Atiku, Peter Obi kick as BBC report clears Tinubu of forgery

Peter Obi and Atiku

The BBC’s global disinformation team has said it found no evidence that the Chicago State University (CSU) diploma certificate President Bola Tinubu submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission was forged.

The team comprising Olaronke Alo, Fouziyya Tukur and Chiagozie Nwonwu said it had looked at some of the most widely circulated claims.

Following February’s presidential election, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has approached the Supreme Court in Nigeria seeking to have Tinubu disqualified after accusing him of submitting a forged CSU diploma certificate to INEC.

To obtain evidence for his case in Nigeria, Atiku approached a US court in August, requesting it to compel CSU to release Tinubu’s academic records ahead of a trial at the apex court.

Tinubu’s lawyers had opposed the discovery application, citing privacy concerns and saying releasing the documents could cause him severe and irreparable damage, but the US court rejected his plea.

The documents requested by Atiku were: A copy of any diploma issued by CSU in 1979; a copy of the diploma CSU gave to Tinubu in 1979; copies of diplomas with the same font, seal, signatures, and wording awarded to other students that are similar to what CSU awarded to Tinubu in 1979; and documents from CSU that were certified by Jamar Orr, who was then a staff member of CSU, in the 12 months from 1 August 2022.

In response to request one, CSU submitted seven diplomas covering different disciplines with the names of the students redacted. According to the university’s registrar, these diplomas had not been collected by the students.

In response to request two, CSU stated that it could not find the diploma they issued to Tinubu in 1979 because they do not keep copies of diplomas already collected by students.

In response to request three, CSU stated that it produced for Tinubu a replacement diploma dated June 27, 1979. It also released diplomas awarded to other students that bore similar font, seal, signatures and wordings as Tinubu’s diplomas.

In response to request four, CSU submitted other academic documents initially attested to and released by Mr Orr.

In line with the judge’s ruling, Atiku’s lawyer Angela Liu last week questioned Caleb Westberg, CSU’s current registrar, in a deposition.

The BBC said it was given access to the deposition transcript by Atiku’s spokesperson, Phrank Shaibu.

According to the BBC report, some people in Nigeria believe that the deposition and the diplomas released by CSU confirm that the diploma submitted to INEC by Tinubu was forged.

“We found there was no evidence to support this claim,” the BBC team said in its report.

It added that the CSU released several diplomas issued between 1979 and 2003 and the team analysed all of them. BBC said there are three different diplomas for Tinubu that it refers to throughout its analysis. These are: The original one from 1979, which he has said in the past was lost when he went into exile in the 1990s.

The second one: that he submitted to INEC – supposedly a replacement diploma from CSU.

Additionally, CSU holds another replacement diploma for Tinubu that they say is probably from the early 2000s that he never collected.

The allegations on social media are based on a comparison between the document Tinubu submitted to INEC and the 1979 diplomas released by CSU.

The BBC team went on: “During Mr Westberg’s deposition, Mr Atiku’s lawyer focused on the copy of the diploma President Tinubu handed to the electoral commission and suggested that it was unlike any of the diplomas released by CSU.”

Another allegation making the rounds on social media is that the person who attended CSU with the name Bola A. Tinubu is female.

But BBC said in his deposition, Mr Westberg stressed that there was no confusion about the gender of the person who attended CSU as he was a male named Bola A. Tinubu. He said the university used other factors other than the name to authenticate the student’s identity.

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According to him, the Social Security Number (SSN) in the transcript from Southwest College matches what it had in other documents in which the student’s gender is clearly marked as male.

The BBC report, however, admitted that the released documents did raise questions about Tinubu’s birth date and the secondary school he attended.

It reported that Atiku’s lawyer said during Westberg’s deposition that on the forms submitted to INEC, Tinubu had given his date of birth as March 29, 1952.

However, Westberg, during cross-examination, responded that the discrepancies could have been due to human error.

BBC said it contacted Tinubu’s team for comment about these discrepancies and a spokesperson directed it instead to his party – the All Progressives Congress – and it then contacted Tinubu’s presidential campaign spokesperson Festus Keyamo, who is also a minister in the government.

Reacting to the report, Shaibu said on behalf of Atiku in a statement that it was a “hatchet job”, adding that the outrage it elicited from the generality of Nigerians was enough evidence to show that the BBC had goofed.

On his part, presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 general elections, Peter Obi, called on Tinubu to reveal his true identity.

Speaking during a world press conference at the LP campaign office in Abuja on Wednesday, Obi said Tinubu should save Nigeria from this present kind of embarrassment by revealing his true identity.