Bayo Omoboriowo, the ex-official photographer of former President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday dispelled long-held rumours that his former principal became the “Jibrin of Sudan” after his health battle and lengthy medical treatment in the United Kingdom in 2017.
36-year-old Omoboriowo was a guest on Channels Television’s The Morning Brief breakfast programme.
He said there was no marked difference between when Buhari fell ill in 2017 and when he recovered “because as he progressed, he was getting better, he was getting fresher”.
Buhari, Nigeria’s democratically elected President from May 2015 to May 2023, fell ill in 2017 and was flown to the UK sometimes early in May of that year and returned later in August of the same year.
During his long stay overseas, rumours that he was dead and had been replaced with a lookalike named Jibrin from Sudan gained notoriety and was popularised by embattled leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
Buhari, also a former military head of state from December 1983 to August 1985, had debunked the grapevine talk.
Omoboriowo, Buhari’s official photographer for eight years, also dismissed the rumour about his former principal.
“I would say it and I owe nobody any apology. To me, President Buhari is a man of grace.
“I still had this conversation with one elderly woman over the Christmas break. She carried me into her kitchen and asked, ‘Is he really Buhari?’ And I tried to explain to her. For instance, I’m his photographer, if he changed, I should be able to know.
“For me, it was more about telling the story of a man that when he went and when he came back, he was still the same to me. He lost weight and he gained weight.
“Our conversations were still the same. When he didn’t see me, he asked, ‘Where is Bayo?’ So, if he is not the same, how would he know what his photographer’s name is?” he queried.
‘Very Challenging Time’
Omoboriowo described the period of the ex-President’s ill health as “very challenging”.
“Those periods were periods when I needed to portray a man in fairness. That he was President shouldn’t take away the fact he is human and I needed to have that mindset because there is very little margin for error in this work.
“The way I presented him has to be fair yet accurate, has to be creative yet professional. That was the balance and it was very emotional for me at that period because someone with so much agility, all of a sudden, I have to be sure he is dressing right because he had lost so much weight at that time. It was a whole lot and it was quite emotional but we were able to document that process.”
Reminiscing on his time as the President’s official photographer, Omoboriowo said Buhari was someone that “trusted you and believed you know what you are doing”.
According to him, Buhari cared less about his photos but he has the posture for great photographs.
“For eight years, President Buhari never asked me to show him the images I created,” he said.
“If he has chosen you, he believed you have the capacity to deliver on that role… And that was one thing very unique about him; he gives you the role and allows you to express yourself.”
‘I Hawked Sachet Water In Mushin’
Omoboriowo said his job afforded him the opportunity of access to the President and other heads of states, saying, “Sometimes, I am the only one in the room with the president at international gatherings with heads of states.”
The photographer, who studied Pure and Applied Chemistry at the University of Lagos said he hawked sachet water in the Mushin area of Lagos State before providence smiled on him.