By Farooq Kperogi
I’m no fan of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Anyone who has followed my writing in the last few years will attest that I rank in the top three severest critics of his person, record, and politics. But I’d be remiss in my self-imposed lifetime commitment to pursue the truth irrespective of where it leads me and expose falsehood irrespective of the consequences if I ignore the renewed, systematic dissemination of easily refutable lies about Tinubu not having graduated from Chicago State University (CSU).
Tinubu undeniably has many skeletons in his closet, but Chicago State University isn’t one of them. There is no question that the man who is known today as President Bola Ahmed Tinubu attended CSU for two years and graduated from it in 1979.
His study at CSU—a four-year, state-funded, historically Black university—was shortened because he transferred two years’ worth of college credit from Richard J. Daley College, a community college (equivalent to a diploma-awarding institution in Nigeria) in Chicago, which started life as William J. Bogan Junior College in 1960, got renamed Southwest College in 1970, and got renamed yet again as Richard J. Daley College in 1976.
That Tinubu graduated from CSU has never been in dispute. It was his claim to have attended or graduated from the elite, highly-ranked, privately owned University of Chicago that was a lie, but he later took back this claim and blamed it on an unintentional error by Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi.
In June 2022, when fresh, widely shared, and obviously politically inspired doubts were raised about the authenticity of Tinubu’s graduation from CSU, I took advantage of my being a professor here in the US and reached out to friends and colleagues at the school to help me verify this information.
A friend, who is a professor of English at the university, went to the registrar’s office and confirmed that Tinubu indeed attended and graduated from CSU. “Please be advised that Bola A Tinubu attended Chicago State University from August 1977 [to] June 1979. He was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with Honors on June 22, 1979. His major was accounting,” a statement from the office of the Registrar of the university read.
I shared this finding in a June 27, 2022, article titled “A Bola Tinubu Graduated From Chicago State University,” which several news outlets and blogs picked up. I wrote that “A Bola A. Tinubu” had graduated from CSU because I hadn’t conclusively authenticated the identity of the person and didn’t want to make any evidence-free association of the name with then presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
But as I pointed out in a later column titled “Lies and Truth About Obi, Atiku, and Tinubu,” I can now confidently establish that the Bola A. Tinubu who graduated from CSU in 1979 is the same Bola A. Tinubu who is president of Nigeria today. I know this because the yearbook photo of the 1979 CSU cohort features the headshot of an unmistakably younger Tinubu, even though his last name was misspelled as “THUBV.” I’ll come back to this point shortly.
In the past few days, a seemingly coordinated misinformation campaign has been relaunched to resuscitate the lie that Tinubu didn’t graduate from CSU. The rehabilitation of the lie is being constructed on a hexad of appealing but ultimately self-contradictory inaccuracies and innuendos.
The first is that a search of Bola A. Tinubu in the archive of US college graduation records yields zero matches. Well, that’s because Tinubu’s last name was misspelled as “THUBV” in his final graduation record. But a search of “Bola A. THUBV” (which one Engr. Stanley with the Twitter handle @Engr_Stanley_EC did) turns up the record of a male who graduated from CSU with a degree in Business Administration (and a concentration in accounting).
Non-Western names are always liable to be misspelled here. I know because I’ve suffered this multiple times. Apparently, Tinubu wrote his name in long hand, as was the practice then, and whoever was responsible for entering the final records couldn’t correctly make out Tinubu’s handwriting. It’s easy to see how handwritten “I” and “N” can be mistaken for “H” and how “U” can be mistaken for “V.”
Of course, it’s reasonable to assume that Tinubu complained, and a correction was later issued for his degree certificate, but it was too late for the information that was sent to the National Student Clearinghouse.
The second trigger for the rehabilitation of the lie is a putative July 8, 2011, FBI letter to the EFCC, which allegedly concluded that its search of Bola “Tinubo” in Chicago State University’ records showed that no such person ever enrolled at the school.
Well, duh (as Americans would say to signal that something is self-evidently obvious), no “Bola Tinubo” exists anywhere in the world. Had the FBI searched for “Bola A. Tinubu” at CSU’s registrar’s office, it would have found out that a person with that name graduated from the school in 1979.
The third lifeline for the revival of the falsehood is that a transcript oddly dated “0/76” from Southwest College belonged to a female. As I pointed out earlier, Richard J. Daley College used to be called Southwest College until late 1976. So, when Tinubu first enrolled at the school in 1975, it was called Southwest College, but by the time he graduated from it in 1977, it had been renamed Richard J. Daley College.
There are several red flags with the transcript, the boldest being the numbering scheme of the social security number shown in it. The nine-digit U.S. social security number is divided into a three-digit area number, a two-digit group number, and a four-digit serial number. It has always been that way.
But the social security number in the Southwest College transcript supposedly belonging to a female Bola A. Tinubu is 231-060-595. That’s an impossible numbering scheme for a US social security number. Plus, the transcript isn’t properly dated and leaves the spaces for date of birth and record of high school blank. These are no trivial red flags of inauthenticity.
The fourth reason some people have infused a new life to the lie that Tinubu didn’t graduate from CSU is that the university locked its Twitter account in response to unremittingly vitriolic denunciations from some Nigerians. They say that indicates that the school is guilty of issuing a fake degree to Tinubu. That’s tortured logic. People and organizations routinely lock their Twitter accounts when they are subjected to an unceasing torrent of caustic online abuse.
In April, a TIME magazine reporter by the name of Astha Rajvanshi who wrote a profile on Tinubu after he made it to the magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world was forced to lock her Twitter account after political fanatics relentlessly cursed, defamed, and threatened her for doing her job.
CSU is obviously unaccustomed to the quantum of negative attention it’s receiving from a group of Nigerians who are still smarting from the outcome of the last presidential election. It obviously wants to stop it.
The fifth impetus for the revival of the lie that Tinubu couldn’t have graduated from CSU is that Tinubu withdrew claims that he attended primary and secondary schools in Nigeria, which means he didn’t possess qualifications to be admitted to a US higher education institution.
Well, it’s entirely possible to earn a degree in America without ever attending a secondary school. There’s something called the General Educational Development test (or GED) for people who didn’t earn a high diploma before the age of 18. A close American friend and colleague of mine by the name Dr. Matt Duffy didn’t have a high school diploma. He had a GED, but he ended up getting a Ph.D.
I am not saying that was what happened with Tinubu. I don’t have the facts to make that claim. But it’s reasonable to assume that since it’s widely speculated that Tinubu changed the identity he had at birth, he disclaimed all associations with the schools he attended in his actual hometown in Osun and took a GED test in Chicago. In any case, most community colleges (and non-flagship state schools) have open enrollment policies, which means just about anybody can get into them.
Finally, the fact that Tinubu doesn’t want CSU to release his academic record— and the fact that the university has spurned requests to release his records— is being held up as an indication that he had no academic record there and that Tinubu and CSU are acting in cahoots to cover up a crime.
Well, there’s something called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which forbids all universities and colleges in the United States from disclosing the academic records of a student to a third party. Every year, I (and all university employees who handle students’ grades here) have to undergo training on how not to disclose students’ records to third parties, including to parents, without students’ written permission.
Schools can only confirm directory information such as whether or not a student graduated from a school, which CSU has done repeatedly. And why would Tinubu accede in writing to his academic records being released to political opponents? Most people won’t, even if it’s just for the pleasure of seeing their opponents squirm in anger and frustration.
(Notes from Atlanta)