The presidential candidate of Labour Party in the February 25, 2023 election, Mr. Peter Obi, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, were yesterday locked in a verbal war over alleged identity controversy of President Bola Tinubu.
Obi had asked President Tinubu to save Nigeria and Nigerians further embarrassment by clearing the air on his identity, but the APC insisted the President had no identity crisis.
This came as the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, said there was no evidence to show that Tinubu submitted forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
However, Atiku in a swift response, described the BBC report as a jaundiced and hatchet job.
Speaking at a briefing in Abuja, yesterday, Obi noted that he, like many other Nigerians, had to answer embarrassing questions about the genuineness of the President’s academic credentials, especially his Chicago State University, CSU, certificate.
According to him, it is no longer acceptable for the President to hide behind a battery of lawyers and hordes of professional image launderers and journalists to mask his true identity because he is no longer a private citizen.
To end the controversies surrounding his identity, the former Anambra State governor, reeled out his given name, his baptismal name, primary, secondary schools and universities attended, and urged President Tinubu to personally address Nigerians and answer 14 probing questions.
Obi asked Tinubu to re-introduce himself, state his name, nationality, place of birth, parentage, primary and secondary schools attended with dates, universities he attended and certificates obtained, where and when he did his NYSC, and disclose if he had a change of name at any time and the circumstances.
Nigerians deserve the truth about president’s true identity — Obi
Obi said: “Having followed the prolonged identity crisis that recently played out in the American court system and the controversy surrounding the authenticity of the Chicago State University credentials of Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, I must confess that I am distressed as a Nigerian.
“In addition to the barrage of media frenzy that the matter has triggered at home and abroad, I have had the unwholesome burden of responding to embarrassing questions about Nigeria’s overall credibility as a nation to privileged audiences and individuals both at home and abroad in different parts of the world where I have travelled lately.
“To outsiders, the entire Chicago State University matter as well as Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s many other lingering identity question marks have further worsened Nigeria’s less-than-glorious image internationally.
“Uninformed outsiders now see every other Nigerian as a potential fraudster, certificate forger, or identity thief. The controversy is unnecessary just as the implicit global embarrassment could have been avoided.
Saving Tinubu, Nigeria from undue embarrassment
“In my opinion, Chief Bola Tinubu should have saved the nation and himself from this protracted embarrassment and undue anxiety.
“Even this late in the day, however, Chief Bola Tinubu still owes the nation and the world a simple debt of obligation that only he can discharge. I call on him to immediately and personally mount the rostrum of his present high office to perform a simple task once and for all time.
“He should re-introduce himself to the nation he governs and to the world for the avoidance of further doubt.
“He should let the world know his name, nationality his place of birth, his parentage, the primary and secondary schools he attended with dates as well as the actual universities he attended and certificates obtained.
“He should indicate clearly where and when he did his National Youth Service. In addition, if at any time he has had a change of name, he should clearly state so and the circumstances.
“That, in itself, is no crime. This simple task should take no more than a few minutes. It requires no affidavits, prolonged court processes, spokespersons, agents, or surrogates.
“This task is one that only Chief Bola Tinubu himself through a direct personal statement can perform. He must perform this task urgently in order to lay to rest, once and for the last time, the many lingering doubts and valid speculations about his true identity.
“A leader cannot outsource a clear, unambiguous personal statement about his identity to political surrogates, social spokespersons, lawyers, or any other persons no matter how highly placed.
“A matter of the personal identity of a leader is too sensitive and central to the functions of the office he currently occupies to be trifled with, outsourced, or disguised under the cloak of officialdom.
“It is also about integrity, morality, values, and the rule of law that denies the character of the Nation and its people. In his present capacity as a leader of a nation of over 200 million Nigerians, his true identity is a matter of grave national and international interest.
“The people deserve to know for a certainty the true identity of their leader and this overrides whatever rights he may have to personal privacy. In addition, the international community deserves to know the true identity of the person with whom they will engage in Nigeria.’’
Asked if he was favourably disposed to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s call to join the fight to unravel the controversy behind Tinubu’s true identity, Obi said on matters of national interest, he is open to protecting the nation, adding that the issue had gone beyond politics or political considerations.
On why he didn’t query Tinubu’s credentials when INEC displayed same for scrutiny prior to the elections, he said “it is never too late to do the right thing.”
He recalled that the famous sprinter, Ben Johnson, won an Olympic gold before he was busted for doping, and punished.
President has no identity crisis — APC
Responding, the APC lambasted Obi over his call on President Bola Tinubu to explain his identity to Nigerians, saying Obi’s rhetoric are the broken voice notes of Atiku, his fellow election loser.
Spokesman of the APC, Felix Morka in a statement, said like a befuddled mind jolted out of deep slumber, Obi “hugged a podium to echo a script authored by Atiku Abubakar, his senior partner and co-traveller on a dark ignominious alley to nowhere.”
“At his press conference earlier today, Mr. Obi blathered on about President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s identity and academic record, like a broken voice note of Atiku Abubakar, cutting a pitiful profile as though forced to read a prepared statement by his unimaginative handlers, and mendacious associates in the Peoples Democratic Party.”
Morka noted that unwilling to miss out in the orchestrated campaign of calumny against President Tinubu over his certificate from the Chicago State University, Obi jumped on the tailboard of Atiku’s bandwagon to satisfy his uncanny and insatiable thirst for cheap media attention, long after his Labour Party had dissociated itself from a bogus call to action by the former Vice President.
He said Obi in his drivel, demanded that the President reintroduce himself to Nigerians, as though the 8.9 million Nigerians who voted him last February were all groggy when they made their free democratic choice.
Part of the statement read: “Mr Obi must know that President Tinubu does not need a re-introduction. He does not have any identity problem, except the one contrived by the Atikus and Peters of our political firmament.
“The 8.9 million Nigerians who voted him into office were, and remain, aware of his outstanding record and accomplishments as a defender of democracy, freedom, social and economic justice for over three decades. Nigerians know President Tinubu as a thoroughbred professional and former auditor and treasurer of Mobil Nigeria, now ExxonMobil.
“Nigerians know the President as a former Senator of the Federal Republic where he served as Chairman of the influential Finance and Appropriations Committee.
“They know him as a former Governor of Lagos State who designed and paved the pathway to the growth and prosperity of present-day Lagos, the 5th largest economy in Africa.
“Nigerians know who they voted for as the 16th President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They voted for him with full faith and confidence that his track record and wide competencies would help in the re-engineering of our country’s economy for the good of the greatest number of Nigerians.
“In marked contrast, Nigerians have flatly and serially rejected Atiku Abubakar, and denied Peter Obi’s presidential bid in the last election.
“Beyond regaling Nigerians with false and embarrassing statistics for which he has gained notoriety, Peter Obi cannot be said to be known for any outstanding performance as governor of Anambra State for eight years with no worthy legacy standing to his name.
“As for President Tinubu’s academic record at the Chicago State University, the facts are clear and settled except for those politically jaundiced by the trauma of electoral defeat.
“The Chicago State University has unequivocally stated over and over again, and in a deposition, under oath, by the Registrar, Caleb Westberg that President Tinubu attended the school and graduated with Honours.
“Nigerians are now familiar with stellar academic performance of President Tinubu as evidenced by his transcript as released by the CSU with 18As, 10Bs and 3Cs grades.
“It is disturbing and utterly contemptuous of the courts of our land for the duo of Atiku and Obi to rail and pollute the public space with the very same issues that they have submitted to the court for adjudication. They have continued to perpetrate public deception, operating, simultaneously, as accusers and judges in their own base cause.
“We condemn the sordid and disgraceful attempt by Obi, Atiku and their cheerleaders to use the mainstream and social media to intimidate the judiciary, incite the public to violence, disparage Justices of the Appeal and Supreme Courts, and we urge all well meaning Nigerians to condemn this anti-democratic and irresponsible conduct of both political naggers
“For the records, our team of lawyers stand advised to explore all available judicial mechanisms towards bringing Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar to justice for their ceaseless contemptuous conduct.”
Atiku wants the Supreme Court to overturn the decision of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, PEPT and sack Tinubu as president. He sought and obtained Tinubu’s academic records from the CSU, which after deposition on oath, he has filed as fresh evidence at the apex court. He is accusing Tinubu of falsifying the CSU Bachelor of Science in Business Administration certificate awarded in 1979 that he submitted to the INEC.
To obtain evidence for his case in Nigeria, Mr. Abubakar approached a US court in August, requesting it to compel CSU to release Tinubu’s academic records through a process called discovery, where the parties exchange information including documents ahead of a trial.
Tinubu’s lawyers opposed the discovery application, citing privacy concerns but the US court decided it should proceed.
The documents requested by Atiku were: A copy of any diploma issued by CSU in 1979; a copy of the diploma CSU gave to Mr 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 Mr Tinubu in 1979; and 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.
In response to request one, the BBC said the CSU submitted seven diplomas covering different disciplines with the names of the students redacted. According to the university’s registrar, these diplomas had not been collected by the students.
In response to request two, CSU stated that it could not find the diploma they issued to 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 Mr Tinubu a replacement diploma dated 27 June 1979. It also released diplomas awarded to other students that bore similar font, seal, signatures and wordings as Mr Tinubu’s diplomas.
In response to request four, CSU submitted other academic documents initially attested to and released by Mr Orr.
In line with the judge’s ruling, Mr Abubakar’s lawyer, Angela Liu last week questioned Caleb Westberg, CSU’s current registrar, in a deposition.
It said: “The BBC was given access to the deposition transcript by Mr Abubakar’s spokesperson, Phrank Shaibu.
“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.
“We found there was no evidence to support this claim. 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 Mr Westberg’s deposition, Mr 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.
‘’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.
“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.
‘’Mr Westberg also 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 copy he gave to the election commission had part of the university logo missing, which Mr Westberg said in his deposition was possibly “cut off” when it was photocopied.
“We analysed the diploma. It appears in fact that its bottom part was not included during the photocopy process.’’
The BBC said it reached out to Mr Tinubu’s team to get a copy of the diploma in question, adding tat 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.
Another claim, made by a fact-checking organisation in Nigeria, was that the diploma Mr Tinubu submitted was not from CSU as its diplomas do not include the phrase “with honors” under the degree name.
But 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.
“Mr Westberg said that the school could authenticate this particular diploma because it was still in its possession as it was never picked up.
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 said it contacted CSU with questions about its diplomas and it referred us to a statement that read in part, saying “we are confident and always have been in the veracity and integrity of our records regarding Tinubu’s attendance and completion of graduation requirements”.