Home Nigeria Certificate forgery: Atiku, Obi protest as BBC fact-checkers clear Tinubu

Certificate forgery: Atiku, Obi protest as BBC fact-checkers clear Tinubu



The camps of the Peoples Democratic Party standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar and the  Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, have protested the BBC report that there is no evidence to back the diploma  forgery allegation against  President Bola Tinubu.

BBC’s Global Disinformation Team had in a fact-checking report published on Wednesday said there was no evidence that Tinubu forged the Chicago State University certificate  he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission to contest the February presidential election.

The BBC report concluded that the allegation that Tinubu submitted a forged CSU certificate to the INEC was false.

The Global Disinformation Team explained that it fact-checked the most widely circulated claims to arrive at its conclusion.

The allegation of certificate forgery levelled against Tinubu has been roiling the polity with his opponents in the last election-Atiku and  Obi-taking the ex-Lagos State governor to task over the issue.

Reports that the ex-Lagos State governor’s certificate was faked went viral on social media following the release of his CSU academic records.

The release of the president’s academic documents is the culmination of a judicial case filed in August by former Vice President Atiku, who is seeking to overturn Tinubu’s electoral victory at the Supreme Court.

Atiku had accused Tinubu of falsifying the CSU diploma of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration awarded in 1979 that he submitted to the electoral body.

In a move to strengthen his election petition appeal filed at the apex court, the PDP standard bearer asked an Illinois, Chicago court to compel the CSU to release the President’s academic records, including a copy of any diploma issued by CSU in 1979, a copy of the diploma the 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 him in 1979.

He also demanded documents from the CSU that were certified by Jamar Orr, who was then a staff member of the CSU.

Atiku’s application was opposed by Tinubu’s lawyers citing privacy concerns, but the US court decided it should proceed and the school subsequently released the academic records.

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

The report read, “Some social media users in Nigeria allege that the deposition and the diplomas released by CSU confirm that the diploma submitted to INEC by Mr Tinubu was forged. This claim was also repeated by one of Mr Abubakar’s lawyers, Kalu Kalu, at a press conference last week.

“We found there was no evidence to support this claim. Many social media users in Nigeria have been sharing false or misleading posts about the deposition of Caleb Westberg, the current CSU Registrar.

CSU diploma

“The CSU released several diplomas issued between 1979 and 2003. We analysed all of them. There are three different diplomas for Mr Tinubu that we refer to throughout our analysis:

“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 (it is similar to diplomas issued by CSU in the 1990s).

“Additionally, CSU holds another replacement diploma for Mr 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 Mr Tinubu submitted to INEC and the 1979 diplomas released by CSU.’’

During Westberg’s deposition, the BBC noted that Atiku’s lawyer focused on the copy of the diploma Tinubu handed to the electoral commission and suggested that it was unlike any of the diplomas released by the CSU.

“However, while Mr Westberg agreed with Ms Liu that the diploma in question does not look like the samples from 1979, he stated that the certificate actually looks like three of the diplomas CSU released to Mr Abubakar. Our analysis confirms this.

“It turns out that the discrepancy in the appearance of the diploma is down to it having been re-issued in the 1990s. Mr Westberg said the template of CSU’s diploma has changed several times over the years. He said any request for a new diploma would resemble the current template at that time, no matter when the student graduated.

“As such, if Mr Tinubu had reordered his diploma in the late 1990s, what he would have been given would look like what was obtainable then.’’

Referring to a claim made by a fact-checking organisation in Nigeria that the diploma Tinubu submitted was not from CSU as its diplomas do not include the phrase “with honours” under the degree name,  the BBC said it found that while this was not reflected in the other diplomas released by CSU, “it does appear in Mr Tinubu’s diploma issued in the early 2000s, which was authenticated by Mr Westberg during his deposition.

“It has the words “with honours” – a match with the diploma with the same detail submitted by the president to INEC.”

In response to the new light shed on the controversy by the British broadcaster, Atiku’s Special Assistant on Public Communications, Phrank Shaibu, in a statement, described the report as a hatchet job.

He claimed that the report “is part of President Tinubu administration’s propaganda programme.”

Shaibu said, “Sometime last week when the National Broadcasting Commission  issued a final warning to Arise News TV, we pointed out that the Tinubu administration was on the verge of launching a full-blown propaganda and also intimidating ‘uncooperative’ media houses into discrediting and downplaying the CSU scandal.

“Sadly, we never imagined that it would be the BBC that would become the willing tool.”

Shaibu lampooned the BBC for allegedly attempting to “bamboozle Nigerians with a jaundiced report when the details are clear for everyone to see.”

Atiku’s aide alleged that the BBC investigation was carried out with a predetermined goal- to clear Tinubu.

Shaibu called on the BBC and other fact-checkers to be more circumspect, adding that their job was too sensitive to entertain errors.

The media aide, who advised media organisations to invest more in investigative journalism, noted that “If the BBC had invested in proper investigative journalism, it would have been the one uncovering some of Tinubu’s scandals instead of relying on Atiku for information on Tinubu’s certificates.”

Shaibu in another statement lambasted the President “for holding just one cabinet meeting since taking office 135 days ago.”

He described it as ironic that Tinubu, who has the largest cabinet in Nigeria’s history, had decided not to meet with them.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba could not be reached for comment on Wednesday but the party’s Deputy National Youth Leader, Timothy Osadolor, insisted that Tinubu’s CSU certificate presented to the INEC was not genuine.

He challenged the President to put the information in the public in the right perspective.

Reacting to the BBC report, Osadolor said, “I would urge them to toe the part of honour like the BBC of old, and not get their reputation stained by this saga that has stained so many characters, individuals and institutions.”

The leadership of the Labour Party said they were not moved by the report of the British media outfit, which it hinted was damage control to change the certificate saga narrative.

The National Legal Adviser of the party, Kehinde Edun, told one of our correspondents that regardless of what anyone may say, the president must take responsibility “for the mess he is putting the country through.”

He noted, “They (BBC) are entitled to their opinion. As far as we are concerned, this issue has become so messy and too dirty. In fact, in this circumstance, we even sympathise with Tinubu because he put himself in too many problems by not coming out clean about so many things.”

“If you look at what Peter Obi said today, he was actually showing some form of empathy by saying that this man (Tinubu) should just clean up his mess for the sake of the country.’’

APC berates Atiku

But the Director of Publicity, All Progressives Congress, Bala Ibrahim, slammed the PDP  standard bearer, Atiku, over the certificate controversy.

He applauded the BBC, describing its investigation as “factual and a reflection of reality.”

He told The PUNCH that it was a vindication of what they earlier knew.

He said, “What the BBC has done now is to lend credence to the submission of the president that he did not forge any document. If anybody is in doubt, he can come up with a contrary investigation. For the BBC disinformation team to come with this report, it means the information is sacrosanct.”

Ibrahim also dismissed insinuations that the foreign media might have been compromised to give the president a clean bill.

He said his experience working for the foreign broadcasting station for almost three decades convinced him the British media outfit could not be intimidated or induced.

“I am saying this to dismiss the insinuation by critics of this administration that the BBC is compromised. I served with the BBC for upwards of 27 years and retired as a regional coordinator in charge of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Burkina Faso.

“In all these years of service, one thing is central in the training of the BBC, which is credibility and fact-finding. The BBC lays emphasis on re-training people on fact-finding and importance of credibility.

“That is why the BBC is the only media in the world that doesn’t run advert. It doesn’t collect money from anybody because it is being funded by the Foreign Office. No BBC staffer is in touch with money or allowed to collect money from anywhere. The question of being compromised or influenced to do something is laughable,” he stated.

In a related development, Atiku has again challenged Tinubu to clarify the alleged discrepancies in his CSU academic records.

Aide defends Atiku

Atiku in a statement by his Media Adviser, Paul Ibe on Wednesday clarified that Siddiq Abubakar on his West Africa Examination Council certificate was his former name.

A member of the APC, Ayekoto Akindele had in a Facebook post queried, “At what point did the new name “Atiku Abubakar” changed to “Siddiq Abubakar” which is the name written on the WAEC certificates presented to INEC and when did “Siddiq Abubakar” changed back to Atiku Abubakar which is now his current name?”

Atiku while describing the inquiries as healthy because they seek to probe the truth, added that “We also notice that a lot of those who engage on the issue are supporters and aides of President Bola Tinubu.”

He explained, “To start with, Atiku Abubakar wrote his WAEC examination in 1968 with the name Siddiq Abubakar.

“Every elementary student of Islamic civilization will not find it hard to decipher that both Siddiq and Atiku are names that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) gave to his bosom friend, Caliph Abubakar.

“Therefore, Siddiq and Atiku are names that have a historical link to one person in Islamic theology,” Ibe added.

According to him, Atiku in 1973, more than 50 years ago deposed to an affidavit that he would wish to be known officially as Atiku Abubakar.

The BBC report has, however, divided Nigerians with Bashir Ahmad, a former Digital Communications Assistant to former President Muhammadu Buhari, saying the certificate saga is closed following the BBC fact-checking.

“BBC says no evidence, so case closed,” he wrote on X (formerly Twitter), via @BashirAhmaad.

Reno Omokri, former aide to President Goodluck Jonathan and staunch supporter of the PDP and Atiku, said some Nigerians were “harassing the BBC on social media for stating the obvious truth.”

“Some Nigerians are now flooding the BBC with calls and harassing them. They are also doing the same on all their social media handles simply for stating the obvious truth: That there is no evidence Bola Tinubu forged his certificate.

“This is the same thing they did to the Governor of Illinois and Chicago State University, which made the university lock their X profile. It is the same thing they did to Judge Maldonado’s court,” he wrote via @renoomokri on X.

“Peter Obi already knows he will lose at the Supreme Court. That is why he gave his bumbling press conference today. If you know you have a case, you wait for the court. Pre-empting the court, especially on a day the BBC busted his bubble by saying there is no evidence Tinubu forged his certificate, shows that Obi has seen the handwriting on the wall.

“By the time the Supreme Court also rules that there is no evidence that Bola Tinubu forged his certificate, they will also say that the honourable justices have been bribed. They are incapable of accepting the truth that does not favour them,” Omokri added in another tweet.

Meanwhile, an Obi supporter, @Balatic, queried the BBC’s methodology in gathering its findings.

“Dear @BBCWorld, can you explain to the world how you assembled analysts that analysed the Tinubu certificate saga, ‘found’ no evidence of forgery and went ahead to write an article that shows more evidence while claiming there’s none? Do you now employ quacks as journalists?” the tweep wrote.

A human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, argued that the BBC report failed to answer some important questions especially as it admitted to the existence of three certificates purportedly for one person.

“I have read the BBC article. The crux of the report is based on assumption and conjecture. It has not answered the most pressing questions or added anything new to the issues in contention. It is predicated on the assumption that the replacement diploma certificate that Tinubu presented to INEC, may have been obtained by him from Chicago State University simply because it is similar to or consistent with the format used by CSU during the 1990s.

“If this report was aimed at fact-finding and based on serious investigation, the BBC should have told us what year the certificate was obtained by Tinubu from the CSU,” he wrote on X via @InibeheEffiong.

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