Tinubu’s certificate scandal, APC’s enduring legacy of shame

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Tinubu’s refusal to provide the information as required by law has further aroused public indignation but he is supremely confident that he will successfully ride the storm and win the presidency as Buhari did even with “NEPA BILL.”

By Ikechukwu Amaechi

If there is anything the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, would want to die down at this critical moment, it is the certificate scandal that has dogged his political career for more than two decades.

Though he survived when it first reared its ugly head in 1999 even as the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Salisu Buhari, accused of the same scam, lost his plum office, it has refused to go away.

Tinubu survived the scandal then not because he proved his innocence but because the same gladiators who forced Buhari to resign on July 22, 1999, exactly 49 days after he clinched the coveted seat, turned around to save his neck from the political guillotine.

And what was the case against him?

Like Salisu Buhari who claimed to have attended University of Toronto in Canada and graduated with a degree in business administration, when he did not, shortly after he was sworn in as governor of Lagos State on May 29, 1999, there were allegations that Tinubu had perjured and forged the credentials that qualified him to run for the governorship election.

The allegations were contained in a petition dated August 12, 1999, written by Alhaji Jameed Seriki and Dr. Waliu Balogun-Smith, who claimed a discrepancy in Tinubu’s age since the profile published during his inauguration stated that he was born in 1952 and the age on his transcript at the Chicago State University claimed that he was born in 1954.

They also alleged that he did not attend Government College, Ibadan, as was stated in his profile and INEC FORM CF.001, and the University of Chicago as claimed in an affidavit sworn to at the Ikeja High Court on December 29, 1998.

But unlike Salisu Buhari who had no constitutional bulwark to shield him, Tinubu, at this time, was already a governor and so enjoyed immunity courtesy of Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution.

The onus, therefore, fell on the Lagos State House of Assembly controlled by the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to investigate him and take punitive action if he was deemed to have committed acts constituting gross misconduct.

Of course, that was not going to happen. So, despite the fact that following a motion moved by Honourable Tajudeen Jaiyeola Agoro, who represented Lagos Mainland Constituency, the then Speaker, Dr. Olorunimbe Mamora (incumbent Minister of State for Health), on Tuesday, September 21, 1999, set up a five-man ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations, Tinubu survived the scare.

But the questions were not answered. In 1999, he claimed to have attended Saint Paul Aroloya Children Home School, Ibadan between 1958 and 1964 and Government College, Ibadan between 1965 and 1969. The petitioners claimed that he did not.

And because the monster that was Tinubu’s certificate scandal was not exorcised, it has reared its ugly head once again 23 years after and it will not go away because the man in the eye of the storm has refused to tell Nigerians the truth.

He believes he will successfully ride the storm. That may well be true. In any other country other than Nigeria, Tinubu would have voluntarily thrown in the towel like Salisu Buhari did in 1999 or be forced to do so.

But he will not because he knows it is easy to game the system, which explains why he decided to play the axiomatic ostrich this time around by blanking out the information in the INEC forms.

This time, just like the man he is angling to succeed, President Muhammadu Buhari, did in 2015, Tinubu submitted an affidavit to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) claiming his degree certificate was carted away by the Nigerian Army during a raid. But in doing so, he left the fields for primary and secondary school education blank, even as he claimed to have obtained a degree in business and administration in 1979.

Tinubu’s refusal to provide the information as required by law has further aroused public indignation but he is supremely confident that he will successfully ride the storm and win the presidency as Buhari did even with “NEPA BILL.”

And his strategy in 2022, unlike in 1999 when he panicked, is to remain calm and keep mum while his surrogates do all the talking even as they disingenuously circumvent the issue.

On Tuesday, human rights lawyer, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, said Tinubu graduated from the University of Chicago, in flying colours and was the overall best graduating student in accounting,

“Let me say here that in his working career, Tinubu has served as an accountant in various companies including Arthur Andersen, Haskins and Sells, Deloitte and Douche, GTE Service Corporation, America’s largest communication and utility company and auditor and later treasurer at Mobil Oil Producing Unlimited,” Abayomi wrote on his Facebook wall.

“He was once a Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a NADECO chieftain and major financier alongside Pa Alfred Rewane and Governor, Lagos State,” the senior lawyer, who has supported Tinubu’s presidential ambition to the hilt, wrote.

The same day, Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma, introduced a rather ludicrous slant to the whole saga when he blamed what he called the inefficiency of INEC’s server for the mess.

“In 1999, Tinubu contested elections and became the governor of Lagos. In 2003, he contested election for a second term. He ran and won as a Senator in the country. Were records keeping efficient, and INEC server functional, he wouldn’t need to do fresh submission (of documents),” Uzodimma said with a smirk on his face. Since then, Nigerians have been scratching their heads, trying to make meaning out of his harebrained submission.

In the 23 years since Tinubu’s certificate scandal blew open, he has resorted to all manners of shenanigans to squash it. Ironically, the only thing he has refused to do is the easiest: produce the certificates or provide proof that he attended those schools and shame his detractors.

Just like President Buhari, who would rather hire dozens of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) to defend him in court than show Nigerians his certificates, Tinubu has wilfully refused to assuage the anxiety of Nigerians.

But the APC presidential candidate’s latest gambit should alarm Nigerians. Make no mistake, it is not a crime not to attend primary or secondary schools formally. Some people of Tinubu’s generation acquired all their education reading from home. That is a mark of genius and something to be proud of. Could that be the case here? If so, why is he not celebrating such a remarkable achievement? But if, indeed, Tinubu attended primary and secondary schools, the only reason he is not forthcoming with the information is because he is hiding something from his past. That is scary for a man who wants to be president.

It is even more so if his claims are false as Dr. Femi Aribisala, an educationist and newspaper columnist, obviously thinks.

“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,” he tweeted this week.

That is the crux of the matter. The issue is not about how brilliant Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is. No one is doubting his genius. The issue is: do we know anything about the man who may well become president on May 29, 2023?

Besides, allowing Tinubu get away with this egregious assault on sensibilities of Nigerians and our shared values wittingly legitimizes impunity.

It is happening already. Kabiru Masari, Tinubu’s running-mate, in the particulars he submitted to INEC, deposed to an affidavit claiming that he lost his primary and secondary school certificates.

So, if Tinubu triumphs next year, Nigerians will have a president and his vice whose certificates are mere sworn affidavits, taking over from another president who blazed the trail.

That will be a great disservice to Nigeria, an ode to APC’s enduring legacy of shame.