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No Proof That Nigeria’s President Fabricated a College Record, According to a BBC Report

The BBC’s Global Disinformation Team has discovered no proof that the diploma that Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu gave to the nation’s electoral body was a forgery

Following the publication of President Tinubu’s academic records by Chicago State University (CSU) last week, claims that his certificates were falsified quickly spread on social media

We have examined some of the most popular allegations

One of the president’s key opponents in the February presidential election, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), initiated a legal lawsuit in August that resulted in the release of the president’s academic records

After charging the winner with fabricating the CSU credential for a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration awarded in 1979 that he submitted to the electoral body (Inec), Mr. Abubakar hoped to have him disqualified

Mr. Abubakar went to a US court in August to ask it to order CSU to provide Mr. Tinubu’s academic records through a procedure called discovery, when the parties share information, including papers before a trial. This was done to acquire evidence for his case in Nigeria

The attorneys for Mr. Tinubu objected to the request for discovery, claiming privacy concerns, but the US court said it should go forward

Mr. Abubakar has sought the following documents:

a duplicate of any diploma the CSU awarded in 1979

a duplicate of the degree that CSU awarded Mr. Tinubu in 1979

Copies of diplomas given to other students that resemble the ones the CSU presented to Mr. Tinubu in 1979 and have the same typeface, seal, signatures, and language

Documents from CSU that Jamar Orr, a CSU employee at the time, certified within a year starting on August 1, 2022

CSU provided seven diplomas covering various disciplines in answer to request one, however the names of the students were obscured. The university’s registrar reported that the students had not picked up these degrees

In response to request number two, CSU indicated that it was unable to locate the diploma that it had awarded Mr. Tinubu in 1979 because they do not retain copies of the diplomas that students have previously amassed

In answer to request number three, CSU claimed to have sent Mr. Tinubu with a duplicate diploma dated June 27, 1979. It also made available certificates given to pupils who had the same typeface, seal, signatures, and language as Mr. Tinubu

In answer to demand number four, CSU provided further academic records that were at first attested to and released by Mr. Orr

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Atiku Abubakar, who placed second in the elections for president in February 2023, is contesting Bola Tinubu’s election

In accordance with the judge’s decision, Caleb Westberg, the current CSU registrar, was questioned by Mr. Abubakar’s attorney Angela Liu last week during a deposition

The transcript of the deposition was made available to the BBC by Phrank Shaibu, the spokesperson for Mr. Abubakar

Some Nigerian social media users claim that the deposition and the degrees released by CSU prove that Mr. Tinubu’s diploma presented to Inec was a forgery. One of Mr. Abubakar’s attorneys, Kalu Kalu, reaffirmed this assertion at a press conference last week

We discovered there was no supporting evidence for this assertion

The deposition of Caleb Westberg, the current CSU Registrar, has been the subject of incorrect or inaccurate posts shared by numerous social media users in Nigeria

Numerous degrees issued between 1979 and 2003 were made available by the CSU. We examined each one

In our analysis, we make reference to Mr. Tinubu’s three distinct diplomas:

He previously claimed that the original copy, dating from 1979, was destroyed when he went into exile in the 1990s

The second one, which he presented to Inec, is purported to be a replacement diploma from CSU (it resembles those the university issued in the 1990s)

Furthermore, CSU has a substitute diploma for Mr. Tinubu that they claim is from the early 2000s but he never received that they have

The claims made on social media are supported by a comparison of the paperwork Mr. Tinubu presented to Inec and the degrees made public by CSU in 1979

The copy of the diploma President Tinubu presented to the electoral commission was the focus of Mr. Atiku’s attorney during Mr. Westberg’s deposition, who asserted that it was unique from all the other diplomas published by CSU

While Mr. Westberg concurred with Ms. Liu that the questioned certificate does not like the samples from 1979, he asserted that it resembles three of the certificates that CSU gave to Mr. Abubakar. Our analysis backs this up

It turns out that the reason the diploma looks different is because it was reissued in the 1990s

According to Mr. Westberg, the CSU diploma’s design has undergone various changes over the years. No matter when the student graduated, he said, any request for a new diploma will follow the existing design at that time

Therefore, if Mr. Tinubu had requested a new diploma in the late 1990s, it would have looked like what was available at that time

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CSU offered diplomas to students in 1998 and 1999. The 1998 diploma resembles the one that Mr. Tinubu submitted to Inec in every way

Three of the 1990s-era degrees that CSU supplied were comparable to Mr. Tinubu’s

Apart from the names, class of degree, and dates, one of them, with the date 18 December 1998, is the same as the diploma Mr. Tinubu presented to Inec

Mr. Westberg further asserted that CSU does not record requests for reissuing diplomas, so Mr. Tinubu’s request for a copy of the diploma was not noted

Part of the university logo was missing on the copy he provided to the election commission, which Mr. Westberg claimed in his deposition was probably “cut off” while photocopying

“We looked over the diploma. It looks that the photocopying process did not include its bottom portion

Mr. Tinubu presented this diploma to Inec; the red circle indicates the blank space on the document

The BBC requested a copy of the disputed diploma from Mr. Tinubu’s staff. They sent what they claimed to be the sole copy of the diploma still in existence. It is an exact replica of the black and white photocopy that was sent to Inec

Another assertion was that the diploma Mr. Tinubu submitted was not from CSU since its diplomas do not have the words “with honors” under the degree name. This was made by a fact-checking organization in Nigeria

However, the BBC discovered that while this was not represented in the other certificates made public by CSU, it is in Mr. Tinubu’s early 2000s-era diploma, which Mr. Westberg attested to during his deposition

The phrase “with honors” appears there, matching the diploma the president presented to Inec with the same information

Mr. Tinubu’s diploma, which CSU still has in its possession despite being reordered in the 1990s and which he did not pick up,

Mr. Westberg claimed that since the diploma was never picked up and was still in the school’s possession, the institution could certify it

Not every student earns an honors degree from college. According to multiple court records obtained by the BBC and confirmed to by CSU, Mr. Tinubu did graduate from CSU with honors

The CSU sent us to a statement that said, in part, “We are confident and always have been in the veracity and integrity of our records regarding Tinubu’s attendance and completion of graduation requirements” after the BBC approached the university with inquiries about its diplomas

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Another claim making the rounds on social media is that the Bola A Tinubu who attended CSU is a female

Before going to CSU in 1976, Mr. Tinubu studied at Southwest College, which is now known as Richard J. Daley College. It has been suggested that a woman attended the institution and that Mr. Tinubu “stole her identity” because the gender section in Southwest’s transcript has the letter “F” (for “female”). In a press conference last week, Mr. Kalu, Mr. Atiku’s attorney, made a reference to this

However, Mr. Westberg emphasized in his deposition that there was no ambiguity regarding the gender of the student who attended CSU because he was a guy called Bola A Tinubu. He said that the university employed additional criteria in addition to the student’s name to confirm their identification

He claims that the Social Security Number (SSN) on the Southwest College transcript is the same as the SSN on other records where the student’s gender is clearly indicated to be male

The records that were made public, however, did cause some controversy regarding Mr. Tinubu’s birthdate and secondary school

Mr. Tinubu reportedly attended Government College Lagos in 1970, according to one of the records. However, according to information on the school’s website, it was only formed in 1974

Aside from the gender disparity, several of the documents that have been made public have birthdates that are not the same as President Tinubu’s actual date of birth, which is March 29, 1952

According to his CSU transcript, he was born on March 29, 1954. His date of birth is listed as 29 March 1955 on his application for undergraduate entrance

During Mr. Westberg’s deposition, Mr. Atiku’s attorney stated that Mr. Tinubu had listed his date of birth as 29 March 1952 on the paperwork submitted to Inec

During cross-examination, Mr. Westberg stated that the differences might have been the result of human error

We reached out to Mr. Tinubu’s team for a response to these inconsistencies, but a spokesman suggested we contact his party, the All Progressives Congress. We next got in touch with Festus Keyamo, a government minister and spokesperson for Mr. Tinubu’s presidential campaign. He did not answer our calls, and he did not reply to our WhatsApp or SMS messages

We also emailed Mr. Abubakar’s team with inquiries. They remained silent

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