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Tinubu’s Certificate: ‘No evidence’ Nigerian President forged academic records –Investigation + CSU Diploma Photos

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR

*The BBC Global Disinformation Team, in a recent investigative report, found ‘there is no evidence that the Diploma Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu submitted to the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was forged’

*’We are confident and always have been in the veracity and integrity of our records regarding Tinubu’s attendance and completion of graduation requirements,’ says CSU

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

As the reported controversy over the authenticity or otherwise of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Certificate from the Chicago State University (CSU), in the United States (US) rages in the virtual space in Nigeria, the BBC Global Disinformation Team has stated that it found “there is no evidence that the Diploma Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu submitted to the country’s Electoral Commission was forged.”

ConsumerConnect reports there have been rife allegations that President Tinubu’s CSU certificate was faked, and these went viral, especially on social media platforms, when a US court ordered the University to release his academic records to Abubakar’s lawyers last week.

A copy of CSU Certificate Tinubu submitted to INEC       Photo: BBC Global Disinformation Team

The BBC Team noted that hitherto, several social media users in the West African country had been “sharing false or misleading posts about the deposition of Caleb Westberg, the current CSU Registrar.”

The report also disclosed the Global Disinformation Team had examined some of the most widely circulated claims in Nigeria.

According to the report, the release of Tinubu’s academic documents is the culmination of a judicial case filed August 2023 by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), one of his main rivals February 25 Presidential Election election, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

“Mr. Abubakar was hoping to have the victor (Tinubu) disqualified after accusing him of falsifying the CSU diploma of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration awarded in 1979 that he submitted to the electoral authority (INEC),” stated the report.

In a move to “obtain evidence” for his case in Nigeria, Abubakar later approached a US court in August, requesting it to compel the CSU to release Tinubu’s academic records through a process called discovery, where the parties exchange information, including documents ahead of a trial.

At the first, Tinubu’s lawyers had opposed the discovery application, citing privacy concerns, but the US court decided it should proceed.

Before the ruling, the documents Atiku Abubakar requested were:

As regards the copy the Diploma CSU gave to Mr Tinubu in 1979, the Team found that copies of Diplomas with the same font, seal, signatures, and wording awarded to other students that are similar to what CSU awarded to Tinubu.

Diplomas CSU issued to its students in 1998 and 1999. The one from 1998 appears identical to the diploma Tinubu submitted to INEC in Nigeria      Photo: CSU

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.

The report indicated that in response to request one, the CSU submitted seven Diplomas covering different disciplines with the names of the students redacted.

According to the US University’s registrar, these Diplomas had not been collected by the students.

In its response to request two, CSU stated that it could not find the Diploma they issued to Mr. 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 27 June, 1979.

The University equally released Diplomas awarded to other students that bore similar font, seal, signatures and wordings as Tinubu’s Diploma.

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

Therefore, in line with the Judge’s ruling, Abubakar’s lawyer Angela Liu last week questioned Caleb Westberg, CSU’s current Registrar, in a deposition, report noted.

“The BBC was given access to the deposition transcript by Mr. Abubakar’s Spokesperson, Phrank Shaibu,” said the report.

The disinformation propaganda machine in social media space

The BBC Global Disinformation Team, however, stated that some social media users in Nigeria yet alleged that the deposition and the Diplomas released by CSU confirmed that the Diploma President Tinubu submitted to Nigeria’s INEC was forged.

The report said: “This claim was also repeated by one of Mr. Abubakar’s lawyers, Kalu Kalu, at a press conference last week.

Tinubu’s Diploma Certificate that was reordered in the 1990s that CSU still has in its possession as he did not collect it    Photo: CSU

“We found there was no evidence to support this claim.”

The BBC Team noted that several social media users in Nigeria had been sharing false or misleading posts about the deposition of Caleb Westberg, the current CSU Registrar.

It stated: The CSU released several Diplomas issued between 1979 and 2003. We analysed all of them.”

According to the Team, “there are three different Diplomas for Mr. Tinubu that we refer to throughout our analysis” as follows:

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 Team also found that 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.”

It further recalled that during Mr. Westberg’s deposition, 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.

Westberg’s clarifications on CSU Diplomas

The BBC Global Disinformation Team, however, noted while Mr Westberg agreed with Ms Liu that the Diploma in question does not look like the samples from 1979, the CSU Registrar said that the certificate “actually looks like three of the Diplomas CSU released to Mr. Abubakar.”

In regard to the BBC Global Disinformation Team’s key findings, the report stated: “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 had changed several times over the years.”

The Team further clarified that “he (Westberg) said any request for a new Diploma would resemble the current template at that time, no matter when the student graduated.”

The report suggested ‘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.”

According to the Team, both the Diplomas CSU issued to students in 1998 and 1999, the one from 1998 appears identical to the Diploma Mr. Tinubu submitted to INEC.

“Three of the Diplomas dating from the 1990s that CSU submitted were similar to Mr. Tinubu’s.

“One of them, which bears the date 18 December 1998, is identical (aside from the names, class of degree, and dates) to the diploma Mr Tinubu handed over to INEC.

Besides, the report indicated that Westberg, the current CSU Registrar, stated that “CSU does not keep notes of when a graduate asks for the reissuing of a Diploma, and therefore, Mr. Tinubu’s request for a copy of the Diploma was not recorded.

The Team equally noted that the copy Tinubu gave to the INEC had part of the University logo missing, which Mr. Westberg said in his deposition was possibly “cut off” when it was photocopied.

It stated: “We analysed the Diploma. It appears, in fact, that its bottom part was not included during the photocopy process.

“Diploma Mr. Tinubu submitted to INEC with the red circle highlighting the missing portion.

What a copy of Diploma got from Tinubu’s Team shows

The BBC further disclosed that it reached out to President Tinubu’s team to get a copy of the Diploma in question.

“They sent what they said was the only existing copy of the Diploma. It is a black and white photocopy identical to what was submitted to INEC,” it stated.

The BBC Global Disinformation Team also referenced another claim, made by a fact-checking organisation in Nigeria.

It said the organisation claimed that the Diploma Tinubu had submitted to INEC was not from CSU, as its Diplomas do not include the phrase “with honors” under the degree name.

However, the BBC 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 honors” – a match with the Diploma with the same detail submitted by the President to INEC.

According to the Team, Tinubu’s Diploma that was reordered in the 1990s that CSU still has in its possession as he did not collect it.

“Westberg said that the school could authenticate this particular Diploma because it was still in its possession as it was never picked up.”

The Team also found that “not every student graduates from University with honours.

“Mr Tinubu, as attested to by CSU in several court documents seen by the BBC, did graduate from CSU with honours.”

The BBC Team’s discoveries at CSU, United States

The BBC Global Disinformation Team further disclosed it contacted the CSU with questions about its Diplomas, and it referred us to a statement that read in part: “We are confident and always have been in the veracity and integrity of our records regarding Tinubu’s attendance and completion of graduation requirements.”

Was the student who attended and graduated from CSU with the name, Bola A Tinubu, female?

The Global Disinformation Team further investigated another allegation making the rounds on social media platforms, that the person who attended CSU with the name Bola A Tinubu is female.

The report said Tinubu attended Southwest College (now known as Richard J. Daley College) before transferring to CSU in 1976.

In Southwest’s transcript, there is an “F” (for “female”) in the column where gender is indicated, leading to claims that “it was a woman who attended the school and Mr Tinubu ‘stole her identity’.”

Atiku’s lawyer, Mr Kalu, alluded to this in a press conference last week, report stated.

The BBC Team, nonetheless, said in his deposition, Westberg had  stressed that there was “no confusion about the gender of the person who attended CSU as he was a male named Bola A Tinubu.”

The Team noted the Registrar said the University “used other factors other than the name to authenticate the student’s identity.”

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

On alleged discrepancies in Tinubu’s date of birth

As regards the date of birth on Tinubu’s records at CSU, the Team confirmed that the “released documents did raise questions about Mr. Tinubu’s birth date and the secondary school he attended.”

One of the documents stated that Mr. Tinubu attended Government College, Lagos, in 1970. However, information available on the school Web site stated that it was only founded in 1974.

Aside from the gender discrepancy, the birth dates in some of the released documents differ from the official birth date of President Tinubu, which is 29 March, 1952, the report said.

The report also noted: “His transcript from CSU has his date of birth as 29 March, 1954.

“His undergraduate admissions application form has his date of birth as 29 March, 1955.”

Earlier, Atiku’s lawyer was reported to have said during Mr. Westberg’s deposition in the US Court that on the forms submitted to INEC, Mr. Tinubu had given his date of birth as 29 March, 1952.

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

Responding to the observation on reported discrepancies, the BBC Global Disinformation Team said it contacted Tinubu’s team for comment about these.

The Team disclosed that it was directed instead to his All Progressives Congress. “We then, contacted Mr. Tinubu’s presidential campaign Spokesperson Festus Keyamo, who is also a Minister in the government.

“He did not take our calls or respond to our text and WhatsApp messages.

“We also sent questions to Mr. Abubakar’s team. They did not respond,” submitted the BBC Global Disinformation Team in its report.

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