By Phrank Shaibu
English humorist, satirist, and author Terry Pratchett once said “If you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.”
Origins are important because they give a sense as to where you may end up. But it is quite surprising that a nation of over 200 million people which prides itself as the Giant of Africa is being piloted by a man who has no known origin and continues to fight to ensure that it remains hidden.
Nigeria’s first leader was the late Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who was born in December 1912 in modern-day Bauchi State at a time when data storage was rare. Despite the shortcomings of the time, Tafawa Balewa has a traceable history.
Balewa’s father was Yakubu Dan Zala and was of the Gere ethnicity. Balewa’s mother was Fatima Inna, who was of Gere and Fulani descent. His father worked in the house of the District Head of Lere, a district within the Bauchi Emirate.
Young Balewa was among the children sent to Tafawa Balewa Elementary School, after the Qur’anic school. Thereafter, he proceeded to Bauchi Provincial School. Like many of his contemporaries of that era, he studied at Katsina College, where he was student number 145. Ahmadu Rabah, later known as Ahmadu Bello, was student number 87 and was two years his senior.
President Shehu Shagari was born on 25 February 1925 to the family of Aliyu and Mairamu Shagari. He attended Yabo Elementary School and then Sokoto Middle School and Kaduna College before graduating from Teachers’ Training College, Zaria. In his book, ‘Beckoned to Serve’, Shagari lists the names of his classmates, teachers, and even the palace servant who took him to school.
However, Bola Tinubu, a man who claims to have been born in 1952, cannot satisfactorily prove his ancestry. Not only is the identity of Tinubu’s father and mother unknown, but he neither has classmates nor siblings. Ahead of the presidential election, he passed off a photo of former Governor Donald Duke as his own. Clearly, there ought to be limits to fraud.
In his form CF001, which was submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), he skipped details about his primary and secondary school and only stated that he attended Chicago State University in America. Curiously, this contradicts the same form he had filed in 1999 when he ran as governor of Lagos State. In that form, which the late human rights activist Gani Fawehinmi had dragged him to court, Tinubu claimed to have attended Government College Ibadan and a non-existent primary school in Lagos. It has since been discovered that he was never sighted within the precincts of GCI.
In order to expose the truth, former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), instituted a suit before a court in the United States seeking to obtain Tinubu’s school records which would validate his claim before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Nigeria that Tinubu is a fraud.
Ideally, one would think that a man who is leading the greatest Black nation in the world would embrace transparency like others who have sat on the seat of power in Aso Rock. However, he hired a team of five lawyers with the sole task of making sure that his school records were not made available. Such disgraceful behaviour is unparalleled in Nigeria’s political history.
But this is not surprising since it is stated that the student named Bola Tinubu, who attended that school in the 1970s, was registered as a female at a time long before gender change surgeries were even contemplated.
Tinubu had through his lawyers dared Atiku at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to prove one of their grounds of petition that Tinubu’s Chicago State University certificate was forged. As Atiku set out to prove his claim, Tinubu’s lawyers quickly placed a stumbling block before him by asking the US court not to make his records available.
They claim that it is no longer necessary for Atiku to have such information since the election tribunal in Nigeria has finished hearing any more evidence and had adjourned for judgment. It is obvious that Tinubu is seeking a dubious victory based on technicalities and not on the principle of law. No wonder they don’t want #AllEyesOnTheJudiciary.
Next, they said the mistakes on the certificate they submitted in court to prove Tinubu’s innocence regarding the certificate forgeries were caused by an unnamed clerk of CSU. If Tinubu was certain the clerk made mistakes, why did he send as many as five lawyers to the Illinois Court to stop Atiku from getting access to his academic records? He should have just allowed the university to explain their mistakes. Without knowing, he was inadvertently validating Atiku’s and others’ allegation that he had been trotting around with a fake certificate.
The Chicago State University (CSU) has also not acted professionally. What was so special about Tinubu’s academic records that all the unpardonable mistakes from a university as reputed as CSU would lose sleep over just one former student who American authorities established had ties to heroin trafficking and money laundering and was forced to forfeit $460,000?
How does a reputable higher institution explain Tinubu’s gender is female, his age was altered by two years, and his middle name changed from Ahmed to Adekunle while signatories were clearly different on the certificate? This is certainly more than a clerical error. How is it that only Tinubu’s certificate had grammatical errors, signature errors, and wrong fonts?
Tinubu recently sent a list of 48 ministerial nominees to the Senate for confirmation. Their credentials were scrutinized, and they were asked to defend their certificates. Would the Senate have confirmed Tinubu as a minister if he were on that list? Wouldn’t he have been chased out of the hallowed chambers of the Senate if he had come with questionable credentials?
Isn’t it tragic that a man who cannot scale a mere ministerial screening is now serving as President of Nigeria? A Nigerian tragedy indeed!
Shaibu is the Special Assistant on Public Communications to Atiku Abubakar