Ogbuagu sets out the basic facts for understanding and appreciating the consequences of what he identifies as President Tinubu’s Chicagogate.

What is happening between the declared winner and the runner-up in the 2023 Presidential Elections in Nigeria is taking on the hue of the famous Watergate scandal.

The INEC declared winner is Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who is now the President. The runner up, also declared by INEC, is former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Meanwhile, a third candidate who also claimed to have won the election, Gov Peter Obi, is watching the current drama from the sidelines.

Atiku’s legal fireworks have lit up the Abuja (Nigeria) and Chicago (USA) skylines, and is heating up the Nigerian polity. His investigation of Tinubu’s educational qualifications has split the country down the middle.

Ranged on one side are regime protectors, those who, for selfish considerations, do not care whatever allegations are levied against the President. On the opposite side are those who care about the country and its reputation.

The two bickering groups are not homogenous; their members are in all of the major ethnic groups. Their reasons for support or opposition are as diverse as their backgrounds and origins. This enquiry, however, is not about their background and motives. It is rather about facts in dispute in their current diatribe.

What are these facts?

Atiku is dragging his old friend to various courts in Nigeria and the United States to prove that Tinubu committed certificate fraud.  In this respect, he claims that Tinubu fabricated the lone qualifying certificate from an American university that Tinubu submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Consequently, he wants Tinubu deposed as President for forgery, lying under oath, and for not having the mandatory educational qualification to contest for the Presidency.

Atiku believed he had a smoking gun. In 2023, President Tinubu submitted only one credential to INEC – a Bachelor degree certificate from the Chicago State University (CSU) allegedly issued to him in 1979. He neither submitted a basic primary nor high school certificate. This was self-preservation as fact-checkers hitherto swiftly exposed them as fabrications.

It has been the case since 1999. Despite this obvious disability, however, Tinubu has managed to forge ahead and has so far won four elections he contested in Nigeria. He was a Senator, Governor (twice), and is now an elected President. These feats are nothing short of surreal considering the efforts made each time to halt his ambition and what those efforts unveiled.

There are four such efforts in all, including the current United States effort that Atiku Abubakar is funding. Of the three prior attempts, two of their prosecutors are dead while the third fled Nigeria to seek asylum in Ghana. Those that made the efforts were a human rights lawyer, a medical doctor, and an investigative journalist.

For those not conversant with their cases, the first attempt to stop Hurricane Tinubu began on 7th October 1999, exactly 24 years ago this Saturday, two days from today. The effort began four months after he became Governor of Lagos State. Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the activist and brilliant lawyer, asked a Lagos High Court to compel the Police to investigate the credentials that Mr. Tinubu submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as qualifications to contest the office of Governor.

In reality, however, Tinubu never submitted a single credential, claiming that he misplaced his certificates. But he swore on oath that he attended St Paul Children’s Home School, Ibadan (1958 – 1964), Government College Ibadan (1965 – 1968), Richard Daley College, Chicago, (1969 – 1971) and the University of Chicago.

Fawehinmi contested these claims in court. The courts saved the day – and embarrassment – for the then Governor. A Federal High Court in Lagos ruled that since Tinubu was sworn in as Governor, he had become immune from prosecution! The Appeal Court adopted the ruling, but the Supreme Court demurred. The apex court ruled that Police could investigate the claims and if found guilty of forgery, wait for Tinubu to complete his term as governor to arrest and prosecute him.

Tinubu finished his tenure in 2007 and boldly walked off into the sunset a free man. The police did not come knocking at his door as advised by the Supreme Court. Two years later (2009) Fawehinmi died and this battle ended.

It took another four years for the local opposition PDP in Lagos State to again press the Police to investigate and prosecute Tinubu for certificate forgery and lying under oath. This was in 2013, and the new antagonist was Lagos PDP chairman, Dr. Dominic Adegbola. Adegbola dragged the Police to the Federal High Court in Lagos for failing to investigate Tinubu’s educational qualification claims, as advised by the Supreme Court.

Adegbola also thought this was a good case because the claims made by Tinubu in his 1999 depositions to INEC were thoroughly discredited.

Tinubu never attended a St. Paul’s Children Home School. Old Students of Government College Ibadan announced that he did not attend their school either. There was no Richard J. Daley College that he could have attended in 1971 (Southwest College got renamed in 1976). It later emerged that there was indeed a Bola A. Tinubu that attended Southwest College but the school identified the student as female. The former Governor did not also attend the University of Chicago as claimed in his INEC declaration. He later clarified that he attended Chicago State University and not the University of Chicago.

Dr. Adegbola, proprietor of Santa Monica Hospital, asked the Federal High Court Lagos to compel the Police to reopen investigation into alleged forgery and perjury by the former Governor. The Police paid deaf ears while the Court again came to Tinubu’s rescue. Judge Saliu Saidu ruled that Adegbola should have brought the case to court within three months of Tinubu committing the alleged crime! He quoted Order 34, Rule 4 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules as basis for his ruling.

The case went cold again and stayed in the cooler for another 10 years, until Mr. Tinubu began his run for president in 2022. Before Atiku came into the picture, a young investigative journalist, David Hundeyin, dug into the case and unearthed startling revelations. Those revelations were confirmed and extended in papers released this week by Chicago State University to Atiku Abubakar.

First, the papers show in summary that Tinubu attended Government College Lagos to earn a higher school certificate (HSC) in 1970. However, the school was founded in 1974, which implies that he could not have written the exam as a student in a non-existent school. Note however that the HSC is an external examination that can be written by a private study student.

Second, the Southwest College transcripts submitted by CSU continue to render the sex of Bola A. Tinubu as female. This is the last piece in the puzzle.

Curiously, neither the journalist Hundeyin nor VP Atiku pursued this lead to expose who indeed is the Bola A. Tinubu that Southwest College admitted from Nigeria. Instead, they invested every effort on Chicago State University (CSU) which shows a visible anxiety to maintain its reputation.

Third, CSU confirmed this week that President Tinubu was not only a student between 1977 and 1979 but also graduated with honours. This is a lifeline that the school has thrown to the embattled President, as will become apparent shortly.

Fourth, the CSU degree certificate that Tinubu submitted to INEC was clearly a fabrication. It does not match with the other name-redacted certificates that the school released to Atiku.

What does all of this mean?

This time around, it will appear that Tinubu will once again be saved in the courts, thanks to the desperation of CSU to maintain its reputation as a credible institution of learning. President Tinubu is now in possession of what he desperately needed and what the law requires to contest for the office of President; an official letter deposed in a court of law that says he attended a university and earned a degree. I also believe it is safe to bet that Tinubu’s appointee as Police Inspector General will not investigate the case of forgery that has been established by CSU against Tinubu.

In a way, this has come as a relief. Five days ago, I told members of a WhatsApp Group that I hope Chicagogate becomes a storm in a teacup; that nothing incriminating be found on Tinubu from the CSU deposition. I was not praying as a fan of Tinubu but rather from the perspective of a proud Nigerian who is mindful of its negative consequences for the country and its citizens.

One part of me, the ethical and rational part, yearned for full disclosure – and closure – on the lingering issue of Tinubu’s mysterious identity. It is scandalous that we have a President that we know absolutely nothing about his origin.

The other part of me didn’t want this disclosure to be negative, especially at this point that Tinubu has been sworn in as President of Nigeria. If Tinubu, as President, were to go down from this investigation, won’t he drag Nigeria down with him into a dark pit of infamy? I can just picture how the world press will feast on Nigeria – and Nigerians. The reality that my other self saw clearly was that the “irreparable harm” that Tinubu’s lawyers were talking about could not be only about Tinubu. We all would have become the potential victims.

I would rather that a President Tinubu lost in court for failing to prove that majority of voters brought him to the power he is now enjoying. I also agree with those who argue that the law be amended to allow for a reasonable timeframe to dispose of election petitions before a President is sworn into office.


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