Double, double, toil and trouble,” the recipe of the three witches in the cavern in Macbeth, appears to have been geographically misplaced. It is Nigeria, rather than Scotland, which is the epicentre of double trouble. Months after he was rumoured to have died and been replaced by a clone — unfortunately, this was not reported in the pages of Nature, but only on social media — Nigerian president Muhammadu Bukhari has asserted that he is indeed him, and is totally irreplaceable.
In reality, Bukhari had been in London for treatment for an undisclosed ailment, and claims to have returned stronger to face elections. And the government had not hired a body double to pretend to be him back home in Nigeria, like Stalin did when he was dying, posting a lookalike in his dacha to fool the public. This stratagem of the “political decoy” has been commonplace, actually. The most famous was ME Clifton James, who was commissioned by David Niven to impersonate General Bernard Montgomery in World War II, to make public appearances in unexpected places and confuse the Axis forces about the impending Normandy landings. After the war, he wrote a bestseller titled I was Monty’s Double, which was popular enough for Spike Milligan to lampoon it on an episode of The Goon Show, ‘I was Monty’s Treble’.
Bukhari has declined to join the ranks of the greats who had doubles, like Hitler, Sukarno, Saddam Hussein and Boris Yeltsin. From afar, we are deterred from believing him only because of the splendid history of Nigerian scams, the biggest of which, detected in 2017, had stolen the identities of almost 2.6 lakh people. Since Nigerian scamsters have been stealing identities on a global scale, there is no compelling reason to believe that they have not stolen their own president’s.