From age, bagman to education: Bola Tinubu’s many controversies

ONE of Nigeria’s 2023 Presidential election front-runner Bola Ahmed Tinubu has presented himself as the candidate to beat, claiming his opponents are no match for him.

In June of this year, the former governor of Lagos State won the All Progressive Congress (APC) presidential primary by a margin of 1,271 to 2,115 votes, defeating Rotimi Amaechi, the former governor of Rivers State and the minister of transportation, and the incumbent vice president, Yemi Osinbajo.

Called Jagaban by his admirers, Tinubu, in some quarters, has been dubbed the Svengali of Nigerian politics after playing an instrumental role in the election that brought the current APC-led President Muhammadu Buhari administration to power, ending the People’s Democratic Party sixteen years of rule in 2015.

Tinubu has been the subject of many controversies from the time he became Governor of Lagos in 1999. This year has seen a long string of stories about him, with controversies involving Tinubu, from questionable wealth, ill-health, allegations of certificate forgery and corruption, bagman to heroin traffickers and money-laundering ring investigation.

Tinubu and his team have refuted some of the accusations levelled against him.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Tinubu claimed that he acquired his wealth through several different investments.

In response to a question posed by the interviewer, Tinubu said, “Because you have got know how to analyse and how to ask questions, not in an accusatory format. Are they enemies of wealth? If they are not enemies of wealth, investment do yield. I have an example of Warren Buffet. One of the richest men in the country, in America and in the world. He started from stock buying and brokerages. I inherited great real estate. I turned the values around. I am not denying my wealth. I have not been… I was the most investigated, the most accused governor in the opposition up to, you know, for eight years. and up to until 2007. And since I’ve left the office, I’m still there, I have not taken any government appointment, no government contract.” (sic)

In response to the allegation he has a hold on the finances of Lagos State despite not being the Governor, he said, “Hey, excuse me, share what? Have they proven it? The world bank, IMF has investigated the record in Lagos. What’s wrong with them. It’s envy.” (sic)

The faces

This is a brief summary of some of the issues involving Tinubu.

Tinubu school records

During his first term as Governor of Lagos State, Tinubu was accused of not attending Government College Ibadan and Chicago State University, as indicated in his INEC form 001 filled when he contested the Lagos State governorship poll and that he also lied in the affidavit he attached to the INEC form, in which he declared that he lost his university degree certificate while he was in exile between 1994 and 1998.

The upshot: The Lagos State House of Assembly established a panel, as part of possible impeachment proceedings due to the allegation. The House, after investigating, dismissed all allegations against Tinubu.

Also, in response to the allegation, Tinubu presented the original copy of some of his certificates while he dismissed the allegations as baseless.

Regarding the claim that Tinubu did not attend Chicago State University (CSU), the university confirmed that a  Bola A. Tinubu received a degree from the institution in response to a query from The ICIR.

A copy of the letter from CSU
A copy of the letter from CSU

According to Caleb Westberg, a registrar in the university’s Office of Records and Registration, Tinubu attended from August 1977 to June 1979.

Unlike when he ran for governorship, many media reports state that Tinubu did not include his primary and secondary school records in the form he submitted to INEC for his presidential bid.

“The documents showed Tinubu left the columns for his primary and secondary schools education unmarked”, a report by People Gazzette stated.

Another media report from Dail Trust states that Tinubu did not attach copies of the certificates, which he stated in an affidavit, had been stolen. 

Tinubu’s CCT Trial

The former governor of Lagos State was accused of violating the constitution by allegedly operating foreign accounts while in office in 2007. In the charges brought against Tinubu by Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) at the tribunal, he was charged with running ten foreign accounts between the time he served as governor, between 1999 and 2007, and the present.

The upshot: On the former governor’s second appearance before the tribunal in 2011, the three-person panel dismissed the case.

It held that “there is no significant basis to proceed against Tinubu as the charges were “defective and shoddy.”

The tribunal held that the charges did not disclose a prima facie case against the accused person as there was no proof of evidence attached to the charge.

Umar said the charges against Tinubu did not show that the accused persons held the accounts.

Tinubu accused of fraud, tax evasion – Alpha beta

In 2020, DAPO Apara, a Nigerian chartered accountant and former Managing Director of Alpha Beta,  accused Bola Tinubu, a former Governor of  Lagos State and National Leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC), of fraud and tax evasion.

Apara, in a 40-page writ of summons sighted by The ICIR issued by his lawyer, Tade Ipadeola, also accused Alpha-beta, a consulting firm and Akin Doherty, a former commissioner in the Lagos State, of money laundering, fraud, tax evasion, and other corrupt practices.

He also revealed how Tinubu, used one Adegboyega Oyetola, believed to be the former Governor of Osun State, as a front for the establishment of the firm.

Alpha Beta, which has an exclusive right to collect funds on behalf of Lagos State, is believed to be partly owned by Tinubu.

The consulting firm handles the computation, tracking, and reconciliation of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in Lagos State in return for a commission.

Apara had also earlier accused the former Lagos governor and the consulting firm of fraud and tax evasion. He had, in June 2018, written to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) accusing Alpha Beta Consulting firm of tax evasion and fraud to the tune of over N100 billion.

The upshot: Apara, Tinubu, and the current Managing Director of the company, Akin Doherty, in January 2022, informed the High Court of Lagos State sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square on Tuesday that had begun discussions on a possible out-of-court settlement following allegations that Tinubu ordered the transfer of over N20bn from Alpha Beta to some private business accounts.

US money laundering, bagman case

In July 2022, United States-based legal website, PlainSite.org, in a tweet, said traffic to its website experienced a surge resulting from files about Bola Tinubu’s money  laundry forfeiture case dockets.

The website had uploaded dockets of All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Tinubu’s money laundry forfeiture case files in the United States (US).

The files from 1993 recently became awash on social media.

PlainSite.org is a website that posts court documents and thus makes criminal records and case dockets on individuals or entities easier to find. The website is run by California-based software developer Aaron Greenspan.

In July 1993, when Tinubu briefly served as a senator, the US government filed a forfeiture lawsuit in Chicago against bank accounts in his name.

It was alleged, there was “probable cause” to believe they held the proceeds of heroin dealing. The case followed a probe by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other agencies into a trafficking network involving Nigerian suppliers.

According to court filings, the IRS secured warrants in January 1992 to seize almost $2 million.

Tinubu settled out of court in September 1993, agreeing to give up $460,000 to the US government in exchange for the release of the rest of the money. Tinubu wasn’t indicted over the matter.

Also, in November, The ICIR reported on a 59-page court document seen by The ICIR alleging that funds in an account held in First Heritage Bank with account number 263226700 operated by Bola Tinubu represented proceeds of narcotics trafficking in violation of US laws and consequently ordered that the funds amounting to $460,000 be forfeited to the government.

Reports on Tinubu’s involvement in a 1993 drug and money laundering case resurfaced online in November with the emergence of a certified copy of the judgment delivered by a United States (US) District Court in Illinois, which ordered the forfeiture of $460,000 against the APC presidential candidate.

The upshot: The Media and Publicity Director of the Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council Bayo Onanuga dismissed reports stating that the presidential candidate of the APC Bola Ahmed Tinubu had been indicted for drug trafficking.

Also, the Spokesman for the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo said the $460,000 scandal linked to the party’s presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, were tax deductions in the US and not proceeds from drug transactions.

Keyamo said the funds were deducted from one of the ten accounts linked to Tinubu as a tax on investments domiciled in US banks by the United States authorities in the early 1990s.

Health challenges

There has been health controversy surrounding Tinubu before he became the presidential candidate of the APC. In January 2022, Arise Television reported that Tinubu had left the country to rest.

According to the report, some unnamed sources familiar with the development also told the television that the 2023 presidential hopeful would use the occasion to attend to his medical needs in the United Kingdom, where his doctors reside.

In October 2021, Tinubu had said that he was healthy but undergoing ‘gruesome’ physiotherapy in London.

He stated this when he received members of the House of Representatives Northern Caucus who visited him in the United Kingdom.

The ICIR also, in a report in September 2022, titled, “What if Tinubu has Parkinson’s disease?”, looked at several videos online which captured Tinubu’s right hand shaking uncontrollably.

Tinubu, on other occasions, was assisted for balance by people nearby. Yet nobody could speak with certainty, at least for now, that Asiwaju is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

The candidate also has not disclosed information about his health condition. When The ICIR contacted his campaign organisation in August for confirmation, mum was the word.

The ICIR also, in March, published a report, “Tinubu: Illnesses associated with shaky hands.”

In October, speculations about his health status became rife after the former governor of the Lagos State party suddenly postponed the inauguration of the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) earlier scheduled for Monday, September 26, to Wednesday, September 28.

He was also conspicuously absent when eighteen political parties vying for elective positions in next year’s general election signed an agreement for peaceful conduct before, during, and after the polls on Thursday in Abuja.

The peace accord was put together by the National Peace Committee (NPC), co-led by former Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar; Sultan of Sokoto Sa’adu Abubakar; Cardinal John Onayeikan; Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah, and other eminent statesmen.

The upshot: Tinubu has denied the rumour that he is sick. In October, he posted a 7 seconds video on his official Twitter page following speculation about his health status. The former Senator, in a video posted on his official Twitter handle was seen working out on a stationary exercise bike.

“Many have said I have died; others claim I have withdrawn from the presidential campaign. Well… Nope. This is the reality: I am strong, I am healthy, and I am READY to serve Nigerians from Day One,” he said.

He has also said he is more than healthy to lead Nigeria if elected president.

Tinubu, addressing the Kano Business Community Council, which organised a dinner in his honour in the state, said he was not fighting a wrestling but running for the presidency.

The former Lagos State governor said he was smarter than those who accused him of ill health.

He said in a video clip, “Some ignorant people, I’ve been standing before you, I’m not running for hundred yards or 500 yards hurdle.

“I’m running for the presidency. I’m not competing in WWW wrestling. Even if I go out there and they say (he is) sick, I’m standing before you. Do I look like a sick man?

Alleged birth, and age inconsistencies

The former Lagos State has been accused of inconsistencies in his place of birth and age.

The Upshot: During his appearance at Chatham House in London, United Kingdom, Tinubu, in response to a question about the contradictions surrounding his early life, Tinubu referred to the enquiry as “inquisitive” and responded, “At the time of birth, I was dated March 29, 1952.”

Tinubu at Chatham House London
Tinubu at Chatham House London

He said, “I’ve had a very good exposure in life, my record is consistent in the school, in the university, they (critics) are now convinced that they wasted their money and their time. The record is there, the transcript is there showing March 1952.”




    The former Lagos governor dared anyone to approach him and request a DNA test while claiming to be a legitimate member of the Tinubu family.

    “I am not claiming another father, I am Tinubu and Tinubu proper. If they want DNA, they could as well request it from us. One of them has even been accused of not being a Nigerian citizen. I didn’t touch that area.

    “Equally, it remains the same, Deloitte, Chicago State University, where I graduated from, has attested to that.

    “Now, I can announce that I have received my original replacement degree certificate from them.”

    Olayinka works with The ICIR as the Social Media Manager, Reporter and Fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via [email protected]. You can as well follow him on Twitter via @BelloYinka72

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