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Why the story of Tinubu and Chicago certificate matters

By Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire

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There are certain allegations you should not associate the President of any country with. And if ever such allegations exist, there will be a ready and credible explanation given. Allegations of certificate forgery are top on the list. If one understands the problem well enough, the main concern is not that President Tinubu was alleged to have forged his own certificate. Rather, the problem that concerns many like me is that there was no credible explanation given by the President and his supporters. Indeed, everything the President and his supporters have done has tended to strengthen the allegations. In fact, I did not take the allegations seriously until the President’s lawyers filed papers trying to stop the release of his academic record. That was the smoking gun for me. It was an admission by conduct that those lawyers knew that their client’s academic record would be different from what he had put out.

From a lawyer’s position, there was no need to resist the request for release of records. In the client’s best interest, there was no need to resist. In fact, I actually thought that the resistance was a calculated move to generate more interest in the President’s honesty as would be reflected in the records to be released. The shocker was when they pressed harder in their resistance and claimed that releasing the records would place the President in mortal danger. At that moment, no one had any doubt that Nigerians had been taken for a ride.

The problem is not about Tinubu as a person. Most human beings have one dark thing or another in their past. Be it Peter Obi, be it Atiku; every man has a shaded thing he would like to keep from the public. The problem is how such thing may affect Nigeria as a country. I know a few nasty things Obi did, which will hurt him if they come to light. In fact, anyone who can locate my posts in January 2013 will find some. I know a few things (more things) Atiku did that Nigerians are not yet aware of. But we are dealing with certificate forgery and why it has a special negative impact on Nigeria because one of the greatest threats to Nigeria is the problem of credibility deficit. That is; people do not trust documents presented by a Nigerian.

The main purpose of certificates is to attest to facts. Only your family members were present when you were born. Only few people knew as a fact that you attended certain schools and obtained certain level of education. Only a few people know about your qualifications. The only way to bring these facts to be accepted by the public is through the certification process. That is what certificates do. That is why it is crucial for any government to ensure that the certification process works – that the facts attested to by a certificate are true and that the certificate was issued by the legitimate authority.

To be a proper state (country) and play your role as a responsible member of the international legal system and world order, you must be able to ensure that the certification process in your country is credible and reliable. Nigerians suffer many difficulties outside the country and even within the country as a result of the fact that the world does not trust Nigeria’s certification process. In international relations and immigration, foreign countries do not trust documents presented by Nigerians. In international commerce, foreign banks and foreign businessmen do not give credit to Nigerians because they do not trust documents they present. As I have mentioned a few times, a whole EFCC of Nigeria forged court order to justify my detention. The Nigerian police forge court judgments to detain people. I have a case now where the EFCC backdated documents filed in court. I singled out the EFCC because it is supposed to be an agency of government that prevents fraud. It is not supposed to be involved in fraud. The cost of credibility deficit on Nigerians runs into trillions of dollars. For every Nigerian business person within or outside Nigeria, the cost of doing business is quadrupled because of credibility deficit. You cannot take at face value any document tendered by a Nigerian.

One may wonder why things became like that. Over the years, Nigerians see government authority as evil to be resisted by collective deception. Nigerians have built a culture of official dishonesty in their effort to resist authority. Anything that is official, including certificates, are not expected to be true. I believe this grew from the people’s mistrust of colonial authorities. They rightly saw colonial authorities as exploitative. As part of their resistance to authority, they used deception as a means. You don’t want to pay tax to colonial authority, you lie about your income and assets. You don’t want to work as free labour for colonial authority, you lie about your age. You issue false birth and death certificates. What happened over time was that these techniques and habits continued even after independence. Today, it is estimated that more than half of Nigerian citizens 30 years and above lied about their date of birth. They have the ability to state any date that favors their immediate needs. So, even a Nigerian like myself will not trust a document from Nigeria. If I were to be an immigration officer in the United States, I will place Nigerians on a special line for special x-rayed inspection before I let them in. Not that I hate Nigerians, but that I know the truth about their country and I know that the Governments of Nigeria are aiding in the massive deception and dishonesty.

The point I am making is that the tendency to resort to lying as a form of resistance was caused by lack of trust in government. People did not trust colonial government. The post-independence government was both corrupt and repressive. So, nothing changed to increase trust and confidence in governance. Deception remained a potent weapon of resistance against corrupt and repressive governments. However, the cost of using dishonesty as means of resistance to bad governance is simply too high otherwise. The hope of change in the near future is not realistic. It is in that context that one must view the allegations of certification forgery by a Nigerian president as a serious national calamity.

To see how credibility deficit has harmed Nigeria and Nigerians internationally, consider the attached summary stating how European immigration authorities view Nigerians applying for visas. It reflects a total lack of trust in Nigerian documents. Any hope that Tinubu’s administration would help Nigeria is dashed when the President himself is embroiled in such high publicity certificate forgery scandal. The fact that the President could not easily dismiss the allegations is so terrible for Nigeria and Nigerians. That is why it matters so much.

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