Nigerian politicians have hardly changed in their mischievous approach. If this were to be at the peril of the opposition alone, perhaps that would have simplified issues, but their misgivings have sadly become like a wool, which has blindfolded and blurred the sense of reasoning of not a few. Over time, politicians have studied and understood that several Nigerians have many biases, therefore, are sentimental when issues, most especially ones many have little or no knowledge about, or at best issues they lack interest in, is in view. Many know, but only very few had overcome and survived the challenge of the politicians, using factors such as religion and ethnicity to deceive the public for personal gains.
Sadly, in President Bola Tinubu’s Chicago State University certificate saga, the media had also fallen victim.
From the manner former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the February 25, 2023 presidential election, started the raging controversy, to how he continued and where he had ended, it’s all nullity in terms of value added and relevance to the good governance, which we all crave for, and which he has been part of the reasons this fundamental had eluded Nigerians and country in general. If there were lessons to learn at all in the “make up” certificate forgery saga, we say it’s the same political class that needs to put their past in order so that in time like this, one mischievous element would not hide in one corner, shouting and making attempt to pull down the roof, for no just and verifiable reason.
The first error. Without going too far, the Presidential Election Petitions Court in its about 12 hours ruling on September 6, 2023 held that issues relating to what Atiku is junketing in and out of courts were pre-election matters. It should be noted that both Atiku and Peter Obi, the candidate of the Labour Party for the same election, failed to prove before the court that the February 25 presidential election was rigged as they claimed. Even if the certificate issue was among the former Vice President’s grounds for seeking nullification of his rival’s election victory, was the ruling on belatedness not enough for a party truly seeking justice to pause and pursue another course?
The second mischief in the certificate debate is about deliberate twisting of the outcome of the proceedings at the Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois, United States of America. The deposition under oath by the CSU Registrar, Caleb Westberg, clarified that Atiku’s opponent, Tinubu, graduated from and was awarded a degree June 22, 1979. He deposed that the difference in the date of award on the diploma versus the certified copy is likely due to human error. Westerberg also revealed that in the US, institutions of higher education “often consider the diploma to be a ceremonial document”. Ultimately, the Registrar deposed on oath that “the official records of CSU reflect and verify that Bola Ahmed Tinubu graduated and was awarded a degree as stated”.
The cross examination of the CSU Registrar was rigorous, lengthy and revealing. In the exercise conducted by the trio of Angela Liu, counsel for Atiku; Michael D. Hayes, CSU Counsel; and Victor P. Henderson, counsel for Tinubu, there was nowhere Westerberg denounced the respondent (Tinubu) as a graduate of the institution.
In fact, at one point, Atiku’s counsel, Liu, asked Westerberg the question: “That you don’t know Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Social Security number?” He responded: “I believe we do.” And upon being asked: “What is the basis?”, he responded: “That based on the assumption that Bola Tinubu, on the documentation records, is the same as President Tinubu.”
For a third party who is not biased, the depositions under oath and his responses during cross examination by the three counsels with respect to a diploma being a ceremonial document; that in case of loss or anything related, can be produced by a third party vendor; the addition of name and discrepancy in date of birth could be an error, are definite enough, without anyone coming from another land, giving them different interpretations and colourations and lying before an audience with bias.
Those who trust Atiku’s lawyers and his loyalists’ interpretations should hold on a moment and apply this to logic if it flows. If CSU did not deny Tinubu as its graduate as deposed under oath, as well as under cross examination, where then is the argument or narrative of certificate forgery coming from? What could have informed forgery since the man in the eyes of the storm actually attended the institution?
It’s very unfortunate that some media organisations joined in this fray. As mentioned earlier, they fell for the politicians’ tricks – for reasons best known to them. Most worrisome in this is that many folks who lack independent means to verify what is pushed out to them have been hooked to the twisted narratives.
Atiku and his supporters appeared to have secured victory for themselves. Barely 24 hours after the deposition, he declared at his World Press Conference that his battle against President Tinubu was in the general interest of the Nigerian nation. Truly?
While he vowed to fight the battle to a “logical conclusion”, Atiku admitted that he was undertaking the battle at a great cost, but said there would be no going back until justice is manifestly done in the struggle. He thanked local and international lawyers for their good battle in court and enjoined Nigerians who desire good governance, justice, accountability and probity to join.
The peak of Atiku’s appeal was his call to other rivals: Obi and the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Musa Kwankasso, to join him in the “struggle to enthrone legitimate and lawful government” for the country.
Ironically, Obi, who quickly replied, said he (Atiku) should give his camp a space and allow each to travel alone. In the end, Obi reversed himself when last week he took Atiku’s route. He harped on the pressing need for Tinubu to identify himself.
Obi at his media briefing said: “I therefore respectfully and humbly call on him to immediately perform a simple task once and for all. He should 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, place of birth, parentage, primary and secondary schools attended with dates, as well as the actual universities attended and certificates obtained. He should indicate clearly where and when he did his National Youth Service (NYSC). In addition, if at any time, he had a change of name, he should state so clearly. Mr. Tinubu should tell the nation his true name, the school he attended, where he served and the certificate he obtained. He must do this task once and now. Tinubu’s many other lingering identity question marks have further worsened Nigeria’s less-than-glorious image internationally.”
Let us ask: Of what relevance and value is the raging debate and controversy about certificates? We make bold to say that they don’t add up! Nor does the capital flight – legal fees in millions of dollars used to settle lawyers by Atiku and Tinubu – add any value to the country.
The needless and mischievous debate is a distraction. Painfully, what many don’t know is that Atiku, as a veteran in the trade, has kick-started his 2027 campaign with the current certificate contest.
We repeat, this certificate debate is irrelevant and of no value. If there’s any gain in it, that would be for only Atiku, who from all indications would have concluded that a viable pedestal has been set for his 2027 presidential election campaign. It’s therefore baffling that certain sections of the mass media and very unfortunately some youths don’t understand the tricks.
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We stand with Nigeria’s senior lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba, who slammed those who rant to distract and attract undue public sympathy to themselves. The Senior Advocate of Nigeria said: “The cacophony of discordant voices on Tinubu/Atiku over the certificate matter is utter nonsense from armchair lawyers is heating up Nigeria dangerously. Please can we keep our opinions and views to ourselves awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court?I’m so ashamed to see lawyers on television arguing one way or the other on the merits or demerits of the Chicago State University matter. This is most unhelpful! I call out all media that tolerate this nonsense of adjudicating the CSU matter on TV and newspapers.”
What Nigerians desire and deserve right now is good governance that can produce a viable economy, standard education, good health and roads among others. President Tinubu should stay focused. He should deliver on the mandate the majority of Nigerians gave him. To put succinctly, Nigerians need and want effective and efficient governance, not mischief and distraction as currently being experienced.