A report by the BBC’s Global Disinformation Team has revealed that there is no evidence to support the claim that President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria forged his degree from Chicago State University (CSU).
The controversy over Tinubu’s academic credentials erupted after CSU released and submitted his certificate to his political rival, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who challenged him in the 2023 presidential election under the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Atiku had obtained a court order in the US to compel CSU to disclose Tinubu’s certificate, alleging that the president had falsified his qualification submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission.
Tinubu, however, maintained that his certificate was genuine and that he graduated from CSU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.
The BBC contacted CSU to verify Tinubu’s claims and received a statement that said: “We are confident and always have been in the veracity and integrity of our records regarding Tinubu’s attendance and completion of graduation requirements”.
The BBC also traced the origin of the dispute over Tinubu’s certificate and found that there are three different versions of the CSU diplomas for Tinubu.
“The CSU released several diplomas issued between 1979 and 2003. We analysed all of them.
“There are three different diplomas for Mr Tinubu that we refer to throughout our 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.
“The allegations on social media are based on comparing the document Mr Tinubu submitted to Inec and the 1979 diplomas released by CSU.”
According to the British media organisation, the deposition by CSU’s registrar, Caleb Westberg, also attested that Nigeria’s leader did not forge his diploma.
“Mr Westberg said the template of CSU’s diploma has changed several times over the years. He said any request for a new diploma would resemble the current template at that time, no matter when the student graduated.
“The BBC reached out to Mr Tinubu’s team to get a copy of the diploma in question. They sent what they said was the only existing copy of the diploma. It is a black and white photocopy identical to what was submitted to INEC.
“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 honours” under the degree name.
“But the BBC found that while this was not reflected in the other diplomas released by CSU, it does appear in Mr Tinubu’s diploma issued in the early 2000s, which Mr Westberg authenticated during his deposition.
“It has the words “with honours” – a match with the diploma with the same detail submitted by the President to INEC.”
“Mr Westberg said that the school could authenticate this particular diploma because it was still in its possession as it was never picked up,” it stated.
“Not every student graduates from university with honours. Mr Tinubu, as attested to by CSU in several court documents seen by the BBC, did graduate from CSU with honours.”