BBC Africa published a report on President Bola Tinubu’s certificate, titled ‘Bola Tinubu diploma: No evidence Nigeria’s president forged college record’, on Wednesday.
FIJ has found inconsistencies in the report from the BBC disinformation team.
FIJ had fact-checked Tinubu’s academic profile after the Chicago State University (CSU) released his academic records to Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in early October.
From the documents made available by CSU, FIJ found that the replacement certificate Tinubu presented to the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) did not emanate from the university. FIJ came to this conclusion after it compared replacement certificates issued in the 1990s with the one Tinubu submitted to INEC ahead of the 2023 presidential election.
Tinubu’s certificate had some missing features, including the year ‘1867’ which appeared on every other CSU sample. FIJ also found that a signature on the lower right of the certificate appeared legible in a position that was lower than where the year should have appeared, meaning, the signature should have suffered a similar fate if poor photocopying really cropped the year out.
Of particular interest was the expression, ‘with honors’, which appeared on the certificate Tinubu submitted to INEC. The presence of ‘with honours’ in Tinubu’s certificate is a tautology because the certificate goes on to read, “with all the rights, honours, and privileges partaining therto”. None of the 1990s samples provided by CSU showed those words underneath the course of study, and this suggests that Tinubu’s certificate, which was supposedly obtained within the same timeframe, did not emanate from the school. The BBC, however, highlighted the conclusion of “a fact-checking organisation” in its report, claiming it was arrived at in error.
CLAIM: A fact-checking organisation’s claim that the certificate President Tinubu presented to INEC didn’t emanate from CSU is wrong.
“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,” the BBC reported.
“But the BBC found that while this was not reflected in the other diplomas released by CSU, it does appears 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”.
On this premise, the BBC claimed the certificate Tinubu initially issued to INEC was not forged, and that FIJ was wrong.
VERIFICATION: BBC, CSU and certificates disagree
For context, the BBC relied on three different Tinubu certificates for its 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 (BBC: Bola Tinubu diploma: No evidence Nigeria’s president forged college record)
From the bullet points above, it is clear that Tinubu only obtained a replacement certificate from the CSU in the 1990s. The BBC confirmed this: “It turns out that the discrepancy in the appearance of the diploma is down to it having been re-issued in the 1990s”. However, from the samples provided by CSU in its deposition, certificates issued in the 1990s did not include the expression ‘with honors’. The BBC also clearly states in its report that “any request for a new diploma would resemble the current template at that time, no matter when the student graduated”. This renders BBC’s verification of Tinubu’s 1990s certificate with one issued in the 2000s illogical.
Until the CSU provides another certificate from the 1990s which has ‘with honours’, there are only two reasonable explanations for Tinubu’s certificate. One is that it did not emanate from the CSU. Two, whoever created the controversial certificate in Tinubu’s possession copied the template of the 2000s without paying attention to timeframe variations. This is clear in one of the signatures on Tinubu’s certificate. The signature on the right is that of Zaldwaynaka “Z, the current President of CSU, who took office in 2018. A president who took office in 2018 could not have signed a certificate supposedly released in the 1990s.
More importantly, Westberg admitted in his deposition that the certificate Tinubu submitted to INEC was not from CSU.
Both certificates the BBC received from Tinubu’s camp and CSU also disagreed on the date Tinubu’s diploma was granted.
While the diploma Tinubu presented stated it was presented on the “twenty-second day of June” in 1979, the diploma CSU offered stated that it was presented on the “twenty-seventh day of June” in 1979.
There’s no proof that the certificate Tinubu presented to INEC emanated from CSU. Whether third-party recreation of certificates is wrong in the US is a topic for another day.
VERDICT: BBC Africa’s claim — that a fact-checking organisation erred in its report — is false.
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