Top politicians in the web of alleged certificate scandal and their journey so far

By Andrew Ochei

Controversies over forged (or missing) certificates have become a recurring theme in Nigeria’s political scene since 1999 when the country returned to democracy.

Several high-profile politicians, both in elective and appointive positions, have been caught in the storm of forged certificates.

Not all allegations resulted in proven cases of certificate forgery, however. Consequently, some cases were dismissed in court due to a lack of evidence.

With the current administration ending in less than a week and a new dispensation waiting to take off, there is every likelihood that the drama and distraction of fake certificates will pop up in the weeks and months ahead.

Here is a compilation of some of the high-profile cases of Nigerian politicians caught wrongly in the never-ending saga of certificate forgery.

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari became the subject of certificate controversy following his emergence as the APC presidential candidate in 2015.

Daily Post once reported that the then-ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) raised an issue over the non-availability of Buhari’s secondary school certificate.

The controversy did not stop Buhari from winning the presidential election.

However, the matter appeared again in the public domain in 2018, when Buhari was seeking reelection and didn’t include his academic credentials in the documents he submitted to INEC for the 2019 presidential election.

Buhari faced attacks due to his inability to present his West African Secondary School Certificate, leading to some Nigerians accusing him of not having a secondary education.

The controversy died down only when the West African Examination Council, WAEC, issued an “attestation certificate” to the president, confirming that Buhari had indeed obtained a secondary school certificate from the examination body in 1961.

Senator Bola Tinubu

The President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was in the news for not presenting his academic certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the 2023 presidential election.

Tinubu omitted information about his primary and secondary education in the INEC form; he, however, stated that he attended Chicago State University.

In an affidavit supporting his nomination form for the office of President, Tinubu said his properties and certificates were destroyed and looted when he was on self-exile from October 1994 to October 1998.

Despite the brouhaha, Tinubu won the 2023 presidential election.

Goodluck Jonathan

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo first accused then-President Goodluck Jonathan of forging his PhD certificate. Jonathan reportedly earned a BSc in Zoology with second-class honours, MSc in Hydrobiology and Fisheries Biology, and PhD in Zoology, all from the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The accusation from Obasanjo caused an uproar and rattled the leadership of the then-ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

However, UNIPORT dismissed the insinuation as having “neither legs nor grounds to stand on.”

The university would later refuse to comply with a request for Jonathan’s academic records through the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act by a civil society organisation, the Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.

Gov. Ademola Adeleke

Gov. Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is the current governor of Osun State. He succeeded Gboyega Oyetola in office.

Adeleke was accused and charged before the Osogbo High Court by two members of his party, Rasheed Olabayo and Oluwaseun Idowu, for allegedly falsifying his West African Senior School Certificate Examination results and secondary school testimonial.

The plaintiffs sought Adeleke’s disqualification from the September 22, 2019, governorship election for allegedly submitting fake certificates to get the PDP ticket.

But Justice David Oladimeji of the Osogbo High Court cleared Adeleke to contest the election.

A new lawsuit was filed by Awoosiyan Olalekan, Ojejade Thomas, and Awodire Sina before the Federal High Court, Osogbo, against Adeleke, the PDP, and INEC.

Subsequently, the Court of Appeal cleared Adeleke, saying it was satisfied that Senator Ademola Adeleke possessed the requisite educational qualifications to contest the election.

Kemi Adeosun

Adeosun, a former Minister of Finance, was forced to resign after she was alleged to have forged her NYSC exemption certificate.

Adeosun, in her resignation letter, claimed she wasn’t aware.

In July 2022, a Federal High Court in Abuja cleared her of any wrongdoing in the NYSC certificate charges.

Bello Masari

Bello Masari is the current governor of Katsina State.

During the 2015 gubernatorial elections, there were allegations that he had forged his secondary school certificate.

The case was eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court due to lack of evidence.

Dimeji Bankole

Dimeji Bankole was the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Nigeria from 2007 to 2011.

In 2010, he was accused of not completing his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and was therefore rumoured to have submitted fake discharge documents.

He provided his NYSC certificate, thereby ending the rumour.

Peter Mbah

The insinuation that Mbah’s NYSC discharge certificate was forged has snowballed into a national issue.

The controversy surrounding the discharge certificate blew open in February 2023, when NYSC, in response to an inquiry by a non-governmental organisation, released a letter stating that it did not issue the certificate submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Despite the heavy allegation, the oil magnet was still able to garner the popular vote cast in the Enugu State governorship election held in March 8, 2023.

In a judgement delivered by Honourable Justice Binta Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja on March 8,2023 in a suit number marked FCT/HC/2399/2023; between The Registered Trustees of Peoples Wellbeing Association v. Mr. Peter Ndubuisi Mbah, the Honourable Justice Mohammed validated Mbah’s NYSC, stating that the evidence from experts, security agencies and other testimonies from witnesses shows that the Enugu governor-elect actually did his youth service and was honourably discharged.

The group had gone to court seeking to disqualify the PDP Governor-elect on the basis of certificate forgery.

The said judgement has emboldened Mbah to file a N20 billion case against the NYSC, seeking damages for the injuries caused to his reputation by the controversies surrounding the discharge certificate.

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