The Chicago State University (CSU) has said it does not have the certificate President Bola Tinubu presented to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) prior to the 2023 general election.
Caleb Westberg, the university registrar and deponent/witness, said this while giving an oral deposition on the release of Tinubu’s academic records to his political opponent, Atiku Abubakar, on Monday.
A deposition is the process of taking a sworn, out-of-court oral testimony of a witness. This testimony may be reduced to a written transcript for use in court or for discovery purposes.
Atiku, the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 25 election, had requested the documents to back his allegation of forgery of CSU certificate against Tinubu.
The allegation of forgery was one of those dismissed by the presidential election court in the suit Atiku filed to challenge the election of Tinubu. Despite the court’s ruling, Atiku continued his case at the US court, hoping to get official documents to back his claim and possibly include them in his appeal at the Supreme Court.
Through his lawyers, Atiku sought these key things – an example of a CSU diploma issued in 1979; Tinubu’s diploma issued in 1979; example of a CSU diploma that “contains the same font, seal, signatures and wording” as Tinubu’s diploma issued in June 1979 and CSU documents certified and produced by Jamar Orr, an associate general counsel at CSU at the time.
He had argued that there are discrepancies in the certificate Tinubu submitted to the INEC which should have rendered him ineligible to contest the election.
Speaking on the certificate (also called diploma), Westberg said he could not comment on it because he did not see it.
“The university only has diplomas that students didn’t pick up in its possession. The university does not typically keep diplomas. I do not have the diploma that was submitted to INEC in our possession,” he said.
On why Tinubu did not pick up his replacement diploma from the school, the witness said: “The university does not typically keep Diplomas. I have the Diploma that was made available to Mr. Enahoro-Ebah in our possession because Mr. Tinubu did not pick it up.
“I do not have the Diploma that was submitted to INEC in our possession because he had picked it up.”
But the registrar affirmed that Tinubu graduated from the school.
He said: “I see that he said the same person he ran against is now the president of Nigeria. The Bola Tinubu who attended Southwest College took Accounting courses. The Bola Tinubu who attended CSU also took Accounting courses. I see the address indicated for Bola Tinubu. It’s not far from CSU.
“I looked at the whole record in making the determination that the Bola Tinubu who is the president of Nigeria today is the same person who attended CSU. The entries’1952’ and ‘1954’ could have been made in error. The person who attended Southwest College is the person who attended CSU. The courses taken by Bola Tinubu at Southwest and CSU are consistent.”
Weighing in on the discrepancy, Farooq Kperogi, a US-based Professor, who analysed the documents said while some were authentic, he believed part of it was forged.
In a piece entitled, ‘6 Major Findings about Tinubu from the CSU Documents’, Kperogi wrote: “The certificate (we call it “diploma” in the US) that Tinubu submitted to INEC is inconsistent with the certificates CSU issued in 1979 and subsequently, indicating that Tinubu forged his. (In the US, diplomas are mere ceremonial documents that most employers don’t ask for. Transcripts directly from universities are the usual ways to verify attendance and graduation.)
“Although he did legitimately graduate from Chicago State University in 1979, he obviously lost his certificate and, instead of applying for a replacement, decided to forge it.
“That strikes me as mysterious self-harm. It costs only $26 to get a replacement diploma from CSU. But it takes between eight and 10 weeks to receive it after filling out the Diploma Replacement Order Form.
“My guess is that, in the typical last-minute, fire-brigade approach to things among Nigerian elites, Tinubu didn’t plan ahead and didn’t have enough time to apply for his replacement diploma from CSU to meet INEC’s deadline and decided to visit Lagos’ infamous “Oluwole” for a counterfeit replacement.”
Reacting on Wednesday, the presidency dismissed claims that the certificate President Tinubu presented to INEC for the 2023 elections was forged.
President Tinubu’s media aide, Temitope Ajayi, argued that CSU affirmed under oath that Tinubu attended and graduated from the institution and that the school does not handle replacements for lost certificates.
He said there was no truth in the forgery claim, adding that no person can forge a certificate he already has.
Taking to his account on the X formerly known as Twitter, the presidential media aide wrote: “We should be clear.
“In the deposition made by the Chicago State University, there was nowhere the University said the certificate presented to INEC by President Tinubu is fake.The University insisted under oath that President Tinubu graduated with honours and even at that, replacements for lost certificates are done by vendors not the University. The claim that President Tinubu submitted fake certificate to INEC does not make sense. A man can not forge the academic records he possesses. You can only forge what you don’t have.”
Meanwhile, efforts to get the reaction of the former vice president were not successful. His Media Adviser, Mr Paul Ibe, who said he was in a meeting, did not get back to Daily Trust as of the time of filing this report.