Forged Certificate: Atiku, Obi kick against BBC fact-checkers

Tinubu, Atiku, Obi

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

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

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

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

Recall that the allegation of certificate forgery leveled against Tinubu has been roiling the polity with his opponents in the last election-Atiku and Taking the ex-Lagos State governor to task over the issue.

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

Note that 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 that he falsifying the CSU diploma of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration awarded to him in 1979 which he also submitted to the electoral body.

However,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 which was also issued by CSU in 1979, a copy of the diploma that CSU gave to Tinubu in 1979, copies of diplomas should have 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 a documents from CSU that were certified by Jamar Orr, who was then a staff member of the CSU.

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

In line with the court ruling on this, 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.”

The 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.’’

Westberg in his 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.

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 however 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, stating that their job was too sensitive to entertain errors.

The media aide, who advised media organisations to do more in investigative journalism, noted that “If the BBC had invested more 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 frowned on 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.

However 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 therefore 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 can never be 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 Lambast Atiku

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

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

He said 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 the allusion that the foreign media might have been compromised to give the president a clean bill.

He said his experience s0o far working for the foreign broadcasting station for almost three decades convinced him the British media outfit could not be intimidated or induced no matter the threat.

“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 the same vain, Atiku has again challenged Tinubu to clarify the alleged discrepancies in his CSU academic records.

Aide Supports 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, that is 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 honorable 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 so far.

“Dear @BBCWorld, can you explain to the world how you assembled analysts that analyzed 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 agreed 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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