How Nigerians Were Misled About Dino Melaye’s ‘Best Graduating Student’ Claim
Over the weekend, the internet went abuzz with the claim that a former federal lawmaker, Dino Melaye, graduated as the best student at Baze University’s Faculty of Law.
The university, located in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), held its combinedseventh and eight convocation ceremonies on Saturday, October 23, with at least three prominent Nigerian politicians among the graduands.
Ifeanyi Ubah, a current senator and governorship aspirant in Anambra State; Dino Melaye, a former senator and Osita Chidoka, a former minister of aviation, made headlines at the event.
While the convocation was ongoing, claims started circulating on various social media platforms that Mr Melaye graduated as the best student in the school’s law faculty.
One of such claims by a group, ‘Dorathy Bachor Lovers’ had over 3,000 likes and over 400 comments as of the afternoon of Monday, October 25.
“Senator Dino Melaye Graduates From Baze University, Reportedly Emerges Best Graduating Law Student. Congratulations Sir”, the post reads.
On ladunlaidinews.com and many other blogs, the story made headlines, with comments attesting to the academic prowess of the ex-lawmaker. Most of the blogs claimed Mr Melaye’s aide, Bode Gbadebo, published the claim on his Facebook timeline.
On Twitter, as other platforms, the news was greeted with mixed reactions. While many, who took the information as truth, hailed the academic prowess of Mr Melaye, a few others mocked the university for allowing a politician who likely did not attend many lectures to graduate as best.
“Congratulations to you sir ,but he can never be the best graduating student, what then happened to the full-time student.” Aleburu John commented on the Facebook post.
While the back and forth was ongoing, an image purportedly of the three politicians in a cramped classroom, writing an examination surfaced on the internet.
However, Dubawa ran a verification on the image and found it to be one of those classes the trio attended at the university.
As elections draw nearer, it is a common practice by Nigerian politicians to spread positive stories about themselves to attract popularity. This reality prompted Dubawa to run a fact-check on the claim and further trace its origin.
Verifying the main claim
Dubawa put a call to the university’s Registrar, Mani Ahmad, who requested a physical meeting to clarify issues.
On Monday, a Dubawa reporter visited the university where he was presented with graduation documents. The documents revealed Mr Melaye never graduated as the best student in law as claimed.
Although Mr Malaye actually graduated from the institution with a law degree, he was neither a first-class student nor the best graduating student from the faculty of Law.
Snapshots taken from the convocation booklets show Dino Malaye actually graduated from Baze University, Faculty of law but not as the best graduating student
Further details revealed that Rosemary Keccy Busari was the best graduating student from the faculty of law and not Mr Melaye as it was widely claimed.
Snapshot from the convocation booklet shows Rosemary Keccy Busari as the first-class student
Messages were sent to Mr Melaye’s known lines for comments on the falsehood spread in his name but no reply came from the ex-lawmaker.
Meanwhile, a review of Mr Melaye’s social media pages revealed that at no time did he make such a claim or lend support to publications to the claim.
Where did this claim emanate from?
Meanwhile, Dubawa took a step further to reveal the source of the claim. The closest to this was the claim by Ladun Liadi News that an aide to the politician posted the claim.
“Mr Melaye’s aide, Bode Gbadebo, posted a picture of him on Facebook, alongside other individuals adorned in an academic dress, with the caption “Senator Dino Melaye graduates from Baze University, emerges best graduating law student,” a paragraph in the story reads.
First, this fact-checker checked the Facebook page of Mr Gbadebo, who described himself as ‘Online Editor at Leadership News’ back till October 20. Although the journalist made several comments within the period, none was attributed to Mr Melaye or his graduation. At that point, it could not be ascertained if Mr Gbadebo deleted any post within this period.
In a telephone conversation on Monday, Mr Gbadebo denied being an aide to Mr Melaye or the author of the claim as widely circulated.
“No, it is not true,” he said. “I am not a spokesman to the senator and I did not publish the statement. It first appeared on Samuel Ogundipe’ Peoples Gazette and became viral. Please I did not publish that, it’s false.”
The story on People’s Gazzete was titled, “Despite living in Dubai, Dino Melaye emerges best graduating student at Baze University.”
“Despite rarely being in Nigeria after losing his reelection into the national assembly in 2019 and currently based in Dubai, it is surprising that the former senator did not only graduate but was awarded the best graduating student with a yet to be confirmed GPA,” the story reads in part.
However, in a follow up story, People’s Gazette claimed Mr Gbadebo and Mr Melaye misled the publication as newly emerging information showed that the lawmaker graduated with “weak second-class lower.”
Dubawa contacted the Editor of People’s Gazette, Mr Ogundipe, who explained that his paper contacted both Mr Gbadebo and Dino Melaye before running the first story.
“We got the story right from Bode Gbadebo’s Facebook post,” Mr Ogundipe said. “He posted it on his Facebook. We called Dino himself and he said ‘Yes, yes,’ and then hung up”, he said, insisting that Mr Gbadebo is Mr Melaye’s spokesperson.
In a subsequent conversation, Mr Gbadebo backtracked, saying he indeed shared a post with such a claim but was misled by Mr Melaye’s photographer who initially made the claim. He added that he deleted the photographer’s post, which he earlier shared, after he realised the claim was wrong.
“On that Saturday, one of Senator Dino Malaye’s Photographer (his official Photographer) who was at the convocation. He actually posted that he got first class. He told us later that he assumed that was what he heard, so he posted (the information) with the picture and some of us who are close to him shared. Within the shortest time possible, maybe one hour, we called the senator to congratulate him which he denied so we had to pull it down,” he said.
He gave the name of the photographer as Sam J Noni. Dubawa traced the Facebook page of Mr Noni and found the post was put up on Saturday, October 23, at 11.48 a.m.
Mr Noni did not reply to messages sent to him on Facebook.
To further back his claim, Mr Ogundipe sent Dubawa a screenshot of Mr Gbadebo’s post which triggered the stories and social media comments.
The screenshot, which Dubawa confirmed was not doctored, showed that Mr Gbadebo indeed made a post, not shared as he claimed earlier.
“Senator Dino Melaye Graduates from Baze University, Emerges Best Graduating Law Student,” he wrote.
Dubawa could not confirm the time the screenshot was made and whether Mr Gbadebo’s post preceded that of the photographer.
Mr Gbadebo was confronted with the new information but again, he reworded.
“Yes, the pictures and the post was (were) first shared by Dino’s photographer. It was there I picked them from and posted to congratulate the Senator.”
This is in contradiction with his earlier position that he never made the claim and subsequently that he only shared a post from the photographer. But the journalist still insisted that he was misled by Mr Noni for a claim he did not confirm before sharing.