MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
The trending story of inconsistencies associated with the academic records of the former Governor of Lagos State and presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC); Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a glaring evidence of the state of decadence in our national institutions.
That issues of schools attended and certificates obtained with respect to Asiwaju Tinubu could still resonate and become controversial almost 23 years after the inconsistency first came to light, to say the least is as disappointing as it remains bizzare.
If one may ask, was it not the same Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which cleared him in 1999 to contest the Lagos governorship election that is still the current INEC? If, as the current trending story holds that Tinubu did not fill the blank spaces for primary and secondary schools in his presidential nomination forms provided by INEC, could it mean that he did not actually attend primary and secondary schools as he reportedIy claimed or the failure to fill in the spaces was aimed at avoiding controversy that surrounded the primary and secondary schools he had earlier claimed to have attended.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
A popular newspaper columnist Femi Aribisala had written some time ago to posit that Tinubu never attended Government College, Ibadan between 1962 and 1966 as claimed by him (Tinubu) in 1999 while contesting for the governorship election. Could Asiwaju’s failure to indicate secondary school attended in his presidential form be an acceptance or confirmation of Aribisala’s assertion that he (Tinubu) never attended Government College, Ibadan?
As the controversy rages on, INEC owes Nigerians some explanation with respect to which primary and secondary schools Tinubu had filled in his governorship form in 1999 and what he has filled recently in his presidential form for the 2023. If he had mentioned some schools in 1999 as the primary and secondary forms he attended and only to leave the spaces blank in 2022 it automatically means he has lied with respect to the issue of his primary and secondary schools. This means he could be charged for perjury or misleading INEC in the circumstance.
Secondly, it is greatly appalling and highly misleading for Tinubu (as reported) to have claimed in 2022 that his degree certificates from the University of Chicago in the United States of America have been stolen by unknown soldiers whereas in 1999 the argument was whether he actually attended and graduated from the University he claimed.
If Tinubu truly stated in 2022 in his presidential form provided by INEC that unknown soldiers had stolen his degree certificates in the pro-June 12 struggle against the military, could it not have been possible for him to approach his University overseas to re-issue if not another original certificate but letter of confirmation that he truly graduated from the University? I do not know any Nigerian University that would not want to issue a letter of confirmation in place of a missing certificate to a particular graduate of the school except such an ex-student never graduated from the school or graduated in error and certificate recalled.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu given his larger than life image in Nigeria’s political space ought to know that before coming to vie for the presidency all loopholes that could generate embarrassing controversy as we now witness must have been plugged. He ought to have put his academic records in order having had some experience in 1999 except he chooses to believe that the first experience was not bitter.
The Independent National Electoral Commission on its part failed as an institution when it did not direct the various political parties to submit credentials of all presidential contestants for screening before the primaries. It would have been more honourable that issues of schools attended and certificates obtained were settled before the primary election than leaving them till after the election as we are witnessing now in the case of Tinubu.
The situation as it is now in the next few days would surely create a very unhealthy image for Prof. Yakubu Mahmud and his INEC because if he goes ahead to clear Tinubu to continue in the presidential race without a convincing reconciliation of his school records and certificates obtained, Nigerians would allege that INEC has been bought over.
On the other hand, if INEC goes ahead to disqualify Tinubu at this stage of the presidential race, his teeming supporters would cry blue murder and a grand conspiracy by some Northern elements to frustrate his presidential ambition. INEC is now facing the devil’s alternative in which case any option taken would surely leave some injury.
However, to keep its integrity and avoid future double standard likely to lead to litigation, it is advisable that INEC follows the provisions of the extant law on requisite qualifications for presidential candidates. It should not pander to any inexpedient political pressure that hinges on sectional interest. The right things must be done and seen to have been done by the Nigerian populace towards deepening our democracy.