In President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s forgery controversy, Nigeria is evolving. A saying “forgery is a Nigerian thing” which trended over the last few days, although it was said to be false as it was not contained in the official deposition from the registrar of Chicago State University (CSU), Caleb Westberg, whom the statement was attributed to. I want to use the expression for the purpose of this writing.
I had a conversation over Tinubu’s forgery controversy with an older Nigerian, who happened to have served Nigeria in the federal executive council. This Nigerian intoned, “There are many people that forge in Nigeria, among the academia, civil servants, and in fact many Nigerians forge but who will fish them out?”
It is a well-known thing happening in Nigeria, that a lot of people forge or falsify their dates of birth in order not to retire at their ripe age. They falsify their ages in order to gain employment or admission to schools. In Nigeria, forgery seemed condoned. But while we talk about these acts of forgery among some of the citizens of Nigeria who may also get their certificates forged as well, there could be many in the civil service and across the country if searches are conducted. I am aware of a federal agency which sanitised their system a few years ago. Some of the employees lost their jobs. There are doctors and lawyers and other professionals who practise with fake certificates. They operate within the system and they go on for years before being found out. People forge people’s signatures to get access to so many things. The recounting may go on.
Cambridge Dictionary defined forgery as, “an illegal copy of a document, painting, etc. or the crime of making such illegal copies.”
Forgery is a criminal offence in Nigeria. Many who are caught have lost their jobs including those appointed to serve. Some were jailed. Section 467 of the Criminal Code Act in Nigeria states that, “Any person who forges any document, writing, or seal, is guilty of an offence which, unless otherwise stated, is a felony, and he is liable, if no other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for three years.”
One may wonder how, given the criminality of forgery, Nigerians will by now force Tinubu to resign but it is obvious that the Nigerian society condones forgery depending on who is involved. Over the last few days, there are many Nigerians who went all out using all sorts of logic to defend the forgery done by Mr. Tinubu.
Tinubu’s forgery is unprecedented. Not only is he parading forged certificate, he is also embroiled in identity controversy.
Despite these findings, Tinubu carries on with the affairs and duties of presiding over Nigeria’s government.
Read Also: Tinubu’s moral authority to govern
Is it not a shame to the many Nigerians who pour their hearts out in studying and making honest academic pursuits? It is also concerning that the media are now beaten to be silent so that this certificate forger remains in office. The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in the letter to the Arise News titled “Preponderance of derogatory and incendiary remarks: Final warning”, “it seeks to underscore the tremendous responsibility put on the broadcaster to manage array of guests that may feature on the station from time to time.” Guests were mentioned, of which Kenneth Okonkwo of the Labour party was mentioned. In the interview, Kenneth called Mr. Tinubu a certificate forger.
It is absurd how lawyers are falling over themselves to rationalise forgery and explain it away. The famed lawyer Olisa Agbakoba urged, “This utter nonsense from armchair lawyers is heating up Nigeria dangerously. Please can we keep our opinions and views to ourselves awaiting a decision of the Supreme Court. I am so ashamed to see lawyers on television arguing one way or the other on the merits or demerits of the Chicago State University matter. This is most unhelpful!”
Trust in the judiciary seemed to fade unless the Supreme Court redeems itself by following the constitution which section 137(1) (j) of the 1999 Constitution, states: “137. (1) A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if – (j) he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission”.
The Supreme Court has the authority to proclaim Mr. Tinubu whose many records seemed forged and his true identity unknown; a certificate forger but having stated in a competent court in the United States, the CSU declared that the certificate paraded by Tinubu is unrecognised by them which means that it was forged. This has ultimately made Tinubu a certificate forger.
Despite the deposition in the court from the CSU, the BBC ran what seemed like propaganda in an effort to thwart and change the narrative and to influence the decision of the court and Nigeria’s politics, they published a feature titled, “Bola Tinubu diploma: No evidence Nigeria’s president forged college record.” BBC made efforts to exonerate Mr Tinubu. That effort is prejudicial and in effect to create the needed bias in the minds of the people and to divide public opinion in favour of Mr. Tinubu.
While it may seem that some Nigerians do forgery, Bola Tinubu being the president has a lot of moral baggage. Tinubu as a president is ultimately going to influence the culture of Nigeria both in a negative and positive way depending on the decision of the court. Whatever the Supreme Court decides, it owes Nigeria precedence or deterrence. It owes Nigeria a restoration or a killing of the soul of Nigeria.
With Tinubu, it shows how low Nigeria has descended given that the founding fathers of Nigeria were highly sophisticated in their rights with clear academic records and moral authority. How come a society like Nigeria will be entertaining greedy people who flood the airwaves to exonerate Tinubu simply because they may be on his payroll? That nobody has resigned from his government goes to show the level of moral and ethically shallowness of his appointees and yet he keeps making new appointments.
For Tinubu to remain in office following the forgery scandal is an indictment on Nigerians. That would firmly affirm the saying, “Forgery is a Nigerian thing”. It is a blight that will haunt Nigerians within Nigeria and those in diaspora, at least for a generation.