Academic Qualifications: Tinubu’s ‘Lost’ Certificates.Adunni Adetola
Tinubu’s “lost” certificates.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday published the personal particulars of the 16 presidential candidates and their running mates who will be standing for the February 25, 2023 election.
The publication is mandated by the Constitution to enable members of the public to verify the claims made by the candidates about themselves and qualification for election.
The aspect of the publication that concerns the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, has predictably attracted intense interest. The candidate did not provide information on his primary and secondary education. He also did not attach the certificates for his tertiary education.
In an affidavit attached to the INEC form, Mr Tinubu claimed that his certificates were stolen after he was forced into exile by the military dictatorship of the late Sani Abacha.
He wrote in the affidavit: “I went on self-exile from October 1994 to October 1998. When I returned, I discovered that all my property, including all the documents relating to my qualifications and my certificates in respect of paragraph three above, were looted by unknown persons.
“My house was a target of series of searches by various security agents from the time the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was forced to adjourn following the military takeover of government of 17th November 1993.
“I was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, banking and finance. I was also a plaintiff in one of the two suits against the interim national government in 1993.
“I went on exile when it became clear to me that my life was in danger,” Mr Tinubu said in his claim.
Old controversy reawaken.
But those claims landed him in a bruising controversy in 1999, a few months into his first governorship term, a controversy that has since dogged his heels.
It began when some newspapers published a petition that Mr Tinubu had perjured and forged the credentials he submitted to INEC for the 1999 election. His chief press secretary at the time, Segun Ayobolu, comprehensively reviewed the controversy in an article he wrote in January this year, in response to an attack on the former governor after he declared his presidential bid.
According to Mr Ayobolu: “The kernel of their allegations were: (1) that there was a discrepancy in the age of the governor since the profile published during his inauguration stated that he was born in 1952 and the age on his transcript at the Chicago State University claimed that he was born in 1954; (2) that the governor did not attend Government College, Ibadan, as was stated in his profile and INEC FORM CF.001; and (3) the governor did not attend University of Chicago as claimed in INEC FORM CF and an affidavit sworn to at the Ikeja High Court of Justice on 29th December 1998.”
Following the publication of the petition in the newspapers, human rights lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, who died in 2009, pursued a case of certificate forgery and perjury against Mr Tinubu until the Supreme Court dismissed the suit on the technical grounds that the governor had immunity against prosecution in court.
The court said only the state House of Assembly could investigate Mr Tinubu and punish him if found to have committed acts constituting gross misconduct.
On September 21, 1999, the House set up a five-member ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations. The members of the committee were Babajide Omoworare (Chairman), Thomas Fadeyi, Adeniyi Akinmade, Ibrahim Gbabijo and Saliu Mustapha.
House of Assembly probe
The committee invited the petitioners and visited their address when they did not turn up. After discovering that the address was fake, the committee concluded that the petitioners’ names too were fictitious.
Nevertheless, the probe committee said Mr Tinubu appeared before the committee on September 23, 1999, alongside his counsel, Femi Falana.
According to the report of the committee, Mr Tinubu took “full responsibility” for some “needless errors” which he said formed the basis of the allegations against him.
“The governor told the Committee that as a result of the acrimonious primaries of the Alliance for Democracy in Lagos State and its attendant crisis, the information contained in both the INEC form and affidavit of loss of certificates was supplied by Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi.
“The governor then submitted to the Committee a copy of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) senatorial candidate form dated June 1, 1992, which he used to contest the 1992 senatorial election as candidate of the party for Lagos West.
In the form, which he personally filled, the governor attached the certificates of Richard Daley College and Chicago State University. For his educational qualifications he filled B.Sc Accounting only.
‘This according to him demonstrated that “needless errors” spotted in the 1999 INEC form were not consistent and that they were ‘genuine errors’. He further directed the attention of the committee to the INEC form CFO1 that bore a wrong date of twenty-eight December 1999 instead of twenty-eight December 1998.
The error he said was made by INEC which printed the form. And not even the Commissioner of Oath detected the error. This in his view further confirmed that the hurried and confused manner under which the preparations for the governorship primaries of 1998 were gave room to error on all sides.”
Mr Tinubu also disowned, before the committee, the information in the INEC filings that he attended primary and secondary schools in Nigeria.
“The Governor spoke about his difficult and traumatic youth and how he scaled the hurdles of life as a self made man. After his primary education, the Governor said he was admitted into secondary school but he could not further his education because of his poverty.
The Governor thus had to engage in menial jobs before he proceeded to the United States of America in search of the Golden Fleece. The Governor informed us that in America, he undertook various odd jobs and tried to improve himself academically. After five years of the most harrowing work experience, the Governor said he enrolled at Richard Daley College in Chicago, which among others offers basic, remedial and academic classes, preparatory to entering Chicago State University. He presented a photocopy of a certificate issued by Richard Daley College (City Colleges of Chicago), a copy of which is attached as herewith and marked as “Annexure 5″.
Throughout the time he studied in Chicago, the Governor said he also had to fend for himself and that he actually paid his way through school by working extra hours as a tutor in the same university. He said he studied for extra hours especially during summer. The Governor said 27 (twenty seven) credit hours were transferred from Richard Daley College to Chicago State University, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Business and Administration. His major was in Accounting.”
It could not immediately confirm whether he amended his claims to reflect his disclosure to the state lawmakers in his filings with INEC when he sought reelection in 2003.
But in his 2022 filings, Mr Tinubu did not claim to attend those lower schools. He left the columns for the information blank. He also merely gave his tertiary education qualifications but did not state the name of the institution where he got them. He also attached the old affidavit about the theft of his certificates.
However, those discrepancies in his early education record from 1999 and the claim of loss of certificates have continued to feed the dispute over Mr Tinubu’s identity – his real name, age, parentage and ancestry. Even though the late market union leader, Abibat Mogaji, never disputed her maternity of Mr Tinubu, and other members of the prominent Tinubu family of Lagos have not denied his membership of the family, his political opponents continue to insist that he is not who he claims to be.
Like Buhari, like Tinubu
The reactions of the media and some of the opposition parties so far indicate that the development may quickly shape up into another controversy, like the one that surrounded President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and 2019. The then APC candidate had also submitted that the original copy of his secondary school certificate was with the Board of the Nigerian Army and that the other certificates were stolen when he was overthrown in the military coup of August 1985.
Mr Buhari had made the same claims since he first stood for election in 2003. However, in 2015, it exposed him to the ridicule of his opponents and their supporters. They alleged he did not write the school certificate examination, insinuating that he was commissioned into the army without the requisite qualifications.
Four years later in 2019, the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar, took the issue further when he listed it as one of the grounds for his petition against the reelection of the president. The West African Examination Council (WAEC) issued an “attestation certificate” to the president, to confirm that he obtained a secondary school certificate from the examination body in 1961.
Mr Tinubu can expect to come under a similar storm until at least after the poll. As the frontrunner by virtue of being the candidate of the ruling party, opponents will consider all means fair to bring him to heel.
Already, his opponent of the Action Peoples Party, Osita Nnadi, has indicated he would be asking the court to disqualify Mr Tinubu, while a civil rights organisation, Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy, has urged the police to arrest him.
Femi Aribasala took to Twitter to chip in some information about the fact that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu reportedly told the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that he didn’t attend primary and secondary school, and his tertiary certificates were stolen by unknown soldiers. In a post he made on Twitter, he stated that he had wrote in year 2014 that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s affidavit that he attended Government College Ibadan (GCI) between 1965 and 1968 is false.
Comment: BAT does not need certificates to become our president. Buhari equally has none.
Ground for disqualification.
Section 137 (1) of the constitution states that a candidate may be disqualified for presenting a forged certificate to INEC. In his own case and just like President Buhari, Mr Tinubu has since 1999 not presented any certificate to the electoral commission, swearing to an affidavit that they were all looted after he fled into exile.
But the court appears to have drawn the line under the case of his alleged infraction of 1999 over which the late Mr Fawehinmi had filed his suit.
Six years after Mr Tinubu left office as Lagos governor, one Dominic Adegbola, on June 4, 2013, asked the Federal High Court to reopen Mr Fawehinmi’s suit and to compel the Inspector-General of Police to investigate Mr Tinubu for alleged forgery.
But the judge, Saliu Saidu, dismissed the case, saying it had become statute-barred. The judge further reprimanded the applicant for going to sleep since 2007 when Mr Tinubu lost his “toga of immunity.”
The basic requirement stipulated by the 1999 Constitution for a Nigerian citizen to qualify for an electoral position is a “school leaving certificate or its equivalent.”