Certificate forgery Saga: Why 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…..CONTINUE READING HERE

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…..CONTINUE READING HERE