Debate on school certificates of Tinubu, running mate rages

By Tunde Joshua, Politics Editor

  • Supporters, opponents exchange fire
  • I’ve lost credentials, Masari tells INEC

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is always in the news but for about a week now, in the eye of the storm, largely the social media, over controversies surrounding his academic background.

He was said to have left vacant some columns to be filled with information on both his primary and secondary education. In a sworn affidavit deposed to in a Lagos High Court, which was attached to the documents submitted to INEC, Tinubu explained how he lost his educational certificates.

The affidavit states: “I, Tinubu Bola Ahmed, hereby make oath and declare that I am the person seeking election into the office of president in the Nigerian constituency and the particulars given hereinunder are correct, true and to the best of my knowledge.

“I went on self-exile from October 1994 to October 1998 when I returned and discovered that all my property, including all the documents relating to my qualification and my certificates in respect of paragraph 3 above, were looted by unknown persons.”

The electoral law mandates candidates to submit their personal credentials that will be published for public scrutiny ahead of elections. INEC published documents submitted by the candidates. Immediately after the screenshot copy of the vacant columns went viral on the social media, comments in support and against the politician hit the airwaves.

INEC Chairman Yakubu

Questions are now being raised on why Tinubu’s latest claims contradict his previous election submissions, especially in 1999 and 2003 in which he claimed both times that he attended primary and secondary schools with their names mentioned.

Returning to the social media, Dr. Femi Aribisala who accused Tinubu of committing perjury on his confirmed twitter handle, @femiaribisala, wrote: “I wrote in 2014 that Tinubu’s affidavit that he attended Government College Ibadan (GCI) between 1965 and 1968 is false. I was in GCI from 1962-1968, and Tinubu was not there. Tinubu now tells INEC he did not go to primary or secondary school. This means he committed perjury.”

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Also, a social critic, Mr. Reno Omokri, tweeted on Saturday: “Bola Tinubu, where are your primary and secondary school certificates? How could you have been accepted to university without them? Tell us the names of your schools so we can track your classmates. We don’t want another Buhari without certificate! Enough is enough!”

Even, a civil rights organization, Center for Reform and Public Advocacy, petitioned the Inspector General of Police, giving him a 48-hour ultimatum within which he should arrest and initiate criminal prosecution against Tinubu for allegedly providing false information.

The organisation threatened that should the IGP fail to act, court action would be instituted against him for an order of mandamus to compel him to effect the arrest of Tinubu at the end of the ultimatum.

Counsel to the CRPA , Agu Kalu, in a press conference in Abuja at the weekend alleged that Tinubu is not legally qualified to become the next President of Nigeria in 2023 on grounds of supplying false information on oath in his form EC 9 submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Agu alleged that in 1999 Tinubu claimed to have gone to Saint Paul Aroloyain Lagos and Children Home School, Ibadan between 1958 and 1964 for his primary education and Government College, Ibadan between 1965 and 1969, for his secondary but in 2022, he said that he never attended any in his EC9 form.

He said: “We wrote a petition to the IG on June 16, demanding the prosecution of Tinubu for providing false information on oath in his INEC form CF 001 which he submitted in 1999.

“Since the IG is yet to act on the petition, we are using this press conference to call on the IG to do the needful, he is not above the law, nobody is above the law, Sections 191 and 192 makes it a criminal offence to provide false information on oath.

“We are also calling on President Buhari to direct the IG to arrest and prosecute Tinubu for perjury, it is a very serious issue.” Kalu who presented a Certified True Copy ad-hoc report of the Lagos State House of Assembly, which investigated the former governor in 1999 said that Tinubu clearly admitted discrepancies in his academic qualifications.

He said that the investigation of Tinubu’s academic qualification in 1999 was the aftermath of a petition written by a foremost legal luminary and social crusader, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN). He, however, said that the position of his group for the arrest of Tinubu was not politically motivated but predicated on the need for good governance and transparent leadership that Nigeria deserves in the 2023 general election.

Late Gani Fawehinmi

Allegations of certificate scam against Tinubu started after the 1999 election when he ran for office as a governorship candidate in Lagos. Meanwhile, the Action Peoples Party (APP) has concluded plans to challenge the academic qualifications Tinubu as the presidential candidate of APC. The party’s chairman, Uche Nnadi, said it has enough facts to prove its case noting that the publication of the list of candidates for the 2023 elections showed that Tinubu was not eligible to contest as his forms allegedly contain false information.

“Tinubu denies attending primary and secondary but claims a university degree in the new forms INEC published today (Friday),” Leadership quoted him as saying. “ Tinubu commits perjury as he abandons his earlier claim of attending primary school, sworn in an affidavit to run for governor but now claims not to have attended primary school.

“Tinubu’s new forms contradict his 2007 affidavit that he had primary school and secondary. “Tinubu’s new declaration in new INEC forms of not attending primary and secondary school is false information, in view of earlier nomination forms of 2007 on oath containing alleged controversial primary and secondary schools he claimed to have.”

There was a petition dated Aug 12.1999 about the educational background and age of Tinubu in which he was accused of lying about his age in his nomination form to INEC. In a legal battle that went up to the Supreme Court, Fawenhinmi sought the prosecution of Tinubu.

But the apex court ruled that Tinubu cannot be prosecuted by the police for alleged certificate forgery, stressing that only Lagos State House of Assembly could investigate him. Lagos State House of Assembly under the then Speaker Olorunnimbe Mamora (present Minister of State for Health) opened the probe via a motion moved by Hon. Tajudeen Agoro & a 5 man ad – hoc committee was set up with Hon. Babajide Omowoare as chairman.

The committee sent a letter of invitation to the petitioners who refused to substantiate their petition. The committee even went to the addresses they provided but they could not be found. Tinubu who was invited by the Committee came with Femi Falana (SAN) and he admitted to the errors being pointed out by the petitioners and that it was Senator Tokunbo Akifuyomi that did the documentation.

It was also discovered that INEC in 1999 committed an error in its form CF01 that bore a wrong date of 28th Dec 1999 instead of 28th December, 1998. Commissioner of Oath detected the error. Afinkuyomi appeared with Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) . He explained that he was heading the unit of Tinubu ‘s campaign responsible for processing of forms and because of the tense circumstances in Alliance for Democracy (AD), then, the mistake was made.

Then Falana submitted that no evidence has been led to show that Tinubu presented forged certificates to INEC. Then, on June 4, 2013 one Dr. Dominic Adegbola asked Federal High Court Justice Saliu Saidu to reopen the suit filed by Fawehinmi in 1999. The suit was to compel IG of Police to commence investigation into alleged forgery. The court dismissed the case . The court said that the applicant went to sleep since 2007 when the “toga of immunity “ could no longer shield Tinubu and suddenly woke up when the matter is statute-barred.

The committee finally said its finding on the allegation of forgery was that “We Have No Evidence that any forged document was presented to INEC.” The only certificate presented to INEC was a transcript of the Chicago State University. A major concern for Tinubu’s supporters is why the renewed uproar is coming about two weeks after he won the APC ticket and seven months to the 2023 election. Organisations and persons associated with Tinubu dismiss it as a failed one and politically ill-fated, just to demonise the APC candidate ahead of real campaigns in September.

The Legal Adviser of the Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Babatunde Ogala (SAN), said the presidential candidate will not be blackmailed or intimidated over the allegations. He assured The Punch newspaper that the organisation will defend Tinubu in court on the allegations and prove to the court that he has complied fully with the provisions of the Electoral Act.

Ogala said, “there is nothing to respond to them, the Electoral Act is clear. We are waiting, let them go, let them bring the writ, we will defend it. I think we have gone past this stage of some people on social media, for whatever reason in the media, issuing threats. “If they have anything, let them bring it. As far as we are concerned, our candidate has complied fully with the provisions of the Electoral Act. If they want to go to court, let them go to court.

But we must also let them know that we are not unconscious of the laws of defamation in the country. We know the difference between a court process that is privileged and making unfounded allegations in the Newspapers like they are doing now. “But honestly, our candidate is not perturbed, he can’t be bothered by all these threats. If they want to go to court, let them go to court. When they come, we will react appropriately to the court process.

What we know, we have complied fully with the provisions of the law and we will not be blackmailed and intimidated.” Also, the Tinubu campaign admitted that he did not disclose his early schools because the matter was controversial in the early 2000s.

The campaign, however, noted that “Tinubu was exonerated of all charges after Mr Afikuyomi, a former senator, admitted that he mistakenly filled the governorship nomination forms for Mr Tinubu in 1999 and, therefore, responsible for the false claims before a Lagos parliamentary panel that probed the counterfeit academic records. “Asiwaju was exonerated in the House of Assembly’s report because Senator Afikuyomi said he filled the form on his behalf then.”

The campaign spokesman Bayo Onanuga in a statement said Tinubu left out his primary and secondary education columns when he sought a second governorship term in Lagos in 2003. The campaign asked Nigerians to disregard perjury charges against Tinubu because he has not held any political office since he concluded his two terms in 2007, until earlier this month when he clinched the presidential nomination of the ruling party.

“The same certificate he gave to INEC this year, he used in 2003 and there was no issue then. Why are they raising issues now?” . “This was what happened that time and if in 2022, he (Tinubu) now drew blank on that session, what offence has he committed,” Onanuga said. A public analyst anonymously said that the issue of schools which Tinubu attended together with dates are not required by the law.

According to him, “section 131of the Constitution which desks with qualification for contest for the position of president of Nigeria only provides for 6 prerequisites, namely: that he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth; that he is at least 40 years of age; that he is a member of a political party, which has nominated him; that he has been educated up to school certificate level or its equivalent ; that he is not a lunatic ; and that he is not an adjudged bankrupt.”

He said in proving that he has the requisite education, Tinubu only needs to satisfy INEC that he has been educated up to school certificate level, not that he should present a primary or secondary school certificate. “But if he cannot show this, section 318 which defines what ‘school certificate or its equivalent’ means only enjoins him to prove that he can “read and write” in English language and that he had worked either in a public or private sector for an unbroken period of 10 years. That’s all.”

Another public analyst from one of the south west states said the whole brouhaha about Tinubu’s certificate is just “a futile attempt to attack destiny.” Pleading not to be mentioned In the print, he said the antagonism is needless because Tinubu is destined for the exalted seat. He chronicled Tinubu’s life journey from ‘grass to grace’ and concluded that he has appointment with destiny.

In the analysis, he said: “not many indigent ‘homeless’ hustlers from Iragbiji could have strayed into Lagos, served as houseboy- with a woman (Abibatu Mogaji) – who , moved by the young boy’s diligence and tenacity of purpose to overcome the circumstances of his biological extraction; adopted him for a son, and compelled her brother- a relatively senior police officer and later a successful Lawyer- Kafaru Tinubu- to assist the struggling toddler to ‘integrate’into the illustrious Tinubu family of Lagos Island (at the instance of the all-powerful Abibat- who held political sway in Lagos for Awolowo’s Action Group).

“He travelled to start a life for himself in America. He spent the first couple of years attending extra- mural classes to access the requisite preliminary qualifications necessary and precedent to entrance into Chicago State University. “He passed in flying colours under the auspices of his adopted new identity, proceeded to study and pass out of CSU in flying colours, worked with top notch global brands like Deloitte etc, succeeded in attaining permanent stay status in USA( Green card) and – forever mindful of his humble antecedents- integrated his birth name ( Amuda) into his new identity.

“He came back to Nigeria to work for Mobil and retired voluntarily as Treasurer (Director of Finance). One thing strikes me about him. And that’s his loyalty to his roots. “He trained Oyetola , present Governor of Osun State, his nephew, being son to his eldest sister, and took him out of poverty.

“But beyond his attachment to his Iragbiji roots, he’s been all the more faithful, grateful and loyal to his Lagos ‘destiny helpers’; raising Abibatu to national reckoning before her death in old age, and empowering Kafaru’s children beyond their wildest imagination.

“Wale Tinubu today heads OANDO Plc- at his instance, Fola Tinubu (another of Kafaru’s children) heads PRIMETO TRANSPORT SERVICES- that runs the Lagos BRT system. This is just to mention a few. “His path crossed Babatunde Raji Fashola’s while the latter was working in the chambers of his adopted ‘Uncle’ Kafaru. Fashola, as a young turk in the Kafaru Tinubu and Co Chambers , was also perhaps the best friend and alter ego of Wale Tinubu.

Wale Tinubu

So, he literally handed the governance of Lagos to the Kafaru Tinubus. What loyalty and discipline. “People can say whatever they like about dis unique guy BAT. But me- I see his trajectory over time as divinely inspired. He’s never taken a wrong foot politically. That can only be divine. “And for all you care, he might even be a tool in the hands of the Gods to rework and restructure Nigeria . Who knows? He who the Gods love, let no man loathe.”

Meanwhile, facts emerged that Tinubu’s surrogate running mate, Alhaji Kabir Ibrahim Masari did not submit vital certificates to INEC. The Vice Presidential candidate of the APC informed INEC that he lost all his school certificates.

The confession about his credentials was contained in a sworn affidavit for the loss of some original documents submitted to the electoral commission by Mr. Masari who is from Buhari’s Katsina State.

In the affidavit he deposed to, Masari said he had misplaced vital documents including C of O of one plot KT 17522 in his state, his Grade II certificate from Katsina Teachers College and his primary school certificate.

“That sometimes in January 2021, while on transit within Wuse Area, FCT-Abuja, I discovered that my original Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of Plot, No KT 17522, GRA Katsina, Katsina State; Certificate of Kaduna State Development Centre from 1994 – 1995; Grade II Certificate from Katsina Teachers’ College (KTC) from 1978 – 1983 and First Leaving School Certificate issued by Masari Primary, Katsina State, from 1972 – 1978, got lost,” partly stated the affidavit sworn by Mr Masari at the Supreme Court in July 2021 and submitted to INEC on June 17, 2022.

“That all efforts made to trace the documents proved abortive hence this affidavit,” the affidavit read.

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