Posts falsely claim former president 'stormed' ballot counting centre with poll results in hand

Nigerian social media users circulated posts claiming that former president Olusegun Obasanjo arrived at the national collation centre with results from the 2023 election showing Labour Party’s Peter Obi had won by a landslide. But this is false: live footage from the ballot counting centre shows Obasanjo -- who backed Obi -- was not in attendance on the stipulated day, and one of the main images circulating in the posts showing him in a room full of people was taken in 2019. Furthermore, at the time the claims were made, only a few states had declared their results.

“Breaking news: INEC in shock as Obasanjo showed up at collation centre in with original results from 36 States (sic),” reads a Facebook post published on February 27, 2023 — two days after Nigeria held general elections. It has since been deleted but was archived here.

A screenshot showing the false post, taken on February 27, 2023

The post was published by an account that regularly shares content in support of Obi and has been viewed more than 270,000 times.

The accompanying video shows a still image of Obasanjo in a room full of people. It is overlaid with a voice that claims that the purported result that he presented to the Independent Nigerian Electoral Commission (INEC) had Obi coming first by a margin of 10 million votes, with the People’s Democratic Party candidate Atiku Abubakar in second, four million votes ahead of the ruling All Progressives Congress Party’s candidate, Bola Tinubu.

Obasanjo had backed Obi in the election.

Other posts on Twitter (here and here) claimed Obasanjo “stormed” the results centre. The tweets contained various photos, including the one of Obasanjo in a room full of people that was featured in the Facebook video, as well as a photo of INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu holding a ballot and one of a crowd standing in front of the INEC building.

However, the claim that Obasanjo showed up at the collation centre with results showing Obi had won is false.

Tinubu wins

The electoral commission on March 1, 2023, declared Tinubu winner of the presidential election after he secured more than eight million votes.

But delays in uploading results from various voting centres to INEC’s backend portal left many concerned. INEC said the delays were due to technical hitches.

The national collation centre was formally opened by Yakubu on February 26, 2023. The centre received all the results of the presidential election from 36 states and Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Cameras broadcast live from inside the centre where counting was taking place.

Footage from the second day – when Obasanjo was purported to have visited the centre – showed he was not in attendance.

Also, a reverse image search of the main picture that appeared in the posts shows that it was taken in 2019 when the then-newly elected governor of Oyo state in southwest Nigeria, Seyi Makinde, visited Obasanjo in Abeokuta, in southwest Ogun state.

A screenshot of a 2019 local media report showing Olusegun Obasanjo and Seyi Makinde into during a visit in Abeokuta

On the same day the false claim was shared on social media, Obasanjo issued a press release complaining about INEC’s performance, especially the transmission of results.

At the time, INEC had only declared election results in a small number of states across the nation.

In the final results declared by INEC, PDP's Abubakar came second with 6.98 million votes while the Labour Party's Obi came third with 6.1 million votes. The presidential election saw 27 percent of total registered voters of over 93 million cast their votes.

The electoral commission on March 1, 2023, presented Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima, with certificates of return.