son Peter Obi (sic),” reads a Facebook post published on August 25, 2022. “According to her, never has such a great man emerged from African politics, and since she has seen one 'peter Obi' her son needs to bear the name Peter Obi (sic).”
A screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on August 29, 2022
The post, shared more than 4,700 times, credits another Facebook account called “Igbo Watch” as the source of the information.
“Igbo Watch” indeed published a post with the same text on August 24, 2022; this one has been shared 190 times.
Both posts included images of Obi, CNN journalist Brianna Keilar and a baby. Other accounts published the same pictures with similar claims, including this one, shared more than 1,600 times.
The claims, however, are false.
A reverse image search shows that the picture of the baby is a stock photo available to the public on the website iStock where it was uploaded on May 20, 2019. The caption describes the child as a two-week-old girl.
A screenshot of the photo on the iStock website, taken on August 29, 2022
The Washington Post reported that Keilar gave birth to a boy on June 8, 2018. He was named Antonio Allen Martinez Lujan.
The journalist also shared the news of her son’s birth on Instagram.
Obi was not a presidential candidate of any party at the time.
On October 12, 2018, he was nominated as a running mate by Atiku Abubakar, who was the presidential candidate of the leading opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Nigeria’s 2019 presidential election.
Obi defected from the PDP on May 25, 2022, days before the party held its presidential primary, which was won again by Abubakar. He is now running for president with the Labour Party.
A search on Keilar’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for mentions of Obi came up empty.
Party leaders in Nigeria are already bickering about who is responsible for spreading disinformation ahead of next year’s elections.
Last month, the campaign team for the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, accused Obi’s supporters of using disinformation to “poison” the minds of voters. But Obi’s media adviser Valentine Obienyem said it was inappropriate to link his supporters to misinformation.